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IN BRIEF

Fiction

March 07, 1993|KAREN STABINER

A CAST OF THOUSANDS by Steve Shagan (Pocket Books, $22; 358 pp.). To drive down the price of Gemstone Picture stock--and so guarantee their profits from a bogus takeover scheme--a handful of top executives and their Mafia money man come up with a perfect scheme. They decide to produce "Volunteers," an epic about the Spanish Civil War that has big-budget disaster written all over it. The film will generate reams of bad press, the stock will plunge, and terrified investors will agree to sell the studio. As insurance, the masterminds hire an ex-junkie to produce and a cokehead to direct; they resurrect a screenwriter everyone thought was dead, and cast a drunk, a sex fiend and a nut case in the leading roles. You guessed it: The film will turn out to be a smash, the charming (and lone) woman executive who figures out the scam will do the right thing, and the bad boys at the top will walk away unindicted and still pretty well off. Shagan is more amused at than irritated by his villains, which may frustrate the vengeful reader, but his easygoing charm and insider's eye make this a fun, fast read.

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