"The Agency: William Morris and the Hidden History of Show Business," by Frank Rose. HarperBusiness. 416 pages. $30 This book ultimately reads like a melodramatic remake of "The Bad and the Beautiful."
Mr. Rose tries to cover so much territory that the reader has to rush to keep up. And in an effort to sketch in the accompanying social history, he sometimes overdoes his effects, everything from television to Vegas to Elvis' pelvic thrusts are described as "atomic."
But given the dramatic portraits he provides along the way, that's hardly a deal-breaker. The book provides more than just a titillating string of bold-face names - Mr. Rose uses the saga of the Morris Agency's rise and fall as a prism through which to examine the constantly evolving nature of show business itself. Bottom line, "The Agency" is a vivid demonstration that when it comes to show business, talent is whatever sells, and selling is a talent all its own.