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A Novel

  • reading group guide
Hollywood, 1945. Ben Collier has just arrived from war-torn Europe to find his brother has died in mysterious circumstances. Why would a man with a beautiful wife, a successful movie career, and a heroic past choose to kill himself?

Ben enters the uneasy world beneath the glossy shine of the movie business, where politics and the dream factories collide and Communist witch hunts are rendering the biggest star makers vulnerable. Even here, where the devastation of Europe seems no more real than a painted movie set, the war casts long and dangerous shadows. When Ben learns troubling facts about his own family’s past and embarks on a love affair that never should have happened, he is caught in a web of deception that shakes his moral foundation to its core.

Rich with atmosphere and period detail, Stardust flawlessly blends fact and fiction into a haunting thriller evoking both the glory days of the movies and the emergence of a dark strain of American political life.
  • Washington Square Press | 
  • 528 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781439156322 | 
  • July 2010
List Price $15.00
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Introducing author Joe Kanon

Follow author Joseph Kanon on a tour of Hollywood as he takes us to the Hollywood of decades past and talks about the role it plays in his new book, STARDUST

Hear an Excerpt

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Stardust includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Joseph Kanon. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


In post-WWII Hollywood, Ben Collier has returned from the front lines to find that his brother Danny has died from a fall off a hotel balcony. But the information surrounding Danny’s accident is blurred, and Ben makes his way to Los Angeles wondering why Danny, a war hero and burgeoning filmmaker, would leave behind a life of promise and respect. Or was it not his choice after all?

Joseph Kanon’s most intricate novel to date, Stardust follows Ben on an informative and mysterious trek through the hush-hush world of 1940s Hollywood. As he attempts to piece together the specifics of his brother’s death, Ben is hurled into a stream of secret deals, political maneuvering, and the beginning murmurs of the Hollywood Communist witch hunts.

With a lush depiction of the era, Kanon weaves a tale of intrigue, suspense, and romance that looks behind the film lens and into the hearts of émigrés and American moviemakers of the time. Lights, camera, action…

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About the Author

Joseph Kanon
Robin Straus

Joseph Kanon

Joseph Kanon is the Edgar Award–winning author of Istanbul Passage, Los Alamos, The Prodigal Spy, Alibi, Stardust, and The Good German, which was made into a major motion picture starring George Clooney and Cate Blanchett. Before becoming a full-time writer, he was a book publishing executive. He lives in New York City.


Author Revealed

Q. how did you come to write Stardust?

A. When I was writing The Good German, a novel about a city (Berlin) physically and morally devastated by the war, I became interested in what happened to the people who'd managed to get out-- the exiles who were part of the great intellectual diaspora of the 30s. I was particularly interested in the emigres who ended up in Los Angeles (Thomas Mann, Brecht, Schonberg, Stravinsky, an endless, impressive list), partly because so few of us know about their time there and partly because it seemed to me an anomaly, an inherently dramatic collision of cultures: the keepers of the High Culture of old Europe suddenly adrift in a city of soda fountains and Betty Grable movies. I also thought their perspective would be a unique way of looking at Hollywood-- which, of course, was the real subject of the book. Stardust started with the Germans, but ended up as a book about the studio system at the very height of its success (in 1946 more Americans went to the movies than would ever go again), just before it came under siege by politicians determined to use some of its stardust for their own purposes.

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