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Stardust: A Novel Hardcover – September 29, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Atria Books (September 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 143915614X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439156148
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #749,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. James Ellroy fans will find a lot to like in this gritty look at post-WWII Hollywood from Edgar-winner Kanon (Los Alamos). Ben Collier, recently returned to the U.S. from service in the Signal Corps in Europe, travels to California after his sister-in-law, Liesl, informs him that his director brother, Danny, has suffered a serious fall from a hotel window. Was it an accident or a suicide attempt? Ben arrives in time to witness his brother briefly emerge from a coma, but soon afterward Danny dies. While Liesl believes the suicide theory, Ben suspects someone pushed Danny out the window and turns amateur detective to identify the culprit. In a noirish twist, the widowed Liesl comes on to Ben. The stakes rise after Ben learns Danny was playing a part in an anticommunist crusade a congressman is launching against the film industry. Kanon perfectly balances action and introspection, while smoothly integrating such real-life figures as actress Paulette Goddard into the plot. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Stardust could very easily have fallen victim to the cliches that plague lesser noir fiction (picture busty dames, gruff detectives, and smoky bars). Fortunately, critics thoroughly enjoyed Kanon's expert recreation of midcentury Los Angeles and were particularly entertained by the cameo appearances made by Hollywood notables. Although the Washington Post noted a "lack of dimension" surrounding protagonist Ben Collier, other critics praised the complexity of Kanon's secondary characters. Overall, reviewers hailed Stardust as a terrific read as well as an intelligent and engaging historical mystery.

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  • "Writing" 21
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jody TOP 500 REVIEWER on November 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
When Daniel Kohler is fatally injured in a fall in 1945, his brother Ben is just arriving in Hollywood to make a film for the Army documenting the death camps. This is a subject close to home as Ben served in Europe at the close of the war. As he investigates the circumstances surrounding Daniel's death and works on his movie, the two are related in ways he never imagined. Mr. Kanon deftly weaves a number of stories into the whole--a small group of ex-pat intellectuals under FBI scrutiny, a camp survivor transplanted to the home of a film mogul, the subterfuge required for alternative lifestyles, tabloid journalism, being Jewish in post WWII America and the studio star system.

This beautifully written book is sprinkled with real and fictional characters based on real ones and this world is skillfully evoked. As Ben navigates the maze of clues leading to the truth about his brother, his path is made murkier by complex relationships, loyalties and lies. Stardust is a literary thriller of the highest quality. Thought provoking and entertaining at the same time, it's a brilliant commentary on illusion and truth and what patriotism means.
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29 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Peter G. Keen VINE VOICE on September 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I have little to say about this book, pro or con. Many Amazon reviewers found it exciting and powerful. For me, it was flat and lethargic. The story is convoluted, unnecessarily so, and takes too long to unfold and gather momentum. It's very heavy on dialog, which usually adds pace and immediacy but here lacks any vibrancy and variety. I had to push myself to stay with the plot and felt that the dialog and limited sense of characterization distanced me from it; it was labored and demanded labor from me to keep my attention focused.
It's well done but without any fizz. I can see that it will appeal to readers who enjoy getting into the flow of a story and are interested in its background themes of post-World War II Hollywood and the film making community. The red-baiting, union busting of the time that created the McCarthy period is well presented and at times evocative. It's definitely not a thriller or mystery story within the genre conception of the form. The solving of the murder of the hero's brother that is assumed to be suicide is not in and of itself central to the plot. It is not a Who dunnit? story so much as a Why dunnit?
The book has its virtues and is certainly well-crafted. My comments here are just a personal reaction that despite these merits, it is dull. I can see why some reviews compare it with Le Carre, but while the tone and leisuredly unfolding are comparable, the writing lacks the little extra something that gives Le Carre's work so much texture and moral complexity. This is more a complicated than a complex novel. I enjoyed Kanon's earlier work - The Good German and Los Alamos in particular, so if you too liked them, then Stardust is probably worth buying. I would expect a number of readers coming newly to his work would be disappointed or apathetic about it.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By HEYJUDE on February 16, 2013
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I loved this novel and highly recommend it. A wonderful story with great characters. One of those that is hard to put down it kept me up very very late at times.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By B. H Tyrrell on January 4, 2013
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Hollywood in the late 40's drawn with Kanon's special narrative skill. Good guys, bad guys the whole noir scene expertly rendered.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. J. Esposito on February 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A compelling read, well plotted, nuanced characters, and a strong historical spine, Stardust was a delight. One of Kanon's best.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Anastasia McPherson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 5, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ben Collier, nee Kohler is a soldier with the Signal Corps tapped to make a movie about the horrors of the concentration camps. On his way back to the states to do this job and see his estranged brother, he learns that his brother has 'fallen' from a hotel balcony in a suicide that is hushed up as an accident. Ben becomes sure that his brother was murdered, the question is by whom and why. Searching for answers, Ben Collier tours a post-war Hollywood and America on the verge of replacing a hot war with a cold one.

The plot and characters in this book are intricate and clever, but the real magic is in the atmosphere and the dialogue. Stardust invokes not only silver screen Hollywood but the pictures that made it a legend. Think Double Indemnity and Out of the Past to get some idea of the flavor of Stardust. The book is dialogue driven and there isn't so much as a wrong grace note. The characters have the cynical patter and the heartbreaking melodrama of the noir films that inspired them without ever falling into parody. Other reviewers comment that the book could have been shortened and tightened, but the reader would have been the loser as depth would have been lost. More importantly time in a magical, lost, probably illusory world would have been shortened for the reader.

Stardust is a great way to spend time in a Hollywood that never was, but a Hollywood we all know just the same. Highest possible recommendation to those who love noir, Silver Age Hollywood or literary mysteries. Stunning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Swystun on August 17, 2010
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I have read both the Good German and Los Alamos and now after reading Stardust I believe that Kanon suffers from too much style and a lack of substance. Also (and perhaps the more damning critique) the writing is too long for the story attempting to be told so the resulting pace is very frustrating. I love historical thrillers, especially ones that provide historical accuracy, but Kanon just does not move at the clip I desire in the genre. So let me try a line a la Kanon to conclude this review, "The book became a wisp of smoke that left her lips like so many of the false promises she had warmly breathed to me on the train from Moscow to Minsk."
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