THE MANHATTAN BEACH PROJECT

Peter Lefcourt, Author
Peter Lefcourt, Author . Simon &Schuster $23 (352p) ISBN 978-0-7432-4920-1
Compact Disc - 978-1-4417-2418-2
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-1-4417-2417-5
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Paperback - 352 pages - 978-1-4165-7276-3
Ebook - 352 pages - 978-0-7432-7176-9
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Decadent Western entertainment meets totalitarian Eastern politics in Lefcourt's latest novel, a cheeky, over-the-top sendup of Tinseltown, reality TV and the politics of the war on terror. The book opens with Charlie Berns, Lefcourt's protagonist from The Deal , stuck in a Debtor's Anonymous meeting after a string of bad pictures and failed deals. But opportunity knocks when shady CIA operative Kermit Fenster recognizes him and pitches Berns the idea of a reality series about a Central Asian warlord. Desperation wins out over skepticism, and Berns sells the idea to an equally panicked TV exec whose career has stalled. Once the deal is done, Berns and Fenster head off to Central Asia and select Izbul Kharkov, the so-called "Tony Soprano of Turkmenistan," as their subject. Kharkov supplies the requisite TV violence, but the plot stalls when his wife turns out to be a recluse and his son joins the Taliban, forcing Berns to dub in fake dialogue subtitles and write phony story lines. Warlord is an instant hit—until Berns's edits are exposed and the Taliban launches an attack on Kharkov's compound. The heady, winning blend of sly satire and fast-paced storytelling makes for serious fun as Lefcourt deftly skewers one character after another. He also scores points with his comments on the excesses of Western and Eastern culture, but fortunately none of the serious stuff gets in the way of a great read. Agent, Esther Newberg at ICM. (Feb.)

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