November 05, 1990 12:00 PM

by Jackie Collins

Make no mistake: This is a truly terrible, terminally trashy book. That does not necessarily mean you shouldn’t read it (it beats Robert Fulghum any day). It does not mean you won’t enjoy it (it beats anything by Danielle Steel, anything by Krantz any day). While Steel and Krantz seem to believe, quite mistakenly, that theirs is quality fiction, Collins seems to know her books for the vulgarities they are, knows the writing isn’t good enough to be called clumsy, knows the characters aren’t substantial enough to be called cardboard. But Collins also conveys the sense that she is having a wonderfully good time at it.

Thus it seems churlish not to suspend disbelief, taste and literary standards for these 600 quick-turning pages. The story centers on Lucky Santangelo (readers of the Collins oeuvre will remember her from Chances and Lucky), the hard-driving daughter of a retired Mafia don. She is married, for the third time, to “good-looking in an edgy offhand way” actor Lennie Golden.

Lennie can’t get enough of Lucky’s hot little bod, “dangerous black eyes” and tossed-salad curls. For her part, Lucky can’t get enough of Lennie’s “ocean green eyes” and “tall, lanky body.” So what’s the problem? Here’s the problem: Lennie wants Lucky to have a baby. Lucky wants to have a movie studio.

She longs to purchase Panther Studios, purveyors of such celluloid schlock as Motherfaker and Macho Man, and turn it into a high-class outfit—less profanity, less exploitation. (Collins seems to miss the irony here. Lady Boss is strewn with enough foul language and offensive scenes to slap it with an NC-85 rating.)

It’s a complicated transaction. Under the terms set by Panther’s eccentric owner, Lucky must spend six weeks at the studio disguised as a secretary to learn the ins and outs of the business. There are subplots concerning a feisty Madonna-like actress who’s involved with a Donald Trump-like entrepreneur who has a jealous, vengeful guess-who-like wife. The about-to-be-ousted president of Panther Studios, as low-life a movie executive as one could hope to find, has a cop for a mistress and a socially ambitious harridan for a wife.

Collins’s style, if that’s the word, runs to single-sentence paragraphs: “Lucky Santangelo was a true survivor.” “Nothing and nobody stopped her.” Five minutes after finishing Lady Boss, you won’t remember the plot particulars; 10 minutes later, you’ll be hard put to remember the names of the characters. It’s just as well. (Simon and Schuster, $21.95)

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