Alex Espinoza's new novel, "The Five Acts of Diego Leon," is the story of a fictional Mexican American actor who becomes one Hollywood studio's Latin Lover -- like Rudolph Valentino -- in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
"Through cunning, wit, and a little bit of talent, he ends up becoming an actor and has all kinds of adventures in old Hollywood," Espinoza tells L.A. Times staff writer Carolyn Kellogg. "I did a lot of old research, looked at old photographs -- and, of course, watched a bunch of old movies, which was really fun."
Two books were very important to Espinoza's novel. One was Lillian Faderman's "Gay L.A.: A History of Sexual Outlaws, Power Politics, and Lipstick Lesbians," which helped show how closeted gay actors maneuvered through Hollywood.
The other was a novel, Nathanael West's "The Day of the Locust." The book was always a favorite of Espinoza's, but it became even more important to him when he was writing "The Face Acts of Diego Leon." "There's a scene in the book that echoes, is my homage to, a scene in 'The Day of the Locust,'" he explains.
For more conversation with Espinoza, click on the video above.