‘Flight Attendant’ author Chris Bohjalian turns to Old Hollywood for new novel

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In August 2019, author Chris Bohjalian was at a matinee movie in NYC when the inspiration for what would become his next novel, “The Lioness†(Doubleday), out now, struck.

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“I emerged from the theater into this cobalt blue sky, steaming heat. Ten minutes earlier I had been watching this movie. And I thought, ‘My God, I love Hollywood! Why have I never written a Hollywood novel?†he says.

“I knew my Hollywood novel would be set at some point in my childhood. So I went back to a period of great social upheaval. And I didn’t want the locale to be just Hollywood. I thought, ‘What is an exotic location in 1964 where a group of Hollywood actors and their entourage could get into all sorts of trouble?’â€

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As it turns out, Tanzania. A-list actress Katie Barstow and her new husband David have traveled there for a high-end safari, accompanied by a few friends and fellow actors. The trip promises to be a luxurious getaway, filled with wildlife and gorgeous scenery, until the unthinkable happens — a band of Russian mercenaries takes them hostage after killing their safari guides. (“Russians have been the bad guys in my books for a long time,†he notes.)

Author Chris Bohjalian
Victoria Blewer

While the Vermont-based author is prolific, no two books are the same — they might range from a flight attendant waking up next to a dead body in a Dubai hotel room (“The Flight Attendant,†the basis for the popular HBOMax series) to a Puritan woman accused of witchcraft in 1600s Massachusetts (“Hour of the Witch†) to a young woman helping refugees from the 1915 Armenian genocide (“The Sandcastle Girls.†)

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“My books are powered by dread. I want my readers walking a tightrope with one side being heartbreak, the other side being hope,†says Bohjalian, who prefers to edit manuscript drafts with a fountain pen. “I’m not afraid to kill my main characters — I do it a lot. My goal is never to write the same book twice. But all my books share those same qualities. You don’t know if you’re going to end on heartbreak or hope.â€

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