September 09, 1996 12:00 PM

by John H. Richardson

In this ’90s twist on The Day of the Locust—Nathanael West’s memorable 1939 noir novel of Hollywood—former Premiere senior writer Richardson gleefully sinks his fangs into the Dream Capitol. Although, in the usual disclaimer, he insists his monsters-in-Armani are pure fiction, readers will have endless fun plugging in the identities of deceased producer Don Simpson, madam Heidi Fleiss, O.J. attorney Robert Shapiro and father-daughter phenoms Aaron and Tori Spelling, among many other possibles.

The plot centers around the rape (or was it?) of cocaine-fueled teen queen Tracy Rose, daughter of fading producer Barry Rose. Tracy claims one of the culprits is her father’s archenemy, flamboyant action-film producer Max Fischer (his Blood Hunt grossed zillions!). As the action swirls from a punchup at Morton’s, the exclusive industry eatery, to oddly decorated back-lot bungalows to mirrored Beverly Hills love nests, snakeskins are shed. Whodunit—if anyone dunit—is not nearly as interesting as why dunit. In a town where image is everything, the elaborate case and its attendant publicity are merely a setup to convince Tom Hanks to commit to a certain project. As a reader, you’ll have no trouble committing to Vipers. (Morrow, $24)

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