cover image Taboo


Elizabeth Gage. Pocket Books, $22 (480pp) ISBN 978-0-671-78641-0

The sizzling wit of Gage's bestseller A Glimpse of Stocking is missing in this gushing potboiler about Hollywood in its heyday, the 1930s and '40s. Having left home at age 16 and later escaped a smooth-talking criminal of a husband, Kate Hamilton drifts toward Tinseltown, where her offbeat beauty and lofty disinterest in stardust act as catnip on a few key players. Among them is writer-director-producer Joseph Knight, who started off as a lowly roustabout before vaulting to glory as a creative force to rival Orson Welles. Kate's success seems assured when she lands a role in Knight's new film, replacing Eve Sinclair, a celebrated actress grown bitchy with unrequited love for the ubiquitous Knight. Ah, but Kate's past--and Eve's ire--catch up, and the resulting conflagration threatens her fame and her marriage to Knight. These cardboard characters are painted in implausibly bold colors: while still a nobody, Knight comes up with an idea for a movie, determines that ``all the truly gifted writers had long since been snapped up by the major studios,'' decides to write it himself and turns out a screenplay worthy of an Oscar. Though Gage lavishes these pages with Hollywood glitter and the requisite dabblings with booze, drugs and sex, the dramas she sets up lack emotional resonance and often simply fall flat. Doubleday Book Club and Literary Guild featured alternate. (Apr.)