Outside the Covers

The premise of “The Bestseller” is simple enough for a Hollywood producer to understand” “First Wives Club” author Olivia Goldsmith offers us five writers with their five books. By the end, one of their novels will hit the top of the New York Times Best Seller list. Which will it be?

* Will it be Gerald Ochs Davis, the president of Davis & Dash? He’s hoping that resurrecting an uncle’s tragedy decades ago will make enough money to keep his mistress and ex-wives satisfied, and himself at the head of the now corporately owned company. To that end, he’ll do anything” order an expensive ad budget, set an impossibly high quota for the sales force and even steal sales from other authors.

* Then there’s Susann Baker Edmonds, formerly Sue Ann Edmonds, a legal secretary from the Midwest, who at 58 is facing the end of her career. She is also beset by her daughter, who bitterly resents her mother

* The college professor author of “In Full Knowledge,” a thriller about a woman driven to kill her children, is being heavily promoted as a man who understands women. Little do they know that his wife actually wrote the book, a fact which her husband is not eager to make known.

* Poor Terry O’Neal. She kills herself after writing a 1,000-page novel called “The Duplicity of Men,” after seeing it rejected by 23 publishers. Now the manuscript falls into the hands of her mother, Opal, who is determined to do anything to see it published.

* Camilla Clapfish is the dowdy, terribly lonely British girl, working as a tour guide in Italy, while finishing her first novel about a group of middle-aged women wandering around Firenze. As a neophyte writer, she has no idea what to do next, until her budding boyfriend suggests sending it to his sister, an editorial assistant at Davis & Dash.

From this premise, Goldsmith weaves an elaborate dance of backstabbing, determination, desire and romance that is guaranteed to have you turning the pages late into the night.

Those who have a smattering of knowledge of the publishing business will realize just how spot-on Goldsmith is. She knows the bottom-line nature of the business and the lengths people will go to stay on top. There is even the pleasure of guessing who the characters are based on.

For example, one of the subplots involves the uproar over Davis & Dash publishing “ScitzoBoy,” by Chad Weston, a once-promising writer driven by falling sales into writing a misogynistic thriller about a Wall Street yuppie who dismembers women, and if you’re thinking it’s a wicked attack on Bret Easton Ellis and “American Psycho,” you are correct.

“The Bestseller” is full of digs like this. With that, the heroic struggles of the authors to get their books published, and the machinations of G.O.D. and the marketplace working against them, “The Bestseller” is a candy box of surprises that, even after 500 pages, makes this reader hungry for a sequel.