Picks and Pans Review: The Rich Man's Table

updated 04/13/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/13/1998 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Scott Spencer

The author of Endless Love is back and writing about what he knows best: obsession. This time the fictional narrator is Billy Rothschild, a substitute teacher consumed by the need to settle accounts with a father who denies any biological connection, let alone an emotional one. Complicating matters is the fact that the absentee dad is Luke Fairchild, an aging, pampered megastar who may remind you of Bob Dylan. Billy's mother is a minor star simply for being the subject of Luke's love ballads. "Luke made people brave," she says. "He wrote our songs." (Even being an unclaimed offspring has advantages: "Announcing that I was Luke's son opened doors," says Billy. Especially women's doors.)

Bent on learning about his father, Billy spends three years gathering information about the legendary bard's life. Along the way, Spencer convincingly evokes Luke's road to fame and a life scarred by celebrity and bad-boy habits. In the end, Billy gets what he seeks, but at a steep price. Readers, in turn, get a tale of over-the-top intensity that enthralls to the end but strangely leaves little lasting impression. (Knopf, $23)

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