Laura Kalpakian brings 1950s Hollywood leaping off the page in The Great Pretenders.

It’s the time of the McCarthy hearings, and no one is more aware of the ramifications for Hollywood than gutsy Roxanne Granville, granddaughter of a studio mogul who decides to start her own writers agency after dropping out of college to be independent after the death of her beloved grandmother, who raised her in Paris.

After her studio-head grandfather gets her a job at an agency where the boss thinks sexually harrassing her is in her job description, Roxanne leaves to figure out her future.

Deciding to change the course of what she sees as overt racism, Roxanne uses front men to obtain scriptwriting jobs for men who’ve been ostracized for their beliefs. She also starts a relationship with an African-American journalist, Terrence Dexter.

Roxanne is determined to lead her own life. This will have devastating consequences for some of the people in her orbit. Dropping actor and studio names with aplomb, Roxanne rubs up against all of the people of the era, vividly bringing that time to life, when studios governed their actors and writers private lives or made them up; when gossip was king; and when a congressional hearing with the wrong answers could exile someone to Europe or Mexico.

A fascinating look at the Hollywood blacklist and racial prejudices of the time, filled with the glitzy stuff and lore of that storied town. Readers will revel in the behind-the-scenes gossip of Hollywood at the time, while the story brings to the forefront the way lives were destroyed unfairly and how mixed-race relationships were denied. It wasn’t really that long ago . . .