Picks and Pans Review: West End

updated 10/23/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/23/1989 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Laura Van Wormer

Only a few pages into Van Wormer's massive (595 pages) novel about the television industry, you know she has got the makings of a great pulp writer. For one thing, she never offers one sentence when she can stretch a thought to three or four. For another, she concocts characters interesting enough to hold your attention—without cluttering them up with elusive motivations or unnecessary intellectual depth. For a third, she offers just enough sex-by-numbers seductions to justify the story's length—without causing any reader to get unduly embarrassed in a public place.

Van Wormer's central character, Alexandra Waring (who made her debut in the author's Riverside Drive), is a Maria Shriver look-alike with the cold efficiency of Diane Sawyer and the unappealing personal life of the late Jessica Savitch. She gets her big break when she catches a bullet while on the air: Alexandra keeps reporting even as she passes out and thereby earns the attention of Jackson Daren-brook, a handsome, if somewhat goofy, Ted Turner type who's itching to establish his own network.

This is where Alexandra takes a Mary Alice Williams-style detour into cable TV. (Isn't it amazing how true-to-life this book is?) And as DBS News's neophyte, Alexandra recruits her old friend Cassy Cochran as executive producer. Now the plot really starts moving. Cassy, you see, is one of Alexandra's former lovers. Their linked past is particularly awkward, since Alexandra's current lover, Gordon Strenn, also works on the premises.

Well, suffice it to say that everybody gets suitably paired off in the end, and the reader has learned a great deal about the television news business along the way. Why, Connie and Leslie and Barbara are probably cuddling up with this one right now! (Doubleday, $18.95)

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