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[whitespace] War and Remembrance

Petaluma author captures the manic-depressive weirdness of WWII Hollywood

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Charles Rubin's earliest memory is of sitting in an old art decoŠstyle second-run movie house on Manhattan's East Side. It was the 1950s, but the movie on the screen could have been some classic 1940s film-noir mystery or a Judy Garland musical or a big World War II crowd pleaser. As a boy, Rubin saw so many old movies it's hard to pin this memory to a specific film, but the setting itself is the part he most vividly-and fondly-remembers.

"I literally grew up in movie houses in New York when I was young," laughs Rubin, publisher and author (Hard Sell, Don't Let Your Kids Kill You). "The movie theater is where my mom put us to keep us safe during the day. We'd bring a lunch and watch movie after movie-all of them old movies, even then. It was a wonderful thing for a young boy."

Old movies-not to mention old theaters and old Hollywood itself-are at the heart of Rubin's newly released novel, 4-F Blues (New Century; $14). A semisentimental but slightly offbeat adventure-thriller, 4-F Blues follows a Hollywood stuntman named Tom Driscoll, whose patriotic intentions after Pearl Harbor are thwarted by an irregular heartbeat that earns him a 4-F rating with the recruiters. Forced to remain on the bustling Hollywood home front doing stunts in the mediocre war films that were, in terms of their morale-building value, increasingly vital to the expanding war effort, Driscoll uncovers, through a series of violent events, a bizarre conspiracy to murder dozens of Hollywood's top producers, directors, and movie stars. Rubin's well-plotted novel is written in spare, straight-forward prose and is built around an intriguing idea loosely based on true-life events of World War II.

"When I decided to combine my interest in World War II with my love of Hollywood and old movies," says Rubin, "it was partly because I didn't want to write about actual battles and people getting killed and all that. I wanted to write a home-front novel. I've always been impressed by the way the country united during that time. Hollywood was a very patriotic force, and anti-American parties were aware of that."

Like many Hollywood epics, Rubin's book was years in the making. In fact, he completed a version of the book 20 years ago while living in London but threw away every copy when it failed to find an English publisher. Once back in the States, having married best-selling inspirational author Betty Bethards, Rubin felt the urged to rewrite the book from scratch and publish it under New Century Publishers, the book company he and Bethards started several years ago. Now that 4-F Blues is finally in print, Rubin hopes to see it go full circle and get made into a movie like the ones he grew up on.

"Disney is looking at it right now," he says, "but who knows? I'm just glad the book is out, and that people seem to be enjoying it. That's been my goal from the beginning."

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From the April 18-24, 2002 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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