Picks and Pans Review: So 5 Minutes Ago

UPDATED 03/01/2004 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 03/01/2004 at 01:00 AM EST

By Hilary de Vries

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De Vries has spent 10 years as a Hollywood journalist, gaining access to stars through their gate-keeping publicists. Now, with her first novel, she's imagining life on the other side of that gate. So 5 Minutes Ago follows Alex, a publicist at a sinking Tinseltown firm, as she babysits C-list celebs, grovels to higher-ups and tries to get a date.

Alex is a likable narrator, and this could all be interesting if de Vries gave us some insider insights. She doesn't. Any reader who has seen The Player or read a Hollywood memoir won't be surprised by much here. Showbiz types look out only for themselves? The publicity honchos at Alex's firm might be backstabbers? Say it isn't so! Among other big disclosures: Publicists get their hair blown out.

De Vries tries to ratchet up the drama with a possible ousting at Alex's firm. But readers won't much care about whether one flack will get another fired. As a veteran starlet cautions our heroine, "It's only publicity. It's not like it really matters."

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