Suzanne Ruta
December 08, 1995 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Crossing Guard David Rabe (Miramax Books/Hyperion, $22.95) Sean Penn writes a star vehicle for Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston. He gets prestigious playwright David Rabe to write a novel based on the screenplay. In the entertainment industry, it’s called synergy. In the republic of letters — if such a place exists — it’s called a scam. You can see what, besides the money, drew Rabe to this joint venture. The plot’s a solid one, as old as Homer: The father of a murdered child seeks revenge and finds redemption. There’s just one problem. Rabe hasn’t made a real character out of the grieving father. He doesn’t come across as an individual, and he sure isn’t Everyman. He’s aging sex symbol Jack Nicholson, hanging out in a strip joint, surrounded by naked beauties. Hard-edged screen images translate into overblown prose: ”A flame of adrenaline ignited John’s nerves.” This pseudo-novel is a lethal nest of language used not to entertain but to bludgeon the reader into acceptance of a celebrity- driven fraud. D

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