cover image The Deal

The Deal

Peter Lefcourt. Random House (NY), $19 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40152-0

Screenwriter Lefcourt's first novel is a hilariously entertaining insider's look at the business of making movies. Charlie Berns is a down-and-out producer, so ``out'' that he's become a virtual unknown. Berns has taped up the windows of his house and sent his up-to-date obituary to the newspaper, and he's about to kill himself via carbon monoxide poisoning, courtesy of his Mercedes, when his plans are interrupted by the appearance of his nephew, Lionel Travitz, a fledgling screenwriter. Lionel has written a screenplay based on the life of Queen Victoria's prime minister Benjamin Disraeli. Suicide plans are put on hold as Charlie, now proud owner of a ``property,'' is back in business. He manages to secure black superstar Bobby Mason for the lead along with enough money to begin production. After a rewrite and a ``conceptual change,'' Bill and Ben becomes Lev Disraeli: Freedom Fighter and the film begins shooting in Yugoslavia. When the leading man is kidnapped, however, Berns must do some tap-dancing to keep his movie alive. A cast of colorful, memorable characters and dexterous, witty writing make this a laugh-out-loud, thoroughly enjoyable novel. 25,000 first printing; BOMC selection. (Apr.)