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The Hollywood Novel

Updated: August 12, 2019

Numerous movies have been based on novels. Some movies are part of LAPL's DVD collection, but more can found through our E-Media and Digital Content page

Orwell, George, 1903-1950,
Call Number: Ed.m

Explore a grim, dystopian future with a government so in control of its people that it seeks to dictate how they think.  Written 70 years ago about an imagined 1984, the novel still provides warnings about social control and engineering techniques we have not yet avoided.

McEwan, Ian.

In pre-War Britain, 13-year-old Briony witnesses a flirtatious moment between her older sister and a neighbor boy. Her misunderstanding of the situation brings about a crime that will change all their lives. The book follows that crime’s repercussions in the lives of the protagonists through WW II and into the close of the twentieth century.

Godden, Rumer, 1907-1998.

An Anglican cloister set high in the Himalayas does not protect a group of nuns from confronting unresolved personal issues from their past. Instead the remote setting and culture accentuate inner turmoil and doubts. This book is available as e-media.

The movie received an Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Cinematography.

Sagan, Francoise, 1935-2004.
Call Number: Ed.b

This French coming-of-age story written in the 1950s was considered scandalous when it came out. With the author barely older than her teenage protagonist, the story ably explores emotional matters and life-changing experiences. Translated from French.

Capote, Truman, 1924-1984.

Holly Golightly is always immaculately groomed, well-dressed and confident. What does she do to support her fashionable lifestyle? What's the big deal about Tiffany's?  In his novella, Truman Capote created a free spirited young woman with a sophisticated mystique.

Available on e-Media

Proulx, Annie.

Set in the hills of Montana, two cowboys working as herders share a cabin, where a sexual relationship develops that evolves into a very deep friendship.

Aciman, Andre,
Call Number: Ed.a

A coming-of-age story about an adolescent boy coming to terms with his sexuality. A six-week encounter, at the family's villa on the Italian Riviera, changes the lives of the adolescent and an adult guest.

Walker, Alice, 1944-
Call Number: Ed.f

Celie is a poor, black woman in 1930s American south whose relentless abuse by the men in her life threaten to make this story a tragedy. But tenacity, a momentous character evolution, and the kindness (and love) of women transform her into one of the greatest female characters in literature.

West, Nathanel.
Call Number: Ed.d

West's novel about the bottom feeders, has-beens and hangers-on of the Hollywood studio system was a flop when it was first published in 1939 but has since gone on to become, along with The Last Tycoon, the epitome of the Hollywood novel. Coincidently, Nathanael West died in an automobile accident on December 22, 1940, one day after the death of F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Mosley, Walter.
Call Number: M
Ezekiel "Easy" Rawlins is a World War II veteran who falls into detective work after losing his factory job. In the first novel in Mosley's outstanding series, Easy traverses the streets of 1948 Los Angeles in search of a missing Frenchwoman. Other titles in the series (A Red Death, Little Scarlet, Blonde Faith) follow the detective through volatile periods in L.A. history, including the Red Scare, the Watts Riots, and the Vietnam War.

Pasternak, Boris Leonidovich, 1890-1960.
Call Number: Ed.b
Although Pasternak was primarily known as a poet, his novel about the early days of the Soviet Union was suppressed in the USSR and denied publication. The novel was eventually smuggled out of the country by Isaiah Berlin and published to huge acclaim and sales all over the world, eventually spending six months on top of the New York Times bestseller list. Awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1958, Pasternak was forced by the Soviet government to decline the prize.

Fleming, Ian, 1908-1964.
Call Number: M Ed.d

"The name is Bond, James Bond," and here is the first Bond movie, DVD, but not the first book, which was Casino Royale. There were fourteen books written by Ian Fleming, and the series was continued after his death by several authorized writers, all found under Ian Fleming; plus graphic novels and DVDs.


Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968.
Call Number: Ed.g

Set in the Salinas Valley where the lives of two families, the Trasks and Hamiltons, are entangled in a web of complex relationships that affects generations in wounding and destructive ways.

Ballard, J. G., 1930-2009.

Eleven-year-old Jim is torn from the comfort of his upper-class British family when Japan attacks allied warships in Shanghai on December 7, 1941. He is left to scavenge in a city left in ruins until being picked up and thrown into an internment camp with adults.

Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961.
Call Number: Ed.g

Set within the context of World War I, the love story of Lieutenant Henry and nurse Catherine Barkley is thwarted by bad luck and bad timing.

Baxter, Charles, 1947-

Charles Baxter's novel evokes magic about real people who are in love: some with the right person, some with the wrong person. His writing is beautifully profound about the longing, heartache, and unexpected gifts that love brings.

Wagner, Bruce.

This novel is a series of linked short stories detailing the downward psychological, moral and career spiral of Bud Wiggin, a failed screenwriter/limo driver. Wagner, also wrote a loosely connected trilogy of Hollywood novels, Losing You, I'll Let You Go, and Still Holding.

Colette, 1873-1954.
Call Number: Ed.b

The novella is set in Paris, around 1899. Gigi is being trained and groomed to become a grand courtesan, following in the footsteps of several generations of female realitives. Worldly, wealthy and jaded Gaston Lachaille falls in love with her.

