Written by Barry Levinson
Review by Marcia K. Matthews

I knew this was a good book when I was laughing out loud during the prologue. A few pages later I laughed myself silly. Barry Levinson is a master of characterization. The director of “Diner” shows a deep understanding of what makes people tick.

In Baltimore, 1966, the action centers on Bobby Shine and his friends, who congregate at the all-night Hilltop Diner. Bobby works at a TV station where he learns craft and structure from watching classic films. “I realized that choices had to be made and I was starting to see how fantasies were created.”

Levinson presents the story in snapshots of vivid scenes transitioned by a recurring leitmotif of “And always there are gaps.” He heightens the romance like a movie director. The Diner functions as a stage where the guys rehash their exploits. Cool Ben is the king, Turko and Eggy are the jesters, Neil is the mystic, and Bobby is the scribe. Levinson writes with deceptive simplicity that crystallizes complex themes such as the Vietnam War. As Bobby observes his monitor at the TV station, images of young Americans dying and civilians bleeding, he imagines families at dinner with this as entertainment. Compassion and humanism inform the story. Bobby is a rock compared to his friends Neil, AWOL from the Army, and Ben, trapped in the past. Giving a friend advice, Bobby catches himself sounding like his father.

I predict a huge hit.