Sixty-Six by Barry Levinson Broadway $180 Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson has penned a Hollywood script with just the right amounts of 'keep-the-studio-bosses-happy' patriotism, humour and hanky-soaking sentimentality. Actually, it's not a script. It's Levinson's debut novel, Sixty-Six, but it lays the foundations for the acclaimed director to transform it into another cinematic stroll down Memory Lane - that's Memory Lane, Baltimore, of course. Because while Levinson (Rainman and Good Morning, Vietnam) has changed tack by turning his hand to writing, the subject matter - life in Baltimore, Maryland, during the 1950s and 60s - is a topic he has visited many times, first in his 1982 directorial debut Diner, and again with Tin Men and Avalon. In Sixty-Six Levinson follows the story of five lads growing up in a blue-collar neighbourhood, struggling with the upheavals of 60s America. The conservative 50s are behind them and awaiting them is a new era of ideology, music and drugs. Things that were once easy, friendships included, are now very complicated. Among Levinson's five heroes is the narrator, a law school drop-out (as was Levinson) who, to the horror of his girlfriend Annie, takes an internship at a local TV station (as did Levinson). There's the bare-footed rebel Neil, the 'King of Teenagers' Ben and comic philosophers Turko and Eggy. Most of the book is set in the Diner, a place where coffee and tomfoolery are the order of the day, a place where - in a swirling haze of marijuana smoke - they remember the past and forget the future. With the discussions focusing on girls, marriage and drugs, it's the bigger issues associated with 60s upheaval that Levinson glosses over. The Vietnam war is nothing more than a mumble in the background. Levinson is equally dismissive of the civil-rights movement, changing sexual values and the rise of the hippie movement, reducing these influences to a few petty paragraphs. However, perhaps Levinson intentionally gets wrapped up in the trivial - car-park pranks and pink-robe daydreams get some attention - as he hits home the need for simplicity amid massive change. Given Levinson's day job, it's also not surprising that Sixty-Six is much more visual than it is narrative, but at times he lays the cinematic effect on too thick, going as far to describe how good some of the scenes would look on the big screen: 'Neil circled the monument, giving the impression that he was one lone guard protecting the first president of the United States ... if it had been a movie there would have been music playing and it would have been sad.'' A loving tribute to the Baltimore of Levinson's youth, Sixty-Six's autobiographical feel gives the impression that Levinson is getting more out of the book than the reader.