Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen

A Novel

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Pub Date 07 Nov 2023 | Archive Date 11 Nov 2023
SOURCEBOOKS Landmark | Sourcebooks Landmark

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Description

"Glamorous and suspenseful." —Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author

Perhaps the best place in 1943 Hollywood to see the stars is the Hollywood Canteen, a club for servicemen staffed exclusively by those in show business. Murder mystery playwright Annie Laurence, new in town after a devastating breakup, definitely hopes to rub elbows with the right stars. Maybe then she can get her movie made.

But Hollywood proves to be more than tinsel and glamour. When despised film critic Fiona Farris is found dead in the Canteen kitchen, Annie realizes any one of the Canteen's luminous volunteers could be guilty of the crime. To catch the killer, Annie falls in with Fiona's friends, a bitter and cynical group―each as uniquely unhappy in their life and career as Annie is in hers―that call themselves the Ambassador's Club.

Solving a murder in real life, it turns out, is a lot harder than writing one for the stage. And by involving herself in the secrets and lies of the Ambassador's Club, Annie just might have put a target on her own back.

"Glamorous and suspenseful." —Marie Benedict, New York Times bestselling author

Perhaps the best place in 1943 Hollywood to see the stars is the Hollywood Canteen, a club for servicemen staffed...


Advance Praise

"This vibrant, utterly delightful mystery expertly captures the drama, glamour and absurdity of wartime Hollywood. Sarah James’s swift dialogue, dry wit and clever characters transport you into a 1940s movie, where the jokes are quick, the love affairs scandalous and the cast as charming as they are flawed. Underneath it all, James’s deep knowledge of the era’s movies and music lends an authenticity that makes the rest shine even brighter. I laughed, I gasped and I never wanted it to end. This should head straight to the top of every must-read list." ―Brianna Labuskes, author of The Librarian of Burned Books

"Glamorous and suspenseful in equal measure, Sarah James has delivered a story that is both a delight and a puzzle readers will clamor to solve." ―Marie Benedict, New York Times of The Mitford Affair

"Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen delivers the humor, wit, and dazzle of WWII-era Hollywoodland while asking darker questions about the seductive price of fame and trade-offs artists make to earn a living." ―Lori Rader-Day, award-winning author of Death at Greenway

"This vibrant, utterly delightful mystery expertly captures the drama, glamour and absurdity of wartime Hollywood. Sarah James’s swift dialogue, dry wit and clever characters transport you into a...


Available Editions

EDITION Paperback
ISBN 9781728252254
PRICE $16.99 (USD)
PAGES 304

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Average rating from 226 members


Featured Reviews

This is a fascinating look back into the Hollywood of the 1940s during the war. The Hollywood Canteen was a real place where all the servicemen and women were always welcome to come for a night of free food, drinks, entertainment, and dancing. The Canteen was staffed by the local studios, as well as the stars themselves. You never knew who might be found making hundreds of sandwiches
Annie Laurence a murder mystery playwright in New York, is out of a job when her highly acclaimed play comes to an end. She is also recovering from a painful breakup, so when she is contacted by one of the studios in Hollywood and offered a job as a mystery writer, she eagerly accepts. Off she goes to tinsel town.
One of the first people Annie meets is the extremely critical, often unpopular, film critic, Fiona Farris. Annie gets absorbed into Fiona’s circle of friends, who call themselves the “Ambassador’s Club.” They meet regularly at the Ambassador Hotel.
This story will take you on a trip through the glamour and glitz of wartime Hollywood, as well as a glimpse behind the scenes during that era. After a suspicious murder occurs that is similar to her recent successful play in New York, Annie is suddenly one of the suspects. She sets out to prove her innocence and find the real killer.
As I read this captivating story, I often found myself laughing and other times I was shocked at the scandalous behavior. It is an entertaining, fun book that takes the reader right back to wartime Hollywood.
I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

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Heart pounding thriller that left me on the edge of my seat. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one. Definitely one of the best books this year.

