Leslie Epstein ’56 Releases Latest Book, ‘Hill of Beans’
Leslie Epstein ’56 has published his 10th book, which he is calling the culmination of all his energies and interests. The work of fiction, which was released on March 1, is entitled Hill of Beans. The novel brings together Epstein’s personal and professional interests — WWII and Hollywood, and some might say he was born to write it. Epstein grew up in a Hollywood family. His father, Philip and uncle Julius co-wrote Casablanca and contributed to dozens of other classics including Yankee Doodle Dandy and Arsenic and Old Lace. Together they won an Academy Award for co-scripting Casablanca.
Growing up in a family of filmmakers had an outsized influence on Leslie. The subject matter of much of his fiction focuses on the industry, and Hill of Beans is no exception. The book centers around Warner Bros. Vice President of production Jack L. Warner portrayed as an offensive, cutthroat studio head. The book follows Casablanca’s production, which was beset with problems, and Jack’s desire to turn things around by timing the Allied Invasion of North Africa to its premiere.
WBUR in Boston had this to say about Hill of Beans, “It’s a blisteringly funny, fictional farce using Casablanca’s famous production woes as the backdrop for a bawdy espionage adventure boasting an all-star cast of world leaders and movie industry icons, with the fate of the free world hanging in the balance.”
Although his youth was spent in Hollywood, Epstein has spent most of his life on the East Coast. Following Webb, he studied at Yale and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. In 2007, his play, King of the Jews premiered at the Boston Playwrights Theatre. Among his many awards and honors, Epstein has also received Fulbright and Guggenheim fellowships and an award for Distinction in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Now 82 years old, Epstein continues to teach at Boston University, where he directed the Creative Writing program for more than 35 years. As well as being an author and scholar, one of his little talked about accomplishments was his prowess on the Webb tennis courts: he helped the WSC tennis team to an undefeated season in 1956!