Hill of Beans: A Novel of War and Celluloid
The film Casablanca opens with the words, "With the coming of the Second World War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the Americas." Leslie Epstein's Hill of Beans is the story of how one nation, one industry, and in particular one man responded to that desperate hope. That man is Jack Warner. His impossible goal is to make world events--most importantly, the invasion of North Africa by British and American forces in 1942--coincide with the release of his new film about a group of refugees marooned in Morocco. Arrayed against him are Stalin and Hitler, as well as Josef Goebbels, Franklin Roosevelt, a powerful gossip columnist, and above all a beautiful young woman with a terrible secret. His only weapons are his hutzpah and his heroism as he struggles to bring cinema and city, conflict and conference together in an epic command performance.
Hill of Beans is the novel that Leslie Epstein--the son and nephew of Philip and Julius Epstein, the screenwriters of Casablanca--was born to write.
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About the Author
"The novel is a tragicomic tightrope act, a fantastical oral history told from the perspectives of an array of players in and out of the Casablanca saga."--Neil Giordano, The Arts Fuse
"It's a blisteringly funny, fictional farce using the film's famous production woes as the backdrop for a bawdy espionage adventure boasting an all-star cast of world leaders and movie-industry icons, with the fate of the free world hanging in the balance."--Sean Burns, WBUR The ARTery
"Like its predecessors, Leslie Epstein's twelfth book is filled with unique energy and megaphone voice that never stops from the first page to last."--Mark Bernheim, Jewish Book Council
"Not unlike Casablanca itself, Epstein's distinct narrative elements coalesce to deliver a cinematic reading experience."--Isabella B. Cho, The Harvard Crimson
"Weaves history and real life characters seamlessly into the fabric of fiction with a typical tight focus on the evils of the Holocaust and its repercussions across time."--Tom Meek, The Patriot Ledger [Quincy, MA]
"This sense of the utterly serious and the humorously ironic, so present in the writing of Leslie Epstein's father and uncle, carries through into his own writing as well. Subtitled A Novel of War and Celluloid, Hill of Beans is filled not only with imaginatively rich accounts of the political history of the era, but it overflows with fascinating film sagas."--Charles Munitz, Jewish Journal
"Leslie Epstein's new novel is a behind-the-scenes Hollywood comedy involving his father and uncle, real-life Hollywood screenwriters. It's also a scathing look at 1940s global realpolitik, from the terrible machinations inside Hitler's Third Reich to scenes of FDR, Churchill, and Stalin mixing wisecracks and threats in summits and screenings alike."--Joel Brown, BU Today
"Comedic and elegiac, farcical and tragic, complex and engrossing, Leslie Epstein's Hill of Beans is an energetic and entertaining depiction of the symbiotic relationship between moviemaking and warmongering. This detailed and imaginative representation of Hollywood dynamics and military events, before and during World War II, is revealed through the minds and motives of multiple characters."--Margaret Porter, author of Beautiful Invention: A Novel of Hedy Lamarr
"Leslie Epstein spins a captivating tale, a supple mix of history and fiction that will delight lovers of wartime drama, studio lore, and the outsize personalities of old Hollywood."--Noah Isenberg, author of We'll Always Have Casablanca: The Life, Legend, and Afterlife of Hollywood's Most Beloved Movie
"Packed with a master's class worth of history and whiplash and laugh-out-loud funny Judaic black humor, Hill of Beans is a Pynchonesque blend of the serious and the absurd, not so much counterfactual as factual-plus--a novel that weaves a must-read, behind-the-scenes story of America making war while Hollywood makes movies."--Thomas Doherty, author of Show Trial: Hollywood, HUAC, and the Birth of the Blacklist