The best novels set in Golden Age Hollywood

Why am I passionate about this?

My interest in Golden Age Hollywood dates to my childhood of watching classic movies on television. It definitely inspired my career as an actress, which began when I was only ten and later expanded into tv and film. After the publication of twelve historical novels, I decided to write biographical fiction about actresses—famous and obscure—of the 1930s and 1940s. I regularly seek out Hollywood fiction for entertainment, and for research I rely on nonfiction (biographies, histories, sociological studies). I also collect ephemera, so at my author events I can share physical artifacts as well as Hollywood legend and lore!


I wrote...

The Limits of Limelight

By Margaret Porter,

Book cover of The Limits of Limelight

What is my book about?

Pretty Oklahoma teenager Helen Nichols is encouraged by her cousin, rising movie actress Ginger Rogers, to try her luck in motion pictures. Ginger and her mother Lela Rogers provide her with a new name and help her land a contract at RKO Studios. As Phyllis Fraser, she swiftly discovers that Depression-era Hollywood’s surface glamor and glitter obscure the ceaseless struggle of the hopeful starlet.

While Ginger soars to the heights of stardom in musicals with Fred Astaire, Phyllis is tempted by a career more fulfilling than the one she was thrust into. Should she continue working in films, or devote herself to the profession she’s dreamed about since childhood? Which choice might lead her to the lasting love that seems so elusive?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of All the Stars in the Heavens

Margaret Porter Why did I love this book?

This novel is a blend of fact and fiction and informed speculation, centered on the relationship between two mammoth film stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age: Loretta Young and Clark Gable. While the deeper truths of their relationship during the filming of Call of the Wild might be disputed, what is certain is that they produced a daughter whose identity was kept secret—even from her father. Loretta is sympathetically portrayed, often from the perspective of an Italian nun (the author’s creation). A whole galaxy of film celebrities passes through the pages of this book, which for fans of 20th century cinema, is a plus. One touching and poignant aspect of the story, for me, is the danger Loretta’s beloved child poses to her reputation and career.

By Adriana Trigiani,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All the Stars in the Heavens as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Clark Gable, Loretta Young, Spencer Tracy, David Niven, Carole Lombard lead a magnificent cast of characters, real and imagined, in Adriana Trigiani's new novel set in the rich landscape of 1930s' Los Angeles. In this spectacular saga as radiant, thrilling and beguiling as Hollywood itself, Trigiani takes us back to the golden age of movie-making and into the complex and glamorous world of a young actress hungry for fame, success - and love. With meticulous, beautiful detail, she paints a rich landscape, where European and American artisans flocked to pursue the ultimate dream: to tell stories on the silver screen.


Book cover of Marlene

Margaret Porter Why did I love this book?

Marlene Dietrich is one of the iconic figures of 20th century Hollywood—actress, singer, photographer’s dream model. She carried the exotic and scandalous and artistic aspects of Weimar Germany with her when she arrived in Hollywood, and leveraged them into stardom. But the rise of fascism and the onset of World War II put her native country in conflict with her adopted one. Gortner’s novel relies on first-person narrative to explore Dietrich’s life, professional and personal, in a revealing and moving fashion. This novel is a reminder that Golden Age Hollywood would have been a very different place without the massively important contributions of immigrants and refugees at a time when the world was in turmoil.

By C.W. Gortner,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A lush, dramatic biographical novel of one of the most glamorous and alluring legends of Hollywood's golden age, Marlene Dietrich-from the gender-bending cabarets of Weimar Berlin to the lush film studios of Hollywood, a sweeping story of passion, glamour, ambition, art, and war from the author of Mademoiselle Chanel. Raised in genteel poverty after the First World War, Maria Magdalena Dietrich dreams of a life on the stage. When a budding career as a violinist is cut short, the willful teenager vows to become a singer, trading her family's proper, middle-class society for the free-spirited, louche world of Weimar Berlin's…


Book cover of The Glamorous Dead

Margaret Porter Why did I love this book?

