Picks and Pans Review: Monster

updated 02/24/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/24/1997 AT 01:00 AM EST

by John Gregory Dunne

In the literary world, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion are royalty—novelists and journalists whose books are eagerly received by critics and readers alike. But in Hollywood, where they write screenplays as a husband-and-wife team, Dunne and Didion are just another couple of lukewarm screenwriters, their work subject to the caprice of bullying studio bosses, willful producers, eccentric directors, skittish stars and junior executives.

While a certain amount of humiliation is inevitable in any movie assignment, literary lions seldom resist the paydays only Hollywood can offer. So when Dunne and Didion were asked by an agent to write a screenplay based on a biography of the late network anchorwoman Jessica Savitch in 1988, they quickly agreed. Eight years and 27 drafts later, Up Close & Personal hit the multiplexes to mediocre reviews and excellent box office.

Dunne's caustic recollections cast piercing light on the curious rituals and practices of corporate Hollywood. It's a scathing—and funny—look at what happens when avarice and imagination conspire. (Random House, $21)

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