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Luke Valenti has never fit into his swaggering family of overbearing loudmouths. Even worse, the world is at war again and Uncle Sam has stamped his draft notice “4-F” - the ultimate rejection - because of a rare eye condition that has left Luke unable to see colors. So instead, he dreams of escaping Brooklyn for the beaches of Montauk.

That is, until a stolen prop from "The Maltese Falcon" pitches him down a reluctant path to Hollywood. Luke is tasked with returning it to Warner Brothers, where Humphrey Bogart is about to embark on the movie that will launch his career into the stratosphere: Casablanca.

But the production is chaotic. Bogie is desperately unhappy in his marriage. Ingrid Bergman feels lost and alone. The script is constantly rewritten, and the overbearing director hates that damned song. Nobody thinks this movie will amount to anything - except the guy who sees in black and white. Finally, Luke has found his way in.

But studio stuntman Gus O’Farrell wants him out again: Luke has replaced him as the star’s stand-in, and Gus is having none of it. Bogie warns Luke to keep his friends close and his enemies closer. It’s great advice, but when a chance to reverse his 4-F status presents itself, Luke needs to learn that distinguishing friends from enemies can be a tricky business in a land where artifice blurs reality like murky shadows in a back alley.

From the author of the Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels comes a story set against the making of one of the most beloved films of all time - and the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

©2021 Martin Turnbull (P)2021 Martin Turnbull

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