cover image A Cast of Thousands

A Cast of Thousands

Steve Shagan. Pocket Books, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-74132-7

A sort of cinematic souffle, the latest offering from the author of Pillars of Fire and The Formula is a tasty treat that readers may want to devour in one sitting. This behind-the-scenes view of skulduggery in La-La Land fades in on a group of Hollywood power players who are plotting ``the greatest scam in the history of the business.'' To succeed in their venture (a phony corporate takeover and a major studio's stock devaluation are but two of the nasty ingredients), the partners in crime set out to make an epic--and to ensure its failure. With considerable panache and an insider's view, Shagan chronicles the pulling together of The Volunteers , a seemingly can't-win film dramatization of the Spanish Civil War. The myriad characters and details prove hilarious and appalling, as when a Method actor playing Moses claims insufficient motivation for his character to break the stone tablets. Confirming what many already think of filmdom, a dropout director notes, ``They're dealing from the bottom of the deck to the bottom of the audience.'' Real and fictitious movies--starring real and fictitious luminaries--add considerable punch, as do such vividly evoked locations as New York, Beverly Hills, Rome, Jamaica, Madrid and St. Moritz. While many of these elements are de rigeur for Hollywood sagas, and the plot is reminiscent of the film The Producers , Shagan always manages a fillip that lifts his elements above the madding crowd. (Feb.)