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This book was so shiny and so glamorous. I have been having a romance with historical fiction lately and this was AMAZING

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This book is certainly the epitome of hedonism. As Annie enters the Hollywood scene, she has to ask herself the following? What is truly real and what is a facade? Does the Ambassador Club actually like each other or are they play acting to get ahead? Does she quickly write scenes to create words or do they actually have meaning? This book is a fascinating deep dive as to what occurs when you think you know someone but behind the facade is something way deeper. In Fiona's death, emotional details are certainly revealed such ad Vic, June and Jack. I really enjoyed reading this book and understanding the plot at play that during this time as evidenced by Annie's relationship with Adam and Beverly, anything can be bought and changed if well suited for that role to play.

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An incredibly glamourous take on a murder mystery. This had everything, romance, crime, suspense and a fun Hollywood setting. I didn't expect to love this as much as I did as you're taken on a really fun and wild ride with so many twists and turns. I was completely hooked and couldn't wait to see who murdered Fiona - overall an amazing mystery with characters you love and also love to hate. I highly recommend this I think this can work for anyone.

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OMG! So good from the first page to the last. Would highly recommend this book. It takes you back to old Hollywood and uncovers secrets that we never could have imagined. Love this book.

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Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen by Sarah James is a great historical fiction that is a classic murder/mystery set in the 1940s old Hollywood.

This was such a great read!

The author took the glitz and glamour of the classic, old Hollywood era and balanced it perfectly with the darker aspects of what we now know sometimes happened behind the scenes and also the classic who-dunnit murder mystery.

The mystery itself was entertaining and creative, but the real gem was the dialogue, characters, banter, dark humor, jokes, and one-liners. The perfect balance of humor and true emotion and dark, sadistic, and sarcastic humor and content. It was beyond impressive and kept me coming back for more.

I liked the pacing, plot, and the satisfying ending. The author has a true talent. I am looking forward to reading more from her in the future.

5/5 stars

Thank you NG and Sourcebooks Landmark for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 11/7/23.

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i'd be lying if i say i wasn't blown away by this one. my interest peaked from the first page itself and didn't deflate till the last. the old hollywood setting was what drew me in in the first place and throw in a murder mystery with morally questionable characters that you have a love-hate relationship with and you have everything that i love about these kind of stories.

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Old Hollywood Glamor and a murder mystery! Absolutely delightful. Two of my favorite things. I was completely absorbed in this and I didn't stop until it was done. Absolutely perfect "Chefs kiss"
I just reviewed Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen by Sarah James. #LastNightAtTheHollywoodCanteen #NetGalley
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After the end of a long-term romantic relationship, Annie Lawrence, writer and playwright, decides to move across the US for a job offer with Pacific Pictures. It is 1944 and the US is at war. Six nights a week, the Hollywood Canteen opens its doors to 1500-2000 servicemen for free food, drink, dancing and entertainment before the men ship off for duty. Like others in the industry, Annie volunteers at the canteen, and makes the acquaintance of Fiona Farris, witty and sharp of tongue and pen, who writes about the entertainment industry.

Annie becomes fast friends with Fiona and joins the “ambassador club” an informal group of failed celebrities who party and drown their sorrows together. Fueled by alcohol, the group is a dysfunctional mix of friendship, laughter, envy and competition. One evening at the canteen, Fiona dies suddenly of poisoning and everyone in her circle is a suspect, including Annie. Did someone in Annie’s new circle of friends murder Fiona? And what about Annie, who has more of a history with Fiona than she admits? Annie assumes the role of amateur detective to figure out the killer and determine which friends she can actually trust, while two corrupt LAPD detectives eye Annie with suspicion.

