The best novels about show business

Who am I?

I’m Andy Marx and I am definitely a child of Hollywood. My paternal grandfather was the comic icon, Groucho Marx, and my maternal grandfather was the legendary songwriter, Gus Kahn, who wrote such classic songs as “It Had To Be You,” “Makin’ Whoopee!” and “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” After working as a film publicist on a number of films including, Terminator and Red Dragon, I launched my journalism career writing about Hollywood for such publications as The Los Angeles Times, and Daily Variety. I also co-founded the satirical website, Hollywood & Swine, which poked fun of Hollywood, not a terribly hard thing to do. 


I wrote...

Royalties

By Andy Marx,

Book cover of Royalties

What is my book about?

Part family saga, part love story, Royalties traces the rise of two immigrant families, whose paths would romantically, and, sometimes, tragically cross throughout much of the 20th century. From the humble beginnings of Vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley to the glamour and power of Hollywood at its zenith, this multi-generational tale weaves the indelible story of struggles, sacrifice, and love.

Inspired by stories I heard throughout my childhood, I wanted to celebrate the legacy of my two famous grandfathers - the iconic Groucho Marx and legendary songwriter Gus Kahn - in a rich and engrossing fictional saga of two families with a cast of characters whose fates rise and fall, and rise again. I feel that my intimate perspective brings a thrilling mix of romance, family tribulations, and personal triumphs.

The books I picked & why

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The Last Tycoon: The Authorized Text

By F. Scott Fitzgerald,

Book cover of The Last Tycoon: The Authorized Text

Why this book?

This is not only a great novel by a great writer, but its unvarnished look at Hollywood, makes it, to me, one of the best show business novels of all time. It’s a book that made me want to be a writer and I learned so much from it about the economy of words. The other aspect about it that appeals to me is the fact that the novel’s main character, studio chief Monroe Stahr, is based on the real-life MGM studio executive Irving Thalberg, who produced A Night at the Opera, which starred my grandfather, Groucho Marx, and my great-uncles, Harpo and Chico, and is not only considered by many to be the best Marx Brothers film, but also one of greatest comedies of all time. 


Postcards from the Edge

By Carrie Fisher,

Book cover of Postcards from the Edge

Why this book?

I love the fact that although this was a novel from the brilliant Carrie Fisher, much of it is autobiographical, which must’ve taken courage, as she reveals so much of her own life and sometimes painful upbringing by her parents Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, while, at the same time writing a devilishly funny book about Hollywood. The book became even more special for me when I, working as a reporter at the Los Angeles Times, got the chance to interview Fisher. When I mentioned I was thinking about writing an autobiographical novel about my own famous family, she was very encouraging and even gave me a few pointers.


Get Shorty

By Elmore Leonard,

Book cover of Get Shorty

Why this book?

Leonard has written so many great novels, but my favorite is Get Shorty, which combines everything I love – pulpy crime fiction, great characters, and show business. Take some gangsters trying to collect on an outstanding debt and set them down in Hollywood. What could go wrong? Everything! That’s why this book is so great on so many levels. And if you ever want to learn how to write really great dialogue, just pick any of Leonard’s novels. There is no better teacher. 


The Day of the Locust

By Nathanael West,

Book cover of The Day of the Locust

Why this book?

This is one of the first Hollywood novels I ever read and it has stayed with me ever since. This book is great because instead of focusing on superstars, it’s the story of the behind-the-scenes people working in Hollywood, who haven’t hit the big-time yet and are just trying to survive. What makes the book so remarkable is that West could’ve been writing about any industry but uses Hollywood as a metaphor for many of society’s ills that were rampant in the 1930s.


Tinseltown Tango

By Phil Swann,

Book cover of Tinseltown Tango

Why this book?

This is the third book in the Trip Callaway Gig mystery series written by Phil Swann. While I’ve enjoyed all the Trip Callaway books, I especially like this one because it takes place in 1966 Hollywood. In this story, musician and undercover agent Trip Callaway takes us into the world of Los Angeles studio musicians, who played on all those memorable recordings and variety shows of the time. On top of spending some quality time in great, but sadly long gone, Hollywood hotspots like Shelly’s Manne Hole, The Palomino, and Martoni’s – places I went growing up in Los Angeles – Tinseltown Tango is also a ripping good yarn. If you enjoy a good murder mystery with a dash of music and no shortage of laughs, check out this book. You won’t be disappointed. 


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the film industry, Hollywood, and Los Angeles?

5,809 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the film industry, Hollywood, and Los Angeles.

The Film Industry Explore 23 books about the film industry
Hollywood Explore 87 books about Hollywood
Los Angeles Explore 158 books about Los Angeles

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Jaws Log, Running with Scissors, and A Million Little Pieces if you like this list.