The Late Risers, by Bernard Wolfe
The Late Risers is all about Broadway—show girls, call girls, con men, publicity agents, actors, actresses, marijuana salesmen and consumers, columnists, their ghosts, and other meshuggene. There is also a dying professor who makes his home in Greenwich Village (Mr. Wolfe does not say professor of what, but it has something to do with Marxism, voodoo, and linguistics—he probably taught at the New School). These characters are linked together in a fantastic plot that operates for seventeen and one-half hours of a single day, at the end of which their masks are lifted, and true natures established—e.g., Betsy Bugbee, who personifies innocence, turns out to be a whore, and Frana Sherwood, the most notorious call girl in town, a virgin, with a medical certificate to prove it—and a high percentage of the dramatis personae is led off to jail. Whirled about in this tricky rigamarole are a few good laughs, such as the elaborate hoax on Biff Jordan, the Hollywood cowboy star, in which half of New York, including the Times sign, gets involved, a compendium of bop talk, and a theme of rather surprising weight, considering the general tone and level of this novel.
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