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IN BRIEF

Fiction

November 20, 1994|DICK RORABACK

BRUNO OF HOLLYWOOD by Paul Mantee (Ballantine: $18; 234 pp.) Give him time; he'll settle into it. For now, Paul Mantee--veteran actor of heavies; novice novelist of lights--writes with a natural exuberance, an unmistakable flair for the comic characterization, the bon mot. Just needs to rein it in a little, is all. Following "In Search of the Perfect Ravioli," a memoir with tomato sauce, Mantee unleashes "Bruno of Hollywood," the tale of a postwar actor in search of a gig. There's a succession of odd jobs (the L.A. economy would collapse without its "actors," Mantee notes), acting classes ("Don't make a sound, allow a sound!") and an old girlfriend from high school days in Northern California whose body was "a galaxy of yeses and noes" but whose shoulders now are "concave from years of what's the use." Agents equivocate: "You got a quality, no doubt about it--Honey, find my lighter!--Trouble is, I already got three of you"). Bit roles are cherished: Lobster Man; the son of the chief; thug No. 2. He's game, Bruno, and simpatico, and an acute observer of third-tier Hollywood ("Corner of Fairfax, which is not where Sunset begins but where it rises to the occasion"). As for Mantee, stand by for his third novel, tentatively titled "The Plant Who Knew Too Much."

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