"AT THAT time in my life I was into wash-and-wear men who required no effort to maintain with no harm done. I wanted men who were easy to clean up after, cheap men, simple men to have sex with, to be served and serviced by, so I could forget what I know for a while."

So says forensic genius Kay Scarpetta, the heroine of Patricia Cornwell's latest crime fiction, "Dust." This is the 21st in the Scarpetta series (not counting "Food to Die For: Secrets From Kay Scarpetta's Kitchen.") Cornwell's grasp on her beloved character is as sure as ever. And one doesn't need to be familiar with the rest of the series to get into "Dust" -- although it helps.

The autopsy stuff can be pretty grisly, but, well -- it's autopsies!

I read this over the long Thanksgiving/Hanukkah holiday. I also dove into an older novel I'd somehow missed, titled "Gideon," by Russell Andrews. It is subtitled "A Thriller" and it lives up to that. It's supremely creepy and exciting. I know, I know. I should have been reading something soothing and more appropriate. What can I can I say? Among my many blessings I'm thankful for thrillers. And biographies.

HOLIDAY MEANDERINGS: So, what else happened while we were digesting?

...Kanye West declares his fiancee, Kim Kardashian, to be the Marilyn Monroe of her time. Alas, this remark was followed by a grubby "selfie" that Kim took in a public bathroom, with Kanye in the background, for once looking like he'd rather not be part of the Kardashian circus.

...Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were a surprisingly charming pair, crooning "Baby, It's Cold Outside," on Gaga's holiday TV special with The Muppets. The sweetly perverse aspect (remember, this is Gaga!) was the role reversal; Gaga taking the man's lyrics and JGL, as he is known by fans, the reluctant woman's role. He can carry a tune fairly well, and was adorable. The Lady was dressed glamorously in red and looked, well, like a Lady. OK, this will never compare to Mae West and Rock Hudson performing it at the 1959 Oscars, but what could ever top that!

...Reading several issues of the Hollywood Reporter, I laughed out loud when Emma Thompson said her "scariest moment" on a movie set was when director Ang Lee said during the filming of "Sense and Sensibility," -- "Don't look so old!" Miss Thompson is the proverbial pistol. Oprah, who took part in this interview -- along with Julia Roberts, Octavia Spencer, Amy Adams and Lupita Nyong'o -- exclaimed to Emma: "You are the woman to have at a dinner party!"

...In another issue of The Hollywood Reporter, there was Justin Bieber on the cover with his manager, Scooter Braun. "Justin Bieber Is Not Sorry" was the title of the piece. All I got from it was that Bieber just doesn't like to wear a shirt -- ever -- and he's still growing up and why doesn't everybody get off his back? I was also interested to learn that despite his popularity and infamy he has yet to score a significant single. Bieber brought up Mark Wahlberg as an example of somebody who didn't like to wear a shirt and also had a bad boy rep when he was Marky Mark. Perhaps. But Wahlberg grew up fast, and today, at age 42, stands as one of Hollywood's most influential actor/producers, a very smart man. We shall see how Bieber marks time until he's 42.

...From the fascinating Sinead O'Connor came this in Time magazine: "There's a dreadful practice in this country ... which is a complete breach of human and civil rights, of paparazzi lynching -- that's what I call it -- young female celebrities perceived to have a mental illness, trying to get photos of them looking like they're having a breakdown. The girls are not offered a hug or a percentage." You'll recall Sinead recently composed an "open letter" to Miley Cyrus, warning the 20-year-old that she was traveling a dangerous path. Miley paid this no mind. In fact, she issued some sort of video Christmas greeting that was so outre, part of it had to be blacked out in photos.

...Again from The Hollywood Reporter (the best mag for show biz info, hands down!) Angela Lansbury, talking about her film career: "It was a short, sweet career. You know, I'd been trained to be a stage actress, and theater was the thing I loved." Miss Lansbury is a class act. If Hollywood had had more imagination, she might have been one of the greatest movie stars. But she was difficult to fit into any particular slot and ended up playing character roles decades before she should. Brilliantly, of course. And then came "Mame" and Angela rocketed to the top of the Broadway heap, where she remains today.

DO NOT miss HBOs "The Battle of AmfAR." This documentary traces the formation of AmfAR in the earliest, deadliest days of the AIDS epidemic. It focuses on the co-founders, Dr. Mathilde Krim and Elizabeth Taylor. (I am so proud to still be on the board of this great organization.)

One of most fascinating parts of the film is how Elizabeth got her old friend Ronald Reagan to finally utter the word AIDS and address the issue. I won't tell. Just watch it.

And how glad I am that Elizabeth's strenuous efforts in this area have not been forgotten. Up to the very end -- and I mean the very end -- when she was in constant, agonizing pain, she put herself out there for the cause and was planning to attend an AIDS fundraiser in New York, when she was hospitalized for the final time.

ONE LAST note, an unhappy one. I didn't know Paul Walker. I had seen a few of his films, including several "Fast and Furious" entries. And there was one real heart-tugger, "Eight Below," about rescuing a beloved sled dog. But I met him once, and he was completely natural and down to earth. I'd heard he really didn't care for acting, but since he couldn't fulfill his dream to be a marine biologist, it would have to do. It was a brief conversation. He didn't seem like an actor at all, except, with his looks, it was inevitable. (Those incredible blue eyes!)

What a horror his death was. And even worse that it came while he was doing charity work for the typhoon-ravaged Philippines. Many people commented after reading his obits that they weren't even aware he was involved in various charity works, and had been for years.

(E-mail Liz Smith at MES3838@aol.com.)