A Tale of Moving Pictures Before Hollywood

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
398 Pages
Reviewed on 12/02/2017
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Author Biography

Evan Anderson is originally from Los Angeles and now makes his home in New York's Hudson Valley. While growing up in L.A. he became fascinated with the making of movies, with a definite focus on the "classic" (his favorite film year is 1928!) He visited movie studios, collector's shops and revival houses, in particular the Vagabond and Silent Movie Theater.

While doing some family research, Evan discovered that his late grandfather, Robert Lovelace Barrett, had an extensive career in Hollywood, first as an extra and featured player, then as a projectionist at Warner Brothers. It was around this time that Evan began work on "Downriver." As his search into his grandfather's career grew, so did “Downriver” – from short story, to novella, to a full length tale of a small town girl's life during the earliest days of American cinema.

Evan's short story “The Passion of Saint Hayakawa” was published in the collection Prima Materia, Vol. 2. He has written scripts for children's theater and an homage to classic radio of the 1940's, The Adventures of Marjorie. “Downriver" is his first novel.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite

Downriver: A Tale of Moving Pictures Before Hollywood by Evan Anderson is a historical novel that follows the life of Anne Blackstone, a woman who witnessed the birth of the movie industry, working behind the scenes at a time before Hollywood. She lost her father in a barge explosion and, when her mother died, Anne was sent to live in an orphanage run by the church ladies whom she’d grow to detest, which is why she escaped from the home and joined a travelling crew. She would later join a touring motion picture exhibitor and learn the art of directing. Before the advent of motion pictures, Anne was already part of the industry, and this novel follows her incredible journey from the orphanage to the life of a movie director and the challenges she had to overcome.

I felt that the novel is well-researched, featuring a compelling cast of characters. I took a quick liking to the protagonist and was just so curious about what she’d become. The author demonstrates strong storytelling skills, arousing a keen sense of empathy in the reader as they follow the protagonist through her misfortunes into her newfound freedom. Anne is a compelling character who comes across to readers as motivated and strong-willed. It is interesting to see her fighting to create her own world. The scenes are well-crafted, with the points of view coming out neatly. Evan Anderson’s prose is beautiful and it is punctuated by vivid descriptions and great dialogues. Downriver: A Tale of Moving Pictures Before Hollywood is a gripping story that explores the origins of the movie industry with characters that are as memorable as they are realistic.

Scott Anderson

Thank you for the very kind review, Diane. As an update, would like to note that “Downriver's” Indiegogo campaign for the print edition is in its final three days..

Also worth noting is that the feature documentary “Be Natural: the Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché,” narrated by Jodie Foster, is in general release this month. Alice is one of the main characters in "Downriver." Because her film work ended so abruptly, Alice's name has been virtually unknown to even professionals in the film industry. To discover why, “Be Natural” is as much a detective story as a a documentary. It was another crowdfunding campaign (through Kickstarter) that brought “Be Natural” into reality. I'm so grateful to be part of a general effort to help the real her-story of moveimaking come out!