8 Books That Deliver Behind-The-Scenes Drama

From Electric Lit:

I don’t know about y’all, but I love rewatching a performance after I learn that something catastrophic has gone down behind the scenes. Whether it’s the iconic 1997 Fleetwood Mac performance of “Silver Springs” in which you can watch Stevie Nicks put a curse on Lindsey Buckingham in real time, or a film like What Happened to Baby Jane, which featured an on-set rivalry between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford so legendary that Ryan Murphy had to make entire tv series about it.

When I began researching my debut novel Do Tell, I already had a longstanding love for the films of classic Hollywood. As I learned more about the backstories of the actors, directors, and studio executives of the era, I found myself revisiting the classics and pinpointing the intersection between performance and personal life. There’s something very satisfying about watching The Long, Hot Summer and knowing that Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward are about to destroy their respective marriages in the name of one of the greatest love stories in Hollywood history. 

Do Tell follows Edie O’Dare, a gossip columnist who thrives in the gray area between personal and public when it comes to the stars of Golden Age Hollywood. Edie’s livelihood is dependent on her ability to piece together what’s happening off-set—which stars are sneaking off together, who’s feuding, or why that last-minute swap of leading starlets had to happen. I love novels that explore the disparity between what the public is meant to see and what really went down. If you’re like me and you live for the drama, here’s a list of my favorites that show us the mess off-camera, behind the curtain, and backstage. 

Playhouse: City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert’s story of a rundown New York City playhouse during World War II is a delectable treasure. Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar, so she heads to the city to live with her eccentric aunt who works in showbiz. Not the Broadway kind of showbiz though—the Lily Playhouse is running on castoff showgirls, recycled costumes, last minute scripts, pennies, and prayers. At the playhouse, Vivian discovers a found family with her aunt Peg and her live-in “secretary” Olive, along with the eccentric cast of characters that inhabit their world. I love how unapologetic Gilbert is with Vivian’s exploits and mistakes, because, of course, she makes the sorts of mistakes any nineteen-year-old would make if given the opportunity to run amok in the bars and clubs of New York with a legion of beautiful actors and actresses. City of Girls is a perfect novel: transportive, entertaining, and empathetic.

Reality TV Show: The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

Have you ever watched a reality dating show and wondered to yourself: Why aren’t more of these contestants queer? I have the book for you! Alison Cochrun’s The Charm Offensive follows Charlie, a high-profile tech developer hoping to do some PR rehabilitation by appearing on a dating show. There are dozens of women who are meant to be competing for Charlie’s affection, but, oops, he seems to have a lot more chemistry with the show’s producer, Dev. While Dev works to create a romantic storyline for Charlie on-screen, he also has to do a lot of one-on-one coaching off camera to get Charlie up to leading-man status. What follows is a tender-hearted story about navigating through love, sexuality, mental health issues—all in the spotlight of the public eye. It’s the perfect romance for anyone who’s ever binged a dating show and thought: maybe the best on-screen chemistry isn’t always hetero. 

Link to the rest at Electric Lit