June 11, 1984 12:00 PM

by Josh Greenfeld

Larry Lazar started out as an actor, but he has become a big-time movie director. Trouble is, his last film isn’t setting any box office records, and just as he’s trying to get the studio to okay his next project, his mother dies of a heart attack. This novel is a portrait of a highly energetic man utterly without scruples. The picture it gives of a certain kind of successful man is ugly and sick, but Greenfeld, the author of Harry and Tonto, plays almost every scene for laughs—especially the mother’s funeral. In the funeral home Lazar’s uncle orders the cheapest pine box, refuses the professional mourners and demands that the undertaker give him a greatly reduced rate. At the burial next day, a rabbi delivers a hilarious showbiz farewell. Then, with scenes of his growing up in Brooklyn filling his head, the director picks up various people from his past and goes on a pot-smoking, coke-snorting toot. Insiders probably will recognize a lot of Greenfeld’s thinly disguised New York celeb friends and a few stars—Katharine Hepburn, for one—used as characters. Many of the people are awful. (Nice folks, obviously, aren’t in as far as modern fiction goes.) But The Return of Mr. Hollywood is grotesquely funny, and the ending, after all the nasty wheeling and dealing and throat cutting, is surprisingly moving. (Doubleday, $15.95)

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