Hawkins, Paula.

Rachel, a young divorced woman, takes the train to work and back, each time passing the house where she once happily lived with her now ex-husband. From the train window, she often sees another couple a few doors down on their patio, and she imagines the wonderful marriage they must have. Through a series on surprising twists, Rachel learns the truth about the young couple, as well as about the marriage she once cherished. Reminiscent of “Gone Girl,” this novel (and film) will twist what you thought you knew.

Flynn, Gillian, 1971-
Call Number: M
Flynn's psychological thriller about a husband who may or may not be responsible for his wife's disappearance has been drawing rave reviews, but be sure not to miss her other books. Sharp Objects in particular will raise goosebumps on even the hottest summer days.

Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949.
Call Number: Ed.l

This epic novel of love and war won the Pulitzer Prize and became one of the most popular and celebrated movies of all time. Its vivid depiction of the American South during the Civil War created characters still part of conversation today.

Buck, Pearl S. 1892-1973.
Call Number: Ed.b
This acclaimed, best-selling, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set in China before the 1949 revolution follows the life of a farmer named Wang Lung from the day of his marriage to a former slave named O-Lan. Aided by her industry and thrift, their life together is prosperous, yielding both monetary gain and children, until famine forces the family to leave their village to beg and work menial jobs in the south. Throughout this ordeal, Wang Lung has refused to sell his land, and chance fortune allows them to return to it and rebuild their wealth beyond anything they had imagined. A fascinating epic, filled with details of daily life and traditions.

Hughes, Richard Arthur Warren, 1900-1976.
Call Number: Ed.a

In nineteenth century Jamaica, a shipload of British children are being sent home to school when their ship is highjacked by pirates. What happens is unexpected and belies the innocence of childhood.

Spencer, Elizabeth, 1921-

A novella which first became a movie in 1962, then a very successful musical in 2005, is a story set during the 1950s about a wealthy woman and her mentally challenged adult daughter.  The mother and daughter spend a summer in Italy where the daughter Clara falls in love with an Italian man.

Esquivel, Laura, 1950-

Thwarted love, magic, family traditions and recipes are part of this best-selling lovely novel set in turn of the century Mexico.  As the youngest daughter of tyrannical Mama Elena, Tita cannot marry before her older sisters do. Tita and Pedro are madly in love, but Mama Elena has another plan--for Pedro to marry Rosaura, and Tita is to prepare the wedding dinner.

Chandler, Raymond, 1888-1959.
Call Number: M Ed.a

Chandler's plots are not easy to summarize, but in this story Philip Marlowe is on a missing person case that takes him through the seedy underbelly of Hollywood. Chandler used his experience as a screenwriter for Paramount to inform this book, and his disdain for everything Hollywood comes through.

Golding, William, 1911-1993.
Call Number: Ed.c
This modern classic tackles the problem of bullying as a group of English schoolboys try to survive being stranded on an island.

Schine, Cathleen.

An anonymous love letter shakes up a woman's orderly life in a small east coast seaside village. 

Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott), 1896-1940.
Call Number: Ed.d

When F. Scott Fitzgerald died at age 44 in 1940, he left a half-finished novel about the career of an Irving Thalberg-like figure named Monroe Stahr. Fitzgerald’s friend, the literary critic Edmund Wilson, edited the manuscript and the book was released as The Last Tycoon in 1941. In 1993, Fitzgerald scholar Matthew J. Bruccoli put together a new critical edition using Fitzgerald’s notes and restoring Fitzgerald’s intended title. See also, The Pat Hobby Stories, a collection of short stories about a failed Hollywood screenwriter that Fitzgerald wrote for Esquire towards the end of his life.

Waugh, Evelyn, 1903-1966.
Call Number: Ed.c

In 1947 Evelyn Waugh took a trip to California to negotiate the screen rights to Brideshead Revisited. The negotiations proved unsuccessful, but Waugh did leave Southern California with the idea for this short satirical novel about what he saw as the absurdities of Hollywood and the gaudy tastelessness of Forest Lawn.

Duras, Marguerite.
Call Number: Ed.c

Marguerite Duras' semi-autobiographical novel is about the love affair between an adolescent French colonial girl and an older Chinese businessman, set in French colonial Vietnam

McCullers, Carson, 1917-1967.
Call Number: Ed.a

12-year-old Frankie Addams feels alienated and lost, and as she struggles with her own identity assumes the name of F. Jasmine. Set in a small southern town, in the 1940s, Frankie's only close relationships are with her 6-year-old cousin, John Henry, and her family's African-American housekeeper, Berenice.

Franklin, Miles, 1879-1954.
Call Number: Ed.b

Miles Franklin's autobiographical novel is about her life as a young girl, growing up in the wilds of Australia's outback, all the while yearning for a life of art, music and literature.

Prouty, Olive Higgins, 1882-1974.
Call Number: Ed.a

Charlotte Vale, scion of a wealthly family, suffers a nervous breakdown brought on by her domineering mother. After psychiatric treatment at a sanitorium, Charlotte goes on a long cruise and meets the love of her life, who is married. She also gains a strong sense of self-assurance and independence.  The film version has an iconic cigarette lighting scene.

