cover image Behind the Phantom's Mask

Behind the Phantom's Mask

Roger Ebert, Ray Ed. Ebert. Andrews McMeel Publishing, $9.95 (244pp) ISBN 978-0-8362-8021-0

Film critic Ebert's initial foray into fiction, which began as a syndicated newspaper serial, yields an entertaining if insubstantial farce. Mason Devereaux, a hard-drinking London stage actor of faded reputation, is given the chance to revitalize his career by assuming the title role in a West End production of The Phantom of the Opera . When his first performance is interrupted by a murder onstage, Devereaux is thrust into the unfamiliar spotlight of international celebrity. Soon, showbiz and media types from Tinseltown to Bucharest are clamoring to see and be seen with the world's reigning drunken thespian. This crush sweeps the hapless actor halfway across the globe, stopping along the way at Cannes, Disney World, the Betty Ford Clinic, the Oprah Winfrey Show and the broadcast booth at Wrigley Field. In the course of a mishap-plagued odyssey, he is twice kidnapped, drugged, cryogenically frozen and, finally, married. Ebert pokes good-natured fun at such American entertainment industry traditions as fawning Anglophilia, bloated excess and even the standard Hollywood ending. Equally amusing but far darker in tone are Juhasz's character illustrations. (June)