cover image The Man Who Cancelled Himself

The Man Who Cancelled Himself

David Handler. Doubleday Books, $18.95 (406pp) ISBN 978-0-385-42160-7

Great fun from Handler in his sixth Stewart Hoag adventure (The Boy Who Would Be F. Scott Fitzgerald won an Edgar in 1991), despite its overwrought climax and a villain whom psychologically hip readers will spot before the actual unmasking. Former literary boy-wonder Hoagy has sunk to ghosting the showbiz autobio of children's TV star Lyle (``Uncle Chubby'') Hudnut, who's attempting a comeback after an arrest for indecent exposure in a Times Square porn theater. Lyle, a 300-pound bundle of crazed energy, ego and cruelty, is sure that someone-or the world-is out to get him and believes the book will generate sympathy. There are personal complications: Lyle's co-star is his ex-wife; the network's executive producer is an ex-girlfriend; his current fiancee is the show's producer, a spot coveted by an assistant producer; and the show's writers are angling for control. A fire on the set, food poisoning and the bizarre murder of the newest cast member wreak havoc. A subplot involves Hoagy's celebrity ex-wife, who's pregnant and won't identify the father, but the best part of the book is Hoagy's gimlet-eyed observations of the fierce, delicious and dizzy infighting in Sitcom Land. (Feb.)