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The Understudy

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About the Author

David Nicholls's TV credits include the third series of Cold Feet, Rescue Me, and I Saw You. He was co-writer for the film adaptation of Simpatico, which starred Nick Nolte, Jeff Bridges and Sharon Stone. David's bestselling first novel, STARTER FOR TEN, was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club in 2004, and David is writing the screenplays for forthcoming film versions of both STARTER FOR TEN and THE UNDERSTUDY. Most recently, David has written a modern version of Much Ado About Nothing for BBC TV, as part of a Shakespeare season to be screened in 2005.


Stephen C. McQueen believes that finding the thing you're best at and sticking with it is the key to happiness. Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, he fervently believes that he excels at acting and that all he needs is one big break to turn his life around (his ex-wife is happily remarried, and his career has devolved into playing corpses and singing squirrels). As the understudy for movie hunk Josh Harper in a West End play, McQueen spends his days wishing for illness or disaster to strike-it does, but mostly at him. His saving grace is Harper's American wife, Nora, whose ironic sense of humor keeps him distracted while Harper's infidelity finally provides McQueen with the chance to go onstage. He gets only one night, but that is enough to allow him to redefine himself and his dreams. Nicholls provides a witty follow-up to his first novel, A Question of Attraction, creating another likable, hapless late bloomer in need of a push toward a fuller life. Recommended for public libraries. [Both The Understudy and A Question of Attraction have been optioned for the screen by Tom Hanks's Playtone Productions.-Ed.]-Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

'A zippy comedy with laugh-out-loud lines, grounded on a solid plot and first-rate dialogue...irresistible' - Daily Mail. 'Bitterly funny' - Observer. 'A comic genius' - Maria Beaumont on David Nicholls. 'Darkly funny and oddly romantic.' - More. 'An unusual mix of cynicism and romance - no slush, just lots of laughs!' - Company. 'A brilliantly funny book.' - Marie Claire. 'Hugely entertaining with a high ratio of chuckles and snorts

Nicholls's second novel (after A Question of Attraction) focuses on Stephen C. McQueen, a 32-year-old actor forlornly hoping for his big break. With an 11-year career whose sole highlight has been playing a corpse, Stephen's latest gig, understudying Josh Harper (one of London's hottest stars) in a West End play, actually has promise. If only Josh would miss a performance (say, break a leg, literally), Stephen would secure the lead, and in turn, the approval of his critical ex-wife, Alison, and his precocious seven-year-old daughter, Sophie. But while Josh is many things (self-absorbed, cruel), he's never sick, and just as Stephen's abhorrence for the haughty superstar reaches its crescendo (he's asked to waiter at Josh's birthday bash) Stephen meets Nora, Josh's acerbic and neglected bride, and later stumbles upon Josh mid-tryst with a costar. Suddenly Stephen's able to make a dealAhis silence in exchange for the starring role. Of course, the rules of light romantic comedy prevail: Stephen falls in love with Nora and realizes that he can't lie to make his own career. Nicholls's background as a screenwriter is evident, and while clever, his latest novel is still saccharinely predictable, best paired with sand and surf. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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