This murder mystery novel is one that really stayed with me. It has a noir quality that fits the 1940s era, and a realistic depiction of the difficulties of employment at various levels in Hollywood. Suspicion falls on the protagonist when her roommate turns up dead on the set of a Barbara Stanwyck film, and through the course of the novel various scandals, mysteries, and cover-ups collide. Though the main character isn’t herself a star, far from it, she offers a particular perspective on the stars she knows and the industry as a whole. Stanwyck is one of Hollywood’s great talents and true survivors, as forceful on the page and as desperate to salvage her personal life as any of her movie characters.

By Suzanne Gates,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Set in the dream factory of the 1940s, this glittering debut novel follows a young Hollywood hopeful into a star-studded web of scandal, celebrity, and murder . . .
 
The chipped pink nail polish is a dead giveaway—no pun intended. When a human thumb is discovered near a Hollywood nightclub, it doesn’t take long for the police to identify its owner. Miss Penny Harp would recognize that pink anywhere: it belongs to her best friend, Rosemary. And so does the rest of the body buried beneath it. Rosemary, with the beauty and talent, who stood out from all other extras…


Book cover of The Heart of the Lion: A Novel of Irving Thalberg's Hollywood

Margaret Porter Why did I love this book?

Martin Turnbull has produced various series about Hollywood, primarily populated by fictional characters. This book is biographical fiction centered on the boy-wonder movie producer Irving Thalberg of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. His life and career are overshadowed by ill-health, yet he managed to make his studio the greatest of the Golden Age, in no small part through his ability to co-exist with studio head Louis B. Mayer. Through her marriage to Thalberg, actress Norma Shearer’s status as MGM’s most popular leading lady, was assured. I felt the portrait of their marriage, a union with both personal and professional ramifications, and the depiction of Thalberg’s relationship with two strong women—his wife and his mother—added conflict and context to the story.  

By Martin Turnbull,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Heart of the Lion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lose yourself in the Golden Age of Hollywood—and discover the story of the man who helped create it.

Hollywood in the 1920s: the motion picture industry is booming, and Irving Thalberg knows it takes more than guts and gumption to create screen magic that will live forever. He’s climbed all the way to head of production at newly merged Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and is determined to transform Leo the Lion into an icon of the most successful studio in town.

The harder he works, the higher he soars. But at what cost? The more he achieves, the closer he risks flying into…


Book cover of Another Side of Paradise

Margaret Porter Why did I love this book?

So many Hollywood novels focus primarily on the marquee names—the movie stars. This one explores the tortured romantic relationship between gossip columnist Sheilah Graham and author F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose stint as a scriptwriter was financially sustaining and artistically demoralizing, deepening his descent into alcoholism and despair over his failing marriage to Zelda. Sheilah could have been his creation, with her Gatsby-esque concealment of her background and reinvention of herself. Though this is a work of fiction, it results from meticulous research into the lives and careers of its fascinating and legendary main characters. As a writer myself, who has produced newspaper columns as well as more than a dozen novels, I fully appreciate the literary aspects of this story.

By Sally Koslow,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“A stunning, utterly captivating read. Another Side of Paradise delivers an unforgettable portrait of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Sheilah Graham, a remarkable couple steeped in all the glamour, romance, and intrigue of old Hollywood. Their wild ride of a love affair is one for the ages!” — Kathleen Grissom, New York Times bestselling author of The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything

A novel based on the true story of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his longtime mistress, Sheilah Graham—an unforgettable tale of love, celebrity, and Gatsby-esque self-creation in 1930s Hollywood.

In 1937 Hollywood, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s star is on…


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Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

What is my book about?

Stopping Russian Aggression with milk, coal, and candy bars….

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians will starve unless they receive food, medicine, and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour, and children’s shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in the West. Until General Winter deploys on the side of Russia...

Based on historical events, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader delivers an…

Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

What is this book about?

Fighting a war with milk, coal and candy bars....

In the second book of the Bridge to Tomorrow Series, the story continues where "Cold Peace" left off.

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians in Hitler's former capital will starve unless they receive food, medicine and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour and children's shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in…


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