Originally created 06/27/04

Life in Hollywood, as seen from the bottom rung



"The Second Assistant." By Clare Naylor and Mimi Hare. Viking. 321 Pages. $21.95.

Ever dream about working in Hollywood?

Lizzie Miller didn't. She loved politics, and after landing a job with a congressman in Washington, this Georgetown graduate looked forward to the day when she would be able to work on a public-waste bill or launch a petition on behalf of refugees.

Unfortunately, the congressman's campaign collapsed because of dubious fund-raising practices, and rather than accept the vacancy she'd been promised working for a senator with a pending murder charge, Lizzie heads for sunny California and a job as "The Second Assistant" to one of the hottest agents in Hollywood.

Armed with a giant canister of bear mace and a warning from her father that when God made the United States, all the loose marbles rolled down to Los Angeles, Lizzie arrives at The Agency, where her first assignment is to separate the white thumbtacks from the colored ones. Why? Because the president of the company likes only white ones.

Her next project is to organize a birthday party for one of The Agency's clients. Lizzie's "to do" list includes beverages, food, music, flowers (white, unscented, no pollen) and dancers with small nipples.

That Lizzie tackles such tasks with energy and optimism is part of the charm of "The Second Assistant." And although what everyone in Hollywood really wants to do is produce, it's just what Lizzie needs as she struggles to keep her coke-snorting, pill-popping boss solvent and out of rehab.

The authors, Clare Naylor and Mimi Hare, are screenwriters and thus bring their insiders' knowledge to the novel, written along the lines of "The Nanny Diaries" and "The Devil Wears Prada."

There are no big surprises here, but "The Second Assistant" is written with less bitterness and more humor than most other novels of its kind, making it fun and readable.