The best novels featuring Hollywood giants as characters

Who am I?

A Southern California-based writer, screenwriter, and journalist whose adventures in and around the film business have led to hundreds of feature stories and film reviews for such magazines as Vibe, Playboy, American Film, Smithsonian, and Movieline. His books include three dedicated to Disney animated classics and a volume on the art of American movie posters. His lovingly satirical book Bad Movies We Love, co-written with Edward Margulies, inspired a Turner Network movie marathon series, his Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho was filmed in 2012. His next non-fiction book will be published in 2024.   


I wrote...

Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho

By Stephen Rebello,

Book cover of Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho

What is my book about?

First released in June 1960, Psycho, directed by Alfred Hitchcock, forever altered the landscape of horror films. But just as compelling as the movie itself is the story behind it, which was adapted as the 2012 movie starring Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock, Helen Mirren as his wife Alma Reville, and Scarlett Johansson. as Janet Leigh. Stephen Rebello brings to life the creation of one of Hollywood’s most iconic films, from the story of Wisconsin murderer Ed Gein, the real-life inspiration for the character of Norman Bates, to Hitchcock’s groundbreaking achievements in cinematography, sound, editing, and promotion.

Packed with captivating, firsthand insights from the film’s stars, writers, and crewmembers, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho has been hailed as “indispensable and marvelously readable,” “the bedrock on which all Psycho mansions are built,” and “a meticulous history of a single film production. It is a riveting and definitive history of a signature Hitchcock cinematic masterpiece."

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of White Hunter, Black Heart

Stephen Rebello Why did I love this book?

Novelist Peter Viertel, an uncredited screenplay contributor to three John Huston-directed movies, wrote one of the great Hollywood-adjacent novels in this 1953 classic backgrounded by the preproduction of a fictionalized film. Hint: it’s transparently Huston’s The African Queen and the "John Wilson" character is clearly John Huston himself. The book dramatizes the hell screenwriter Peter Verill (Viertel, of course) endures when the bigger-than-life director becomes more obsessed with hunting and killing a majestic elephant than in shooting the film he’s been sent to make. 

Funny, marvelously readable, it's also rich with wry and knowing portraits of characters based upon Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, and producer Sam Spiegel, the latter of whom says of Wilson/Huston: “In a well-ordered society, he’d be in a straitjacket now.” Clint Eastwood directed and starred in a 1990 movie version. Skip that, watch The African Queen, then read this instead.

By Peter Viertel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked White Hunter, Black Heart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It was a stellar cast gathered to make an epic masterpiece...a movie that could be made only by a mad genius. And John Wilson was a cinematic genius sent dangerously out of control by the madness of Africa itself. The human cost would be awesome, reflecting the tragic legacy for Africa of the white man's ignorance, arrogance...and passion.

Modeled on John Huston, and the making of The African Queen.

"Its incidental pictures of African scenery and colonial society, both British and Belgian, are vividly those of a first-rate observer and reporter. So, too, is the London background of hotels and…


Book cover of Fergus

Stephen Rebello Why did I love this book?

In the mid-‘60s, acclaimed Irish-Canadian novelist Brian Moore unhappily spent time grappling with the script problems plaguing director Alfred Hitchcock’s 1966 spy thriller Torn Curtain. In this frankly autobiographical 1971 novel, a Hitchcock-esque producer comes in for knocks when a Moore-like novelist-screenwriter gets lured to Hollywood to work on the screenplay for a famous moviemaker’s next film. (Moore described his brush with Hitchcock as “awful, like washing floors.”) Waiting to learn whether he’s going to be forced to do another script rewrite, the novelist agonizes over his ongoing divorce and his relationship with his new girlfriend. Mostly, though, he’s confronted by the ghosts of friends and family members past, notably his father’s. So sharply funny, painfully honest a book that one almost wishes Hitchcock had filmed it instead of Torn Curtain.

By Brian Moore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fergus as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume is produced from digital images created through the University of Michigan University Library's large-scale digitization efforts. The Library seeks to preserve the intellectual content of items in a manner that facilitates and promotes a variety of uses. The digital reformatting process results in an electronic version of the original text that can be both accessed online and used to create new print copies. The Library also understands and values the usefulness of print and makes reprints available to the public whenever possible. This book and hundreds of thousands of others can be found in the HathiTrust, an archive…


Book cover of Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

Stephen Rebello Why did I love this book?

Screen goddess Rita Hayworth, who bewitched ‘40s and ‘50s moviegoers, isn't an actual character in Stephen King’s 1982 novella or in its acclaimed 1994 movie version. But Hayworth’s fatal allure becomes palpable in King’s depiction of the erotic desires she incites in prison inmates while watching her classic thriller Gilda, leading condemned man Andy Dufresne to hang a poster pinup of Hayworth in a strategic spot in his cell. These events offer beacons of hope and possible freedom to Dufresne, who insists he’s innocent of murdering his wife and her lover. Fans of the movie know that, to mark the passage of decades, Hayworth’s pinup poster gets supplanted by Marilyn Monroe’s, then Raquel Welch’s. But in King's gripping, emotionally punchy novella, the siren call of Hayworth’s seductive aura reigns supreme.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The No. 1 bestselling author Stephen King's beloved novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption - the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award-nominee The Shawshank Redemption - about an unjustly imprisoned convict who seeks a strangely satisfying revenge, is now available as a standalone book.