Greene, Graham, 1904-1991.
Call Number: Ed.a

A satirical view of British intelligence services, set in Cuba where a vacuum cleaner salesman turns spy, but only for financial reasons.

Haruf, Kent.

Addie Moore asks Louis Waters, "I wonder if you would consider coming to my house sometimes to sleep with me. ... And talk?" She then adds, "I am talking about getting through the night." Both of these senior citizens, who are neighbors in Holt Colorado, have lost their spouses. Kent Haruf's last novel elegantly speaks to the loneliness both people feel, and how they overcome it despite the mean-spirited disapproval of friends and relatives.

Lindsay, Joan Weigall, Lady.
Call Number: M Ed.b

A haunting story, set in the 1900s, about a group of young women at an Australian girls' boarding school who vanish while on a picnic at Hanging Rock.

Nathan, Robert, 1894-1985.

A haunting, ethereal story of timeless love. A talented young artist cannot find the right inspiration to make his work great, until he meets a young schoolgirl in Central Park. His portrait of her is the key to his success. 

Skarmeta, Antonio.

Pablo Neruda's passionate love poetry is the catalyst for a modern love story.

Graham, Carroll.
Call Number: Ed.a

The queer people of the title are the denizens of Hollywood as found at the end of the silent era by Whitey, a newspaper reporter who comes to Hollywood and drinks his way into a job as a screenwriter. Not the first novel about Hollywood, but one that became the archetype for those that followed.

Pilkington, Doris, 1937-2014.

A 1931 Australian law ordered the round up of aboriginal children to be assimilated into remote white communities.  Based on the true story of three girls who escaped from their assigned towns and walked 1,500 miles to return to their own homes.

Du Maurier, Daphne, 1907-1989.
Call Number: Ed.g

The haunting story of Rebecca, the first Mrs. Maxim de Winter, told by the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter, whose first name we never know.  Rebecca was stunningly beautiful and accomplished, so she was well-suited to be mistress of Manderley, a stately English home. There was something else about her that was menacing and deadly.

Godden, Rumer, 1907-1998.

The story is set in Bengal, India, during the 1940s, where Harriet's English family lives. She is a dreamy adolescent girl who loves to write and is highly susceptible to feelings of romantic love, while the immediate world grounds her reality.  There is also the beautiful Jean Renoir movie. The novel is available on e-Media.

Isherwood, Christopher, 1904-1986.
Call Number: Ed.b

A single day in the life of George, a college English professor in 1960s Los Angeles, as he copes with the sudden death of his lover. George is wry, witty and, although cynical, ultimately positive as he seeks a way to connect with a life that is trying to leave him behind. 

Greene, Graham, 1904-1991.
Call Number: M Ed.a

This is a spectacular twofer:  one novel and a short story by Graham Greene, which became two films directed by Carol Reed.  The fallen idol has been overshadowed by the more famous Third man.

Lee, Harper.
Call Number: Ed.h

The explosion of racial hate in an Alabama town is viewed by a little girl whose father defends a black man accused of rape.


Greene, Graham, 1904-1991.
Call Number: Ed.c

At his mother's funeral, Henry Pulling, retired bank clerk, meets his eccentric Aunt Augusta for the first time. What follows is anything but somber and reverent, as Henry and his supposed aunt embark on a non-stop adventure.

O'Brien, Darcy
Call Number: Ed.a

Darcy O'Brien, the son of 1930s movie stars George O'Brien and Marguerite Churchill, wrote this fictionalized account of his childhood. With his parents divorced and his family's lavish lifestyle long gone, O'Brien spent most of the 1940s and 50s bouncing between his father, a down-on-his-luck former cowboy star and his mother, a faded actress.

Schulberg, Budd.
Call Number: Ed.b

The rise of Sammy Glick, product of the Lower East Side slums of New York, who journeys from copy boy to the pinnacle of Hollywood while leaving many victims in his wake. The son of a Hollywood executive, author Budd Schulberg used an amalgam of real Hollywood personalities to create Glick. See also Schulberg’s The Disenchanted, a roman á clef about his experience collaborating on a screenplay with the post-crackup F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Viertel, Peter.

Peter Viertel’s novel about his experiences working in Africa as a scriptwriter for director John Huston while they were filming The African Queen. The main character, an exaggerated version of Huston, is fixated on shooting an elephant to the detriment of his film and crew.

La Plante, Lynda,

After their husbands are killed in a failed robbery heist, three widows take control of their lives when thugs threaten the life of one of them. Filled with fear and gumption they plan to carry out a successful robbery.

Available on e-Media

Erickson, Steve.

Vikar, obsessed with movies and fleeing his strict Calvinist upbringing in Pennsylvania, arrives in Los Angeles on the day of the Tate-LaBianca murders. With a tattoo of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun tattooed on his shaved head he wanders through Hollywood of the 1970s and eventually uncovers a dark secret of the movies. David Lynch meets Easy Riders, Raging Bulls.