Los Angeles isn’t called the “City of Broken Dreams” for nothing. It’s a place of glitz, glamour, struggle, and heartbreak that’s inspired countless novelists over the years, from Nathanael West to Joan Didion to Bret Easton Ellis. Here are a few notable fictional takes on Tinseltown that Kirkus Indie’s reviewers highlighted in the last year:
Black Star over Hollywood, a 2017 novel by John W. Ravage, delves into the area’s past to tell the story of a down-and-out African-American vaudeville performer in 1939 who goes on to find fame in the early days of the film industry as a cowboy in B-movie Westerns. But, as is common in Hollywood tales, success doesn’t come easy. “Ravage evokes questions of race with rare delicacy and descriptions of midcentury Hollywood with learned skill,” writes Kirkus’ reviewer.
Kia McInerny’s 2016 novel, Max in Filmland offers a different historical take on the City of Angels, set in 1979, in which New York lawyer Maxwell Rider moves west and becomes part of a friend’s film-financing firm. But before long, the firm gets entangled in a sketchy gold-mine scheme, making Max the target of FBI agents. “The story’s emphasis on white-collar crime, in lieu of murder, gives it an old-Hollywood feel,” says Kirkus’ reviewer, “as a perpetual fear of betrayal replaces potential violence.”
In Tim Patrick’s Death of a Movie Star (2017), a tale of revenge plays out on a near-future celebrity game show called StarBash. A-lister Cassandra Moreaux believes that a fellow contestant got her thespian mother blacklisted in the 1950s; meanwhile, struggling actor Brandi Bonacore seeks vengeance on Moreaux for her own struggles. Kirkus’ reviewer notes how this “darkly humorous” novel tackles the “presumed artificiality of Hollywood’s denizens”—for example, StarBash fakes scenes at the New York City’s Plaza Hotel on West Coast soundstages. David Rapp is the senior Indie editor.