There's a guy like me in every state and federal prison in America, I guess - I'm the guy who can get it for you.

And new convict Andy Dufresne wants two things from fellow prisoner Red: a small rock-hammer for carving stones and a giant poster of Rita Hayworth.

So begins this mesmerising tale…


Book cover of Crash

Stephen Rebello Why did I love this book?

Pornographic and repulsive even by 2022 standards, J.G. Ballard’s mind-bendingly twisted, troubling novel centers on a writer caught up in a cult of self-obsessed "symphorophiliacs" who restage and sexually fetishize famous, especially ghoulish car crashes. Ballard offers an unsparing vision of a future in which humans and machines meld, anything and everything gets objectified, and compulsive sex becomes utterly impersonal. And who should turn up in the novel but screen goddess Elizabeth Taylor with whom the spooky character “Dr. Robert Vaughn” is so enthralled that he fantasizes dying with her in an orgasmic head-on collision? Even boundary-pushing maverick movie director David Cronenberg thought it wiser to drop that little bit of business from his polarizing 2004 big-screen version.

By J.G. Ballard,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Crash as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The definitive cult, post-modern novel - a shocking blend of violence, transgression and eroticism - reissued with a new introduction from Zadie Smith.

When Ballard, our narrator, smashes his car into another and watches a man die in front of him, he finds himself drawn with increasing intensity to the mangled impacts of car crashes. Robert Vaughan, a former TV scientist turned nightmare angel of the expressway, has gathered around him a collection of alienated crash victims and experiments with a series of auto-erotic atrocities, each more sinister than the last. But Vaughan craves the ultimate crash - a head-on…


Book cover of Beautiful Ruins

Stephen Rebello Why did I love this book?

Jess Walter’s joyfully quirky, bittersweet novel overflows with Hollywood denizens. It’s 1962 in a tiny Italian seaside resort spot near where Elizabeth Taylor (her again?) and Richard Burton are filming Cleopatra. Meanwhile, a blonde starlet scheduled to appear in that ill-fated historical epic turns up pregnant by Burton. While a film studio functionary tries pressuring her into a secret abortion while hiding her away from scandal in a secluded hotel, the hotel’s charming young owner falls hopelessly in love. The stage is set for a rueful, time-shifting romance, the aftermath of which unfolds 50 years later. The studio flunkey morphs into a snakelike Hollywood mogul obviously patterned after the freewheeling Robert Evans, the one-time studio boss best known for his association with such '70s landmark movies as The Godfather. The book’s title comes from Louis Menand’s famous description of Richard Burton that appeared in his magazine piece in The New Yorker

By Jess Walter,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Beautiful Ruins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller—Jess Walter’s “absolute masterpiece” (Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author): the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962 and resurfaces fifty years later in contemporary Hollywood.

The acclaimed, award-winning author of the national bestseller The Financial Lives of the Poets returns with his funniest, most romantic, and most purely enjoyable novel yet. Hailed by critics and loved by readers of literary and historical fiction, Beautiful Ruins is the story of an almost-love affair that begins on the Italian coast in 1962...and is rekindled in Hollywood fifty years later. 


You might also like...

Too Good

By Carol Moreira,

Book cover of Too Good

Carol Moreira Author Of Riptides

New book alert!

Who am I?

I’m fascinated by the relationship of humanity to nature. When I was young, we moved all the time – my dad was in the military and we moved to a new base every 18 months. All those military bases were located in the British countryside and, in the absence of other forms of continuity, nature became like a best friend. I still walk every day. Reconnecting with trees, grass, the sounds of birds, centres and energizes me. I get my best ideas when walking. But, of course, nature is also threatening – Covid and cancer are natural. I’m fascinated by that juxtaposition and always trying to reflect it in my work.  

Carol's book list on the beauty and threat of the natural world

What is my book about?

This is a steamy tale of vulnerability and betrayal. Struggling in her marriage, her new life in England, and her work in a hospice, Canadian-born Lindsey is drawn to her best friend's attractive husband, David.

Guilt about her fascination with David is complicated by her admiration for his wife, Grace, a cancer doctor at the hospice. But when Grace is killed in a terrorist attack, Lindsey is drawn to Grace's man, unheeding of the dangers.

Too Good

By Carol Moreira,

What is this book about?

Struggling in her marriage, her new life in England, and her work in a hospice, Canadian-born Lindsey is drawn to her best friend’s attractive husband David. The sight of his lean gardener’s body working in the hospice grounds fills her with longing and makes her forget the sadness in both the hospice and her marriage.
Guilt about her fascination with David is complicated by her friendship and admiration for his wife Grace, a cancer doctor at the hospice. But when Grace is killed in a terrorist attack, Lindsey is drawn into a passionate romance with Grace’s man unheeding of the…


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