Life's a Ditch

updated 01/24/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/24/1994 AT 01:00 AM EST

BILLY FROLICK FIRST CROSSED THE Bridges of Madison County last April after his wife, Kym, lent him Robert James Waller's four-hankie best-seller. Like millions of readers, he became engrossed in the midlife love story of Kincaid and Francesca, who meet, mate and part forever. But he couldn't help noticing such purplish passages as the one that describes the hero as "a leopard who came riding on the tail of a comet." That, Frolick says, "makes the guy sound like a theme-park ride," and it made him think that a parody was called for.

The result, now making its own modest impact in bookstores, is The Ditches of Edison County (Plume), written under the Wallerly nom de lampoon Ronald Richard Roberts.

The imitator's chapter-by-chapter seductio ad absurdum includes passages like this one: " 'You're making me crazy, Ronald Concave,' Pancella declared to her soulmate. They then proceeded to make love for five blissful, uninterrupted minutes. For Pancetta, it felt like ten."

In fact, Frolick's book mimics Waller's right down to the cover art and the dedication. (Waller's "For the peregrines" becomes "For Perry Green.") Frolick, 34, a Los Angeles writer who usually pens personality profiles, is especially proud that he wrote Ditches in six days, eight less than it took Waller to write Bridges. Says Frolick: "It moved through me like a bad meal."

Frolick, of course, is thinking movie deal. "I see my book as the trailer-park Bridges," he says. "Bridges is perfect for Clint Eastwood and Anjelica Huston. Ditches should have Tom and Roseanne."

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