Finalist for the Writers' League of Texas Book Awards
For more than thirty years, Claude Ballard has been living at the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel. A French pioneer of silent films who started out as a concession agent for the Lumière brothers, the inventors of cinema, Claude now spends his days foraging for mushrooms in the hills of Los Angeles and taking photographs of runaways and the striplings along Sunset Boulevard. But when a film history student comes to interview Claude about The Electric Hotel—the lost masterpiece that bankrupted him and ended the career of his muse, Sabine Montrose—the past comes surging back. In his run-down hotel suite, the ravages of the past are waiting to be excavated: celluloid fragments in desperate need of restoration, as well as Claude’s memories of the woman who inspired and beguiled him.
The Electric Hotel is a portrait of a man entranced by the magic of moviemaking, a luminous romance, and a whirlwind trip through early cinema. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
“Radiant . . . a vital and highly entertaining work about the act of creation, and about what it means to pick up and move on after you’ve lost everything.”—The New York Times
“Wondrous . . . [Smith] writes with an old-world elegance; you get lost in these pages like you do in a great movie, not wanting the lights to come up.”—The Seattle Times
“An irresistible and dizzying international tale of early cinema. [Smith] is a writer of elegance, rich imagination and propulsive plotting.”—The Washington Post
“A glorious ode to the luminous art that ushered in Hollywood’s film era.”—BBC
“The Electric Hotel enchants with a compelling plot but satisfies with the fully felt pathos of its characters.”—BookPage
“As fresh and deliciously strange as the first days of film-making it so dazzlingly brings to life, The Electric Hotel is utterly absorbing, astonishingly inventive, and richly imagined. Dominic Smith is a wizard.”—Andrea Barrett, National Book Award winner and author of Archangel
“A long-retired moviemaker recalls the early days of silent films in Smith's atmospheric follow-up to The Last Painting of Sara De Vos . . . Smith skillfully blends film history with the adventures of his cast . . . Martin's screening of the restored Electric Hotel provides a moving finale. A compelling plot, robust characters, and finely crafted prose richly evoke a bygone age and art.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Smith's tale is luminous . . . Highly recommended for historical fiction fans and readers who love old Hollywood novels.”—Booklist (starred)
“Fascinating information about the making of silent films is balanced by poignant, emotional portrayals of individuals attempting to define their lives offscreen even as they made history on it. Smith winningly delves into Hollywood’s past.”—Publishers Weekly
Each morning, for more than thirty years, Claude Ballard returned to the hotel lobby with two cameras strapped across his chest and a tote bag full of foraged mushrooms and herbs. His long walking circuit took...