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May 04, 1981 12:00 PM

by Harding Lemay

In 1967 Lemay quit his job as vice-president of a book publishing company to write an autobiography, Inside, Looking Out. Although nominated for a National Book Award, the work failed to pay the Lemay family bills. So did the author’s attempts at playwriting. He was broke when he was hired as the senior writer for the TV soap Another World. This is his account of eight years’ immersion in Bay City, the town familiar to eight million viewers. Lemay found a reason for the demure mannerisms of a leading character, Alice Matthews, during a visit to the set: Her head was usually down because actress Jacqueline Courtney, who played the part at the time, was reading her lines off the cuffs of her nurse’s uniform. Lemay also tells of a story conference in a restaurant; while the death of a character was plotted, men at the next table hung on every word, believing they were overhearing actual murder plans. Lemay, one of 13 children who grew up in upstate New York, based many characters on his brothers and sisters. Later the actors portraying them met their real-life counterparts in a surreal kind of confrontation. Lemay quit the show in 1979, deciding his $20,000-a-week salary was not worth the torment of 19-hour days and intense pressure from producer and sponsors to raise the ratings. It isn’t necessary to have seen a soap opera to enjoy this book. It’s about another world, all right, but the subject is obsession, not daytime TV. (Atheneum, $10.95)

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