All I can say is “wow”! This wonderful novel transported me to WWII Los Angeles during the golden era of the big movie studios. The movie industry is big business, and the studios are all-powerful in tinsel town, making or breaking careers and lives at will. Of course gossip columnists and entertainment writers are powerful as well, with the ability to elevate or destroy a career at the flick of a pen. This was the era of Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper, when a mention in their newspaper columns could be a victory or a catastrophe. So the murder of Fiona Farris, right before she is about to publish a bombshell article, makes perfect sense. The plot and pace are consistently engaging and exciting; the characters so vividly depicted that they performed a Technicolor film in my imagination. Annie is a likeable and sympathetic character, a lamb in a town full of wolves, who finds her feet and perseveres to a satisfying conclusion. I enjoyed this novel so much! Many thanks to Sourcebooks Landmark for this digital copy.

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I really enjoyed how good everything worked with this story, it worked in a good suspenseful feel and I enjoyed the historical elements going on and loved the use of Hollywood as a setting. It does everything that I was looking for in Sarah James writing. The characters were wonderfully written and I was glad to solve the mystery element going on. I can’t wait to read more from Sarah James.

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I loved this mixture of Old Hollywood drama and a cozy murder mystery. It turned out to be a perfect blend of the two genres where avoiding scandal at all costs leads to murder. Annie is a playwriter in NYC in the 40's who writes murder mysteries. Her leading actors are a married couple, Adam and Bev, and the three of them have had much success. They also share a secret that, if it got out, would sink their careers. When their latest play is reviewed by the irascible critic, Fiona Farris, she points her barbs at them in a way that makes them fear that she knows their secret. So, when Adam and Bev agree to a contract with MGM, they dump Annie and move to California without so much as a glance back at their old life. Annie is at loose ends without them. Her play closes without the leading couple and Annie is having terrible writer's block. When she is offered a contract with Pacific Studios, she says goodbye to NY and hello to CA. She meets studio head, Devlin, on the first day and is afraid that she has made a mistake signing her contract because all he wants her to do is write a musical film to feature his new attraction, composer Henry Hilbert, who he poached from another studio. But Annie doesn't write musicals, so Devlin's assistant, Irma, gives her a prescription for something to help her with the writer's block. She also tells Annie that the studio is responsible for running the Hollywood Canteen on Wednesday nights. The canteen caters to servicemen due to be shipped out and, on each night, a different studio provides snacks, drinks and entertainment. All of Pacific's employees are required to volunteer to work at the canteen. When Annie shows up for her first shift, she runs into Fiona Farris and her group of friends dubbed The Ambassador's Club for their propensity to drink at the Ambassador Hotel's club, The Coconut Grove. Fiona introduces Annie to her friends, actress June Lee, comedian Jack Kott, pianist, Victor Durand and producer, Terry Levine. They are friends who resemble misfit toys for they all think that they are destined for better things and they resent the hold that the studios have on them. And, like Annie, each of them are hiding a secret that would kill their career. For a few weeks, Annie hangs out with the Club and she enjoys their easy rapport with one another, their mostly lighthearted jokes and personal insults, which lead to good natured bickering like old married couples. But there is a current of truth underneath it all that could be devastating if ever revealed and Fiona is the one who seems to have the dirt on everyone. So, when she ends up dead at the Canteen, all of the members of the club are suspect. Annie decides that since the murderer used the poison from her most recent play, she should be able to find the killer since the police seem intent to call Fiona's death a suicide. At first, she works with the Club members to try to find evidence but soon the Club members start to turn on one another, suspecting each other of killing Fiona. Annie eventually finds out the truth, but not before her life is at risk but, luckily for her, the Club members come to her rescue. Such a fun book full of witty dialogue and interesting characters. I highly recommend! Thank you to NetGally for an ARC in return for an honest review.

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A fantastic mystery filled with the delights and glamour of old Hollywood, this is one of my favorites I've read so far this year!

