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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Author Rebecca Chace loves movies so much that last summer, she adapted one of her novels into a short film. She's also a devoted reader of books about the movies. For those struggling to make it in Hollywood or just want to peak behind the scenes, Chace has these suggestions for our series Three Books.

Ms. REBECCA CHACE (Author, "Leaving Rock Harbor"): Read the book before you see the movie, people are always saying. How about reading a book that takes you so far inside filmmaking that the movie itself doesn't matter anymore? These books are so smart and literary that they are not only for film buffs, but for anyone interested in great storytelling.

In "Picture," Lillian Ross, grande dame of The New Yorker, tells the story of director John Huston making "The Red Badge of Courage." Ross is the ultimate witty observer. From the first day of shooting to the final release, Ross transforms her access to the motion picture industry circa 1951 into a character study that leaves nobody unscathed.

Does anyone remember the film version of "The Red Badge of Courage"? It doesn't matter. You will never forget this book.

Everyone loves hearing about somebody else's disaster. When "Final Cut" came out in 1985, it was the tell-all book about the biggest financial disaster in the film business. This book reads like a murder mystery, where the dead body is the studio itself.

"Heaven's Gate" was directed by Michael Cimino, who was given such free reign after sweeping the Oscars with "The Deer Hunter" that his next film single-handedly brought down an entire studio. A month after the film was released, United Artists ceased to exist as an independent studio, and Cimino's career has never recovered.

"Heaven's Gate" was the perfect storm that ended the era of the untouchable Hollywood director/auteur.

"The Conversations" is your chance to listen in on probably the most intelligent and far-ranging intellectual conversation on filmmaking. Walter Murch, the legendary film editor - "Apocalypse Now," "The Godfather II," among others - met author Michael Ondaatje on the set of "The English Patient" and began to share a storyteller's obsession: the how and why behind decisions that ultimately define the story being told.

The great fun with this book is not only the conversation between these two artists, who consider drafts of a poem by Elizabeth Bishop in the same breath as a technical detail about film editing. But you can have a mini-festival by watching these great films as you read the book.

Brilliant and fun, smart and literary, each of these stories maps the hidden terrain of an industry obsessed with itself.

NORRIS: Rebecca Chace is the author of the book "Leaving Rock Harbor." Want to discuss these and other books with NPR listeners? Join our Facebook community. Just search for NPR books and click like.

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