Mr. Starlight

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Published by: Fourth Estate
Release Date: June 7, 20004
Pages: 304
ISBN13: 978-0007146734


This is the story of an English boy who sings his way to fame and fortune in the early days of American TV. Sel Boff’s preferred habitat is the supper club or the Vegas showroom, his natural plumage is gold lamé and sequins. The ladies love him and the men can never understand why.

But times change. Suddenly everything is rock’ n’ roll and workman’s jeans, Gay Pride and people dragging skeletons out of Mr. Starlight’s walk-in closets.


"Hugely entertaining story of Liberace-style crooner who swaps his Birmingham home for a mansion in Las Vegas."
—Sunday Times, Definitive 100 Best Holiday Reads

"Graham has a gift for creating preposterous characters whose belief in themselves make them credible. In Mr. Starlight, she scatters moonshine over the proceedings, down to the supporting acts in the theatres where the Boff brothers play the boards. You feel that you've watched and applauded them, just as you've ogled at Mr. Starlight's capes, wired with light bulbs, or made of duck-blue velvet lined with marabou. Like Mr. Starlight himself, this novel is pure entertainment."
—Penny Perrick, Sunday Times

"Mr. Starlight is just as fresh and even more ambitious than Graham's previous bestsellers. Graham suggests that the campy celebrity could have been as much a British as an American boy, and that his rise from a house with a tin bath, outside lav, and jerry under the bed to a mansion with six bathrooms also fulfilled English dreams of riches. She creates a Dickensian cast of absurd entertainers - a novelty gargler is especially memorable - alongside vignettes of real celebrities including Gracie Fields and Fred Astaire. She makes inventive use of the titles and lyrics of popular songs, from "Till Then" to "There Was a Boy", which take on surprising emotional depth in context."
— Elaine Showalter, The Guardian 


Mr. Starlight started with a song. I heard an old recording of Liberace singing ‘I want a girl just like the girl that married dear old Dad’ and a little bulb lit up in the part of my brain reserved for Book Ideas. Mommas’ boys have always interested me. I’ve known not a few. And I loved the idea of writing about old-fashioned show biz. The roar of the greasepaint, the smell of the crowd.

Mr. Starlight is English and a singer, but his story follows roughly the ups and downs of Liberace’s career. Researching it took me to his museum in Las Vegas and what struck me there - far more than the glorious bravado of his costumes or the poignancy of his pianos, now gathering dust - what struck me was that he was a good-hearted and funny man who attracted the most loyal of fans. Sad as parts of it are, Mr. Starlight was a real feelgood book to work on.