16 April 2013

Books: Putting on the Ritz by Joe Keenan (1991)

The cast of Blue Heaven return in another madcap screwball comedy that takes on the magazine industry and the rivalry between two exceedingly rich Manhattan publishers who hate each other. 

It’s been several months since the events of the first novel, but Philip and Claire's latest efforts at breaking onto Broadway have flopped. Still, fate intervenes, but their efforts have not gone unnoticed by Gilbert's employer, Tommy Parker. Tommy is a gofer for billionaire Boyd Larkin, who wants to insert a spy into the household of his arch-rival billionaire, Peter Champion. Peter's wife, Elsa, is seeking to launch a singing career and needs just the right songwriting team. Gilbert, on the other hand, is hoping that helping Parker and Larkin pull off their scheme will advance his own chances at snagging the world's wealthiest sugar daddy.

Philip and Claire are soon hired. Unfortunately, Elsa can't carry a tune and her acting abilities are nonexistent –this plot stolen, me thinks, from Orson Welles Citizen Kane. Nonetheless, they have to make her look good: Champion could destroy their careers if they don't. But if they manage to pull it off, they'll be on the fast track to fame. It's not long before Philip and Gilbert are caught spying, which leads them to become double-agents, double-double agents, and triple-agents. 

Much like Keenan’s scripts for Fraiser, the novel resemble the old comedies of the 1930s with a lot going on –mostly booze and one-liners zinging by faster than the speed of light. The book peters out long before the end, but it’s an enjoyable romp through the fog of remembrance of things past when screwball comedies of the bygone era ruled and the most important thing –besides paying the rent- was how to get a good paying job that required as little work as possible.

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