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Researching the Book:
Travels in the World of
Early Silent Film
A silent film festival in northern Italy, a trip to the archives at the Library of Congress, a walk through the Lumière brothers’ family home in Lyon (now a museum), a visit to Belgium to retrace the steps of early WWI cinematographers—the research for this book was an immersion in pictures and places. Along the way, my perception of early silent films changed completely. These were not all jittery pantomimes and melodramas; many were indelible works of art. If 75% of all silent films have been lost (the estimate from the Library of Congress) then what jewels have vanished? That was the question that drove this novel.
The Electric Hotel winds through the nascent days of cinema in Paris and Fort Lee, New Jersey— America’s first movie town—and on the battlefields of Belgium during World War I. A sweeping work of historical fiction, it shimmers between past and present as it tells the story of the rise and fall of a prodigious film studio and one man’s doomed obsession with all that passes in front of the viewfinder. Read an excerpt
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
National Book Award Winner and author of Archangel