Mercury Pictures Presents

Mercury Pictures Presents is the outstanding third work of fiction from Anthony Marra (A Constellation of Vital Phenomena; The Tsar of Love & Techno). Although Marra may have panned away from the distressed Chechen settings of his first two books, instead choosing to focus on grandiose Hollywood backdrops for this novel, the treacheries of war and propaganda continue to emerge as a profound theme in his work.

Maria Lagana is an Italian émigré who works for Mercury Pictures, a B-grade studio owned and operated by the unscrupulous Feldman brothers, Artie and Ned. Her job is to slip illicit content past the stringent Production Code censors of 1941. One such film illustrates the power of propaganda and happens to explode into the mainstream at a crucial moment in history. Soon after, the U.S. War Department taps Mercury to make pictures that promise to drum up support for American involvement in World War II.

Marra quickly and nimbly expands this premise into CinemaScope, establishing depth and nuance for even his most marginal characters. Throughout the novel, foreign nationals who had narrowly escaped the rise of fascism in Europe awaken to an adoptive country spiraling into its own forms of jingoistic paranoia. Yet Marra's belief that hope and the human spirit can triumph over hatred and cynicism never falters. He has crafted a dazzling historical novel that sparkles with buoyant humor and resilient characters, in spite of the atrocities that entangle them. Mercury Pictures Presents is a marvelously smart and delightfully absorbing novel from a writer who continues to one-up himself, and appears to take great joy in doing so. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

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