An Outsider Finds Suspense in Hollywood

Catherine Steadman talks about her new novel, “The Disappearing Act,” and Michael Dobbs discusses “King Richard,” his new book about Watergate.












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The actress and thriller writer Catherine Steadman visits the podcast this week to talk about “The Disappearing Act,” her new suspense novel about the absurdities of Hollywood. Steadman was drawn to the idea of setting a story during pilot season, when actors from all over the world descend on Los Angeles once a year and compete for lead roles in new TV series.

“It’s a sort of competitive world where friendships are made really quickly, and people will find their nemesis — someone who looks just like them who keeps snatching away parts from them,” she says. “It’s a very strange atmosphere but it’s very fun. It’s kind of like the Vegas of the acting world. You go there, you cash your chips and you have a roll on the table and see what happens. There’s all these strangers with the same desires and goals, in the same environment, and they really are up against each other. It’s kind of a ‘Hunger Games’ situation.”

Michael Dobbs visits the podcast to talk about his new book, “King Richard,” which finds fresh things to say about President Richard Nixon and Watergate. Dobbs discusses writing about a story that’s been told many times, all in the shadow of perhaps the best-known Watergate book, “All the President’s Men,” by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

“That’s the story of two reporters pursing this scandal into the White House and trying to figure out what was going on in the White House,” Dobbs says. “And now 50 years later — because we have access to these extraordinary materials, particularly Nixon’s own tape-recorded conversations — one can tell the story from the inside rather than the outside. We’re never again going to get such an intimate look at a president facing an existential crisis, as it’s possible to get with Richard Nixon.”

Also on this week’s episode, Tina Jordan looks back at Book Review history as it celebrates its 125th anniversary, Alexandra Alter has news from the publishing world, and Parul Sehgal and Jennifer Szalai talk about books they’ve recently reviewed. Pamela Paul is the host.

Here are the books discussed by the Times’s critics this week:

“Wayward” by Dana Spiotta

“Nightmare Scenario: Inside the Trump Administration’s Response to the Pandemic That Changed History” by Yasmeen Abutaleb and Damian Paletta

We would love to hear your thoughts about this episode, and about the Book Review’s podcast in general. You can send them to [email protected].

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