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Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen by Sarah James is a captivating historical mystery set in 1943 Hollywood. Annie Laurence, a murder mystery playwright, joins the Ambassador's Club to uncover the truth behind a film critic's murder. This mesmerizing book weaves real places and characters, keeping readers hooked with its secrets and intrigue. It's a must-read for fans of historical mysteries. This advanced copy from NetGalley was a fantastic experience.

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Who has two thumbs and has a girl crush on the cover of “Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen”

That would be meeeeeeee.

I am also a crazy, slightly obsessed fan of Sarah James. I mean who could really blame me, am I right or am I right ?

This book will take you back in time and teleport you to a whole new era. I hung on every word. I am literally going wild hoping Sarah James is writing her next book. I have a craving that can only be satisfied by THIS author.

Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen is one hell of a drama filled ride. Talk about an instant addiction, once you pick this book up you will not be able to put it down so make sure you clear your schedule.

Teaser :

Perhaps the best place in 1943 Hollywood to see the stars is the Hollywood Canteen, a club for servicemen staffed exclusively by those in show business. Murder mystery playwright Annie Laurence, new in town after a devastating breakup, definitely hopes to rub elbows with the right stars. Maybe then she can get her movie made.

But Hollywood proves to be more than tinsel and glamour. When despised film critic Fiona Farris is found dead in the Canteen kitchen, Annie realizes any one of the Canteen's luminous volunteers could be guilty of the crime. To catch the killer, Annie falls in with Fiona's friends, a bitter and cynical group—each as uniquely unhappy in their life and career as Annie is in hers—that call themselves the Ambassador's Club.

Solving a murder in real life, it turns out, is a lot harder than writing one for the stage. And by involving herself in the secrets and lies of the Ambassador's Club, Annie just might have put a target on her own back.

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I loved this twisty tale of Hollywood in the golden age. The amount of detail James sprinkles throughout her chapters takes the reader right back to the time and place with ease. The characters all shine and are deliciously flawed. The plot twists and turns itself into a pretzel tighter than Veronica Lake's hair in a drill press.. I cannot express how much I enjoyed this novel. If you love The Thin Man, if you think Jack Benny was a genius, if you've ever lovingly flipped through an old issue of Modern Screen magazine, give this book a chance,

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Dare I say, I loved this one. Loved! A whodunit set in Hollywood in the 40’s, the banter was witty, the characters were likable and the mystery was perfectly done.

As a fan of classic movies, this had the feel of one of those, just in book form. It felt cozy and the dialogue was well done for that time period. Can’t recommend this one enough!

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Join the hollywood set in this queer noir romp which will keep you turning pages as you explore the twisting lives of actors, directors and musicians tied together by complicated histories and that last night at the Hollywood Canteen. This novel is an immersive experience with dynamite dialogue making wartime studio backlots come bursting to life in technicolour.
The cast of characters are all stars selfish stars walking the line between fame and infamy and it is a thrilling time walking the wire with them. Fresh, fun and delicious - just watch out for the coffee you'll be drinking because you can't sleep until you get to the end!

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Who knew that Hollywood in 1943 was so scandalous? You couldn't be who you really wanted to be and fake marriages, morals clauses and homespun values dictated the entertainment industry. It was wartime and movie studios worked diligently to produce wholesome, family movies for the loved ones left behind. There was no room for a secret rendezvous between movie stars or drunken behavior in public.

Hollywood was the mecca for East Coast writers and entertainers and when Annie Laurence was offered a job as a screenwriter, she couldn’t pack her bags fast enough. Her best friends were there and under contract with a different studio and she hoped once they all reconnected, everything would go back to how it once was. Unfortunately, that was not meant to be so Annie made new friends who welcomed her into their secretive group. They dined, drank and danced the night away at clubs throughout Los Angeles, especially the Hollywood Canteen. It was there, late one night, that Annie witnessed a horrifying scene that would change her life forever. Annie, with her background writing murder mysteries, soon began to dig deep into the lives of all parties involved to determine who had the most to lose if their secrets were revealed. I loved following the relationships between Annie and her high society friends while they basked in the glamour of Hollywood. Ms. James certainly added enough twists and turns to her 1940’s murder mystery which kept me guessing until the shocking and surprising ending.

