Thanks to the parents of Farran Smith Nehme, she became a fan of old movies during her childhood in the 1970s when the family would watch them together on the then burgeoning cable TV stations. She became such an aficionado of pre-1960 films that nine years ago she started her classic film blog, “The Self Styled Siren,” and has written about both classic and contemporary films for such publications as the New York Post, the New York Times, and Barron’s Magazine. Three years ago, a friend who admired her blog style suggested that she write a novel. She says, “I always knew that if I wrote a novel, I wanted it to be something of a romantic comedy, because it’s my favorite genre. I love the old screwball comedies with the banter back and forth between the hero and the heroine, and I thought it might be fun to try and do one that’s set around film freaks themselves.”
Nehme’s debut novel, Missing Reels (Overlook Press, Nov.) takes place in the 1980s and features a hunt for a lost silent film. She notes, “I wanted to write about a different aspect of the 1980s in New York that most people don’t know about. There was a very active revival house scene in the days before TCM [Turner Classic Movies] of people going to see movies and trying to track down ones that they hadn’t seen. We didn’t know it at the time, but that scene would die by the end of the decade. But there was also the first stirrings of the first film preservation movement.”
She researched silent films for her book and discovered some disheartening statistics. “Nearly 80% of the silent films made in this country—in fact worldwide—are now gone, due to neglect, sometimes outright destruction, or because of the flammability of nitrate film stock. It’s all been a terrible cocktail that has resulted in tremendous losses. But more recently, spearheaded by the Library of Congress, there’s been a worldwide effort by film archives to go through and search their holdings, and they’re turning up some stuff that had been previously thought lost.”
Nehme is a regular at the TCM Classic Film Festival, but has never been to a book convention before. “I’m very excited about BEA because I know a lot of writers, and people who work in journalism in and around publishing, so just to see what it’s like—all the booths and everything—it’s completely brand new to me.”
She will be signing galleys of her novel today at the Overlook Press booth (1546) at 11:30 a.m.