My Lucky Star, by Joe Keenan

Lights, campness, action!
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The Independent Culture

Joe Keenan was a scriptwriter and producer on Frasier, and the urbane wit and high comedy of that series run like quicksilver through the veins of My Lucky Star. This is the third novel concerning the calamity-prone librettist Philip Cavanaugh and his ex-boyfriend Gilbert Selwyn, and is a delightful, feelgood, beautifully crafted romp.

It tells how Philip and writing partner Claire Simmons, on the rebound from the flop of their Off-Broadway musical, are tempted out west by Gilbert's promise of a sure thing in Hollywood. Gilbert has sent a script he wrote to a major film producer, who liked it so much he wants Philip, Claire and Gilbert to write the screenplay of a wartime action thriller. Unfortunately, Gilbert hadn't so much written the script as changed the title page of Casablanca and sent that, thus snaring his reluctant friends into writing the new screenplay.

However, when screen legend Diana Malenfant and her son, heartthrob Stephen Donato (who is rumoured to be gay), agree to star, Philip and co look like losing the writing gig that he suddenly wants, now that he is smitten by Stephen: "Here was no brainless Hollywood hunk. Here was a man of vision, a passionate and sensitive idealist, and I prayed with all my heart that he might someday instil these noble qualities in me, preferably via fellatio."

They learn that Diana's estranged sister Lily is threatening to write a no-holds-barred memoir, so Philip and Gilbert devise a plan to make themselves indispensable: Philip will go undercover to discover what Lily plans to print and persuade her to write a more acceptable version.

That's just the beginning of a series of convoluted plot turns, including an episode at a spa that secretly doubles as a whorehouse, run by Monica Finch, to whom Gilbert had once almost been married, and who is now a sworn enemy. Still, she is no more of a problem than Rusty Grimes, the LA District Attorney who would love to out Stephen, or Sonia Powers, Stephen's pitbull publicist. The mire in which Philip and Gilbert find themselves deepens, and their every attempt to extricate themselves finds them sinking further.

Keenan's best trick is to create a comedy that really is laugh-out loud funny, stuffing in witty lines at an indecent rate, but still keeping the plot believable and spinning along at an engagingly fast pace. It is ingenious, unpredictable and wholly enjoyable, not least because of its cast.

Philip is a winning character, his desperate desire to do the right thing regularly overruled by lust, greed or bewilderment. Best of all, though, is Stephen's uncle Monty, a child star who turned his back on Hollywood rather than stay in the closet, and who, for all his campery, has a decent heart. Which is a good description of the book, too.