Picks and Pans Review: Rummies

updated 11/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/27/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Peter Benchley

"He felt that she had just kissed him—not sexually but spiritually—and that the kiss had somehow shrunk the tumor of loneliness that had been blooming in his guts."

"How would their relationship change now that he was free? Would he still be her dearest, truest friend, or would she be tempted to insert into their chaste goodnight kisses the tiniest slip of tongue?"

Those passages, from a romantic subplot, are typical of this novel's excesses.

Benchley (Jaws, Q Clearance) has trouble sticking to his story—about an alcoholic at a New Mexico clinic for addicts. So he drags in a famous actress gone out of control, a mysterious death, an ex-Western movie star who commits all kinds of outrages, a tortuously contrived ending. The struggle of a man confronting his problem gets so diluted it loses its impact.

Benchley, who has been in a clinic for alcoholism treatment, is strongest early in the novel. His hero, book editor Scott Preston, is still denying he needs the treatment his wife and boss have insisted he enter, and at a group therapy session Preston thinks, "What could he say that would mean anything to these people—a hooker, a junkie, a fruit and an anorexic? He had nothing in common with them. Their problems were theirs. If they wanted to blab about them, that was their business."

The novel is rarely to the point, however. And Benchley may dissuade addicts from entering clinics by portraying this one's personnel as so idly tyrannical. (Random House, $18.95)

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