FOND AND FOOLISH LOVERS By Richard Burns (Flamingo, $119) ADDING a tragic twist to this tale of death and the effect it has on the living, the author hanged himself the day before his 34th birthday last year. With this in mind the novel (first published in 1990 but only now out in Hongkong in paperback) makes for chilling reading. Especially when Burns reveals in the penultimate chapter that he has written it as Dr Jennifer Fox, the character who dies at the beginning and around whom the story revolves. A fascinating argument about fiction versus real life ensues. As Jennifer, he writes: ''I have written myself into your life, I write myself out again; Richard Burns has written himself into your life, and writes himself out again; he has written me intoyour life, and I cannot be disposed of so easily. For, make no mistake, there is more reality in your apprehension of Jennifer Fox, who never lived, than in your apprehension, even should you know him, of Richard Burns, who did.'' And is it as Burns or Fox that the narrator writes: ''I write to make sense of my life,'' and ''the nearer death comes the more fond I am of life''? Jennifer Fox is an academic, literary critic and author, who dies without leaving a will. She leaves behind her lover Chapman, who discovers the strange and sad story of her wartime love affair; Bridget, her jealous sister; Bridget's husband; their son Alan; the publisher of her early work and the professor who will write her obituary. Her death affects each of them in different ways, and Burns uses the death to focus on the lives of the remaining players. He jams a wide variety of styles into his literary recital. Letters, essays, lecture notes, chunks of literary criticism. He even includes a collection of short stories, each of which can stand on their own and make entertaining and thought-provoking reading. He also has a masterly touch when it comes to atmosphere, conjuring it up out of the everyday things of life; breakfast, the pub, driving the car. He titled the final chapter All's Well That Ends Well, and allows each of his subjects a happy ending. He chose not to allow himself one.