The Understudy by David Nicholls Hodder & Stoughton $195 The Understudy may be about always being the backup but it doesn't play second fiddle to literature. Although not exactly great writing, the book is hard to criticise because it's so entertaining. About the lot of perpetual bit-part actor Stephen McQueen - who generally plays corpses, although he is also in demand as Sammy the Squirrel - the tale starts with him understudying Josh Harper, who has the lead role as Lord Byron on Shaftesbury Avenue. Unlikely to actually tread the boards because Harper, Britain's 12th sexiest man in the world, never takes ill, McQueen dreams about the day when he'll impress the critics and his daughter, and turn his ex-wife a shade of green. Harper, not surprisingly, is a self-professed bastard. He's also married to a beautiful American, with whom McQueen falls in love. Will the support act win his prize? For those who don't have time to read the novel, there's always the movie, starring Tom Hanks, who apparently will be adapting to film not only this novel but also Nicholls' first: Starter for Ten. Nicholls, a failed actor, must thank the stars he never made it on the big screen.