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This story has some excellent writing. People who love to hate/love each other. A character who writes within this book and she's a firecracker.. The shenanigans she gets into are funny and sometimes a tinge of being scared and excited.
You need to get to know her. Read this - you won't regret it.

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Thank you to the publisher for my copy, all opinions are my own.

When I say I LOVED this book........

I honestly picked this one up at random when I was travelling, and I had no idea what I was even getting into on the plot. Tossed right into the 1940's Hollywood scene, where the movie studios host entertainment nights for servicemen, and hosted by a motely crew of movie stars, writers and directors who spend their nights alternating between being the talent and drowning away their own demons. Culminating with a very dead body on the premise and a limited suspect list - this was the perfect, vibrant, glamorous, darkly humorous combination that had me actually obsessed from start to finish. While I had planned to maybe read a couple of chapters, I instead devoured the whole book in one sitting. I just couldn't set it down.

It has a very old-school Agatha Christie style, locked door mystery vibe on the whodunnit of the killer in their midst, while splashing in the perfect amount of character drama, light hearted fun between this unlikely group of "friends", and the snazzy razz of them trying to create movies at the time, for a less than stellar studio, and while navigating the ever stringent societal norms. The characters are dynamic, messy, dramatic, and flamboyantly fun, the mystery has the perfect amount of twists and turns, and in the end, it is one of the most satisfyingly delicious conclusions to a book that I've read all year.

Truly, this one shouldn't be missed. If historical mysteries were a thing, this one would take the cake.

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Sarah James transports you to New York 1943, where we meet Annie Laurence, playwright. Annie is in a complicated relationship of seven years. When a newspaper critic who reviews movies and plays, Fiona Farris, reviews Annie’s latest work. The review of the play wasn’t bad but one of Fiona’s comments hits a little close to home nearly outing Annie’s home situation. When a movie offer comes in for the Cook’s, Annie’s partners, they take it and move to Hollywood leaving Annie hurt and cast adrift in New York. Annie has trouble finding a way forward.

Four months later, Annie receives an offer from Paradise Pictures to become a Hollywood screenwriter. Annie jumps at the offer and possibility of reconnecting with the Cook’s. Part of her new contract is volunteering at the Hollywood Canteen with other movie studio stars and employees. The volunteers entertain and serve the GIs getting ready to ship out during WWII. At the Canteen, Annie runs into Fiona Farris and her group of friends, the Adventure’s Club. Annie realizes they are kindred souls and quickly forgives Fiona’s review of her play.

When Fiona is murdered a short time later, Annie wants the find the murderer because she knows that she is a likely suspect. Can the mystery writing playwrite solve a real murder?

A historical novel that lifts the curtain on the seedy side of WWII era Hollywood with a fantastic cast of unruly characters. I would love to have an old-fashioned with the Adventurer’s Club sometime.

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Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen was an all engrossing can't-put-it-down book. This was such an enjoyable read! It had mystery, celebrity gossip, romance, friendship, and all sorts of drama. This is the perfect book for a book club to read as it really does have something for everyone. I loved the character development and all of the settings in the book. I felt as if I was truly at the Hollywood Canteen doing the jitterbug with all the 1940's stars!

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Hollywood. 1943. Glamourous Club. Murder Mystery.

You could tell me those few words and I already know I'll enjoy it, but Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen blew my expectations out of the water! Annie, a mystery playwriter, teams up with the self-titled Ambassador's Club (read as: a group of cynics unhappy with their careers), to solve the mystery of film-critic, Fiona Ferris' murder.

Coming off of historical fiction reads like Evelyn Hugo and Kitty Karr, I was looking forward to reading Last Night at the Hollywood Canteen and it did NOT disappoint!

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