The best novels about the glitter and insanity of Hollywood

Peter Lefcourt Author Of The Deal: A Novel of Hollywood
By Peter Lefcourt

Who am I?

Like many novelists – all the way back to F. Scott Fitzgerald --  writing for film and television has been my day job. The pay is obscenely good, and it leaves you time to write what you really love – fiction. Most writers in Hollywood have a love/hate relationship with the movie business – described by some wit as “a crapshoot masquerading as a business masquerading as an art form.” And the books I am recommending express this mixture of scorn and reverence with humor and compassion. In my book The Deal I am clearly biting the hand that fed me over the years – but why not? As that old humorist Albert Camus said, “There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.”

I wrote...

The Deal: A Novel of Hollywood

By Peter Lefcourt,

Book cover of The Deal: A Novel of Hollywood

What is my book about?

Washed up film producer Charlie Berns has mailed in his updated obit and is about to suck his Mercedes tailpipe and fade to black when a miracle materializes: his nephew, a wannabe screenwriter from New Jersey, has scripted the life story of Queen Victoria's prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, which Charlie manages to turn into a hot property that reinstates him as a player. But as the deal heats up, a few conceptual changes morph the project into Lev Disraeli: Freedom Fighter, an action thriller with a black Jewish superstar, a Yugoslavian location, a mad Polish director, and even a real-life kidnapping. Is Charlie Berns being eaten alive by the system? Or is he giving the Hollywood hotshots a run for their money?

Peter Lefcourt's hilarious satire proves the old adage that in Hollywood you're never quite as dead as people give you credit for.

The books I picked & why

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Get Shorty

By Elmore Leonard,

Book cover of Get Shorty

Why this book?

Hollywood is full of bottom feeders and lowlifes, and nobody does these types of characters better than Elmore Leonard. His dialogue is spot on and his situations comically dark. A Florida loan shark chases a deadbeat customer all the way to Hollywood and winds up getting involved in a complex film deal that makes his life as a mobster seem tame by comparison.

Artistic Differences

By Charlie Hauck,

Book cover of Artistic Differences

Why this book?

This poorly known novel by a television writer deserves more attention. It concerns a writer on a TV sitcom that is plagued by an impossible actress/star who makes everybody’s lives miserable by her egotistical behavior. The revenge that the writer, Jimmy Hoy, contrives for her is both funny and appropriate. There are laugh-out-loud moments in this book that will make you roar.

The Day of the Locust

By Nathanael West,

Book cover of The Day of the Locust

Why this book?

This is the classic Hollywood novel, written by a superb writer who knew the territory. Set in the thirties, it features the minor people who make movies – the extras and out-of-work actors who are nourished by the elusive dream of being discovered and living the life of fame and fortune. The ending is one of the great comic-apocalyptic scenes written about Hollywood or about anywhere else in America.

The Player

By Michael Tolkin,

Book cover of The Player

Why this book?

Screenwriter/director Michael Tolkin writes of a world that he knows very well. His protagonist, a successful and ambitious film studio executive, makes promises he has no intention of keeping. When he does this to a writer who has pitched him a story and to whom he has promised to get back with some sort of answer and doesn’t, the writer threatens his life. Suspenseful, dark, and funny in its own troubling way.

Blue Movie

By Terry Southern,

Book cover of Blue Movie

Why this book?

Any book that starts with the line, “Who do you have to fuck to get off this movie,” has to be terrific, right? Terry Southern, the iconic writer of Candy, writes about a bunch of Hollywood characters who decide to make the perfect X-rated movie and sell it to a mainstream studio. The book is completely outrageous, in the same vein as Southern’s black humor film Dr. Strangelove.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Hollywood, the film industry, and making movies?

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