Picks and Pans Review: Personal Effects

updated 03/10/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/10/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Rex Reed

The author has written six nonfiction books, most of them made up of the entertainment pieces he does for newspapers. He has chosen to make his first novel a murder mystery in the guise of a Hollywood memoir. The heroine is Gilda Greenway, a combination of Marilyn Monroe and other movie stars that insiders probably will recognize. Parts of the story are told from the point of view of Billy Buck, who like Rex Reed is a Hollywood columnist. Early on, Gilda is found fatally shot in her 50-room Beverly Hills mansion. The rest of the book is made up of flashbacks detailing Greenway's life story and those of four younger people she had more or less adopted. One, a fat girl, turns into a super agent; the second is a brilliant writer who becomes a hopeless drug addict; the third, an actress, is a Texas beauty; and the fourth is a male stud who is extravagantly equipped. Reed has something for everyone: straight sex, bestial sex, gay sex, incest, rape and a couple of trios as well. Movie references serve as a kind of shorthand. When Reed wants to describe a little town in Texas, he says it's like the one in The Last Picture Show. Billy Buck decides not to take a bath because "the way things had been going the last couple of days, he wouldn't be surprised to find Janet Leigh in the shower." The detective who investigates the murder feels "like Martin Balsam in Psycho—cautious but determined." Reed made his reputation by spicing up the tired celebrity interview with bitchy, quotable observations. His novel unfortunately is a cardboard jungle, the same Hollywood that Jackie Collins trashed definitively books ago. (Arbor House, $17.95)

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