Sunday, December 09, 2012

Show Biz (Book Review)

In Ruby Preston's likeable but awkwardly written novel Show Biz, theatre critic Ken Kantor's suicide sets off shock waves that eventually change the lives of nasty producer Margolies, his ambitious assistant Scarlett, her rich friend-with-benefits Lawrence, arts editor Candace Gold, and gossip columnist Reilly Mitchell. With frequent hat-tips to current Broadway shows and people--Reilly Mitchell sort of equals Michael Reidel, Margolies' newest spectacle features as many flying effects as Spider Man, and so on--Show Biz offers some of the fun of gossiping about theatre with a new friend. And Preston knows how to keep the plot moving along.

However, the book reads like a rough draft. Moods change too quickly; there are inconsistencies in characterizations; and the obstacles that keep boy and girl apart are contrived. Sometimes the writing is simply illogical--for example, we are supposed to believe that "no one remembers" that Candace Gold and Margolies were married, even though both are famous and it's interesting gossip. And Scarlett doesn't own a computer.

Even worse, Preston's writing is sloppy on a line-by-line basis--and drowning in cliches. For example:
  • "Writing a musical was deceptively easy."
  • ". . . his words cut her to the bone."
  • "He didn't want to face his marquee just then, though he could feel the glow of it beating down on the back of his neck."
  • "Margolies saw red."
  • "The intern craned his head . . ."
  • "He said with a twinkle in his eye." (This character's eyes twinkle and twinkle and twinkle.)
  • "Here, here!" (When "hear, hear" is meant.)
  • ". . . overlooking street and sky . . ." 
The infelicities are not infrequent; in fact, they appear on pretty much every page. As a result, Show Biz  is only a somewhat fun read. If Preston had done a few rewrites, with a strong editor, it might actually have been a good book.

(press copy)

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