Matthew Specktor

Matthew Specktor is the author of the novels American Dream Machine and That Summertime Sound; a nonfiction book, The Sting; and the forthcoming memoir The Golden Hour (Ecco/HarperCollins). His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Paris Review, The Believer, Tin House, Vogue, GQ, Black Clock, and Open City. He has been a MacDowell fellow, and is a founding editor of the Los Angeles Review of Books. He resides in Los Angeles.


  • “Remarkable. . . . Writing through his troubles, Specktor offers consolatory beauty.”

    The Los Angeles Times

  • “A novelist and critic with a sharp eye for Hollywood blends memoir and cultural critique in this study of classic American failure narratives.”

    The New York Times Book Review, New & Notable

  • “Fascinating. . . . This enthralling work deserves a central spot on the ever-growing shelf of books about Tinseltown.”

    Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

  • “Compelling. . . . [an] intimate investigation of one man’s imperfect life, the successes and failures, and most importantly, the realization that who we are now is everything.”


  • “Fascinating.”


  • “As heartfelt, as tormented, as full of feeling as a love story.”


  • “Extraordinary.”

    —The Millions

  • “Eloquent. . . . An incisive collection of artist portraits illuminates the tenuous quality of Hollywood celebrity and the price it exacts.”

    Shelf Awareness

  • “Specktor delivers interesting pieces of criticism, reporting, and self-help in this unique memoir.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “Specktor has captured the LA I know, the one all around me and the one in my head, a city of invention and grit, surface and underbelly.”

    —Charles Yu, author of Interior Chinatown

  • “Haunting, powerful, riveting, unforgettable―I could go on (and on) about Matthew Specktor’s astounding new book about failure, writing, Los Angeles, and the movies. With scholarly rigor and tenderhearted sympathy, Specktor excavates the lives of artists forgotten (Carol Eastman, Eleanor Perry), underappreciated (Thomas McGuane, Hal Ashby), and notorious (Warren Zevon, Michael Cimino), while always circling back to his own benighted Hollywood upbringing. This is an angry, sad, but always somehow joyful book about not hitting it big, and I’ve never read anything quite like it.”

    —Tom Bissell, author of author of Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation

  • “On the shelf with Play It as It Lays and The Big Sleep and my other favorite books about LA. . . . I couldn’t stop reading.”

    —John Jeremiah Sullivan, author of Pulphead

  • “A haunting memoir-in-criticism exploring a very certain kind of failure—the Hollywood story. Specktor intricately knits his own losses and nostalgias into a larger cultural narrative of writers and filmmakers whose failures left behind a ghostly glamour. I can’t get it out of my mind.”

    —Janet Fitch, author of White Oleander and The Chimes of a Lost Cathedral

  • “In Hollywood, according to Brecht’s famous formulation, there was no need of heaven and hell; the presence of heaven alone served the unsuccessful as hell. But Los Angeles has always been full of commuters on the congested freeway between both camps. They are the subject of Matthew Specktor’s continuously absorbing and revealing book, itself nestling in the fruitful terrain between memoir and criticism.”

    —Geoff Dyer, author of Out of Sheer Rage

  • “Eloquent.”


  • “It’s about Los Angeles, but it’s also about the writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Renata Adler, directors like Hal Ashby and Michael Cimino, musicians like Warren Zevon, but most of all, it’s about Specktor, how he relates to these artists and how they, in turn, helped him relate to where he’s from.”