Lunar Park by Bret Easton Ellis Picador, 195 Some see the 'war on terror' as a catastrophe, killing people in the hundreds of thousands and dividing the planet. People like Bret Easton Ellis see a far more drastic shift. The centre of the known world, Manhattan, is now so dangerous that Ellis' cosmopolitan central character is forced to drop his vices and flee to the suburbs of New England. Ellis opens Lunar Park by introducing the character as 'Bret Easton Ellis'. Like his author, the character is a controversial novelist who shot to fame as a youth by chronicling spoilt Californians in Less Than Zero and The Rules of Attraction. The real and the fictional Ellises also took the ravenous materialism of the urban elite to its violent endgame in the notorious American Psycho and Glamorama. But fans will know that his character probably shares less with the man himself than the mercurial image of Ellis. The novel invokes the writer's fondness for lying in interviews and toys with conjecture about whether his sexually ambiguous protagonists are just postmodern autobiographies. The fictional Ellis is richer then the real writer. The extra cash is needed to finance a 20-year binge on all the excesses satirised in his novels - snorting cocaine off a Porsche with fellow-novelist Jay McInerney, crashing a borrowed Ferrari while driving naked, inviting the cast of St Elmo's Fire to his graduation party and attending three 'fairly exclusive orgies'. 'You do an awfully good impression of yourself,' a character says to Ellis-as-character in one of the many references to the game readers are forced to play. When the fictional Ellis comes down, he marries Jayne Dennis, a Hollywood starlet who gave birth to his 11-year-old son, Robby. Ellis has refused to acknowledge the boy and is now desperate for his love. The sober, celibate life proves far more freakish than his days in the Brat Pack. While Ellis struggles to stay off illicit substances, everyone around him is legally medicated, particularly children. The instinctual approach to raising kids has been abandoned as parents seek a return on the investment in their little ones. Ellis' six-year-old stepdaughter eats sweets by tossing back her head and throwing them in her mouth - mimicking the way adults pop prescription drugs. Her classmates experience dizzy spells from the pressures of study, and insist on low-carb foods and alternative therapies. Parents organise children's parties thus: 'Two weeks prior to the actual event there had been a 'rehearsal' party in order to gauge which kids 'worked' and which did not ... The whole thing seemed harmless - just another gratuitously whimsical upscale birthday party - until I started noticing that all the kids were on meds (Zoloft, Luvox, Celexa, Paxil) that caused them to move lethargically and speak in affectless monotones. And some bit their fingernails until they bled and a pediatrician was on hand 'just in case'.' Boys the same age as Robby are disappearing from the neighbourhood while Ellis keeps bumping into characters from his other novels. A killer is apparently copying Patrick Bateman's murders in American Psycho and ghosts or demons appear to be turning Ellis' house into his childhood home. It's all classic Ellis obfuscation. Are his characters deluded, lying, drug-addled or at the mercy of supernatural forces? A writer's life, notes Ellis-as-character, is a 'maelstrom of lying. Embellishment is his focal point'. But Lunar Park differs from his other novels when the author's late father appears in the eye of the storm. Ellis mentions that Bateman was inspired by his wayward father, who died in 1992 without reconciling with his son. In a novel full of Ellis cartoon psychosis, a re-examination of the violence in American Psycho and a prolonged tribute to Stephen King's horror stories, Ellis' father is the most disturbing demon haunting the author and his character - regardless of whether he writes the truth of their troubled relationship. At the end of a Bret Easton Ellis novel we usually ask whether he's a moralist or nihilist, whether he's satirising western culture or just taking the piss out of his readers. After cutting through the hectic literary gamesmanship, you'll find the Bret Easton Ellis within Lunar Park desperately trying to bond with his son and avoid the mistakes of his father. Yet while Ellis-as-character fights to come to terms with his father, the real writer throws in an image of the dead man with blood-stained underwear after penis-enlargement surgery. We may also be tempted to see Lunar Park as a response to American Psycho. Ellis - the character and the person - claims he now understands the furore over the novel and hopes it will stop haunting him. But Ellis' five novels are knitted together by cross-references and shared motifs. The news that his next book will revisit the characters from Less Than Zero suggests that Ellis has a little more to mine from 20 years of baffled responses to his life and work.