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IN BRIEF

Fiction

August 04, 1996|ERIKA TAYLOR

THE VIPERS' CLUB by John H. Richardson (Morrow: $24, 293 pp.). When Peter James, a young college professor, accepts a job as glorified secretary to one of Hollywood's biggest producers, he never dreams how quickly it will all turn sour. His boss, Max Fischer, is given to histrionic fits of rage, and Peter is often the chosen recipient. But when Peter begins a clandestine relationship with Tracy Rose, the daughter of Max's worst enemy, the trouble really starts. One night, Peter vents his frustration in a nasty adrenaline rush, by sort of raping, and sort of not raping, Tracy. Instead of accusing him, Tracy points the finger at Max, who seems to have no alibi.

A former writer for Premiere magazine, John H. Richardson has created an extremely clever novel. "The Vipers' Club" eviscerates Hollywood while at the same time worshiping it. The only seam in Richardson's writing is at the story's conclusion, when a cast of thoroughly detestable characters suddenly begins to behave as though they were in a sappy TV commercial. Perhaps it is meant to be an optimistic statement regarding the possibility for redemption in all of us, or perhaps Richardson became too attached to his characters to make them really pay for their misdeeds. In any case, the ending seems to be right out of, well, Hollywood.

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