Friday, October 8, 2021

Interview with Hitchcock Censor Author John Billheimer



  1. What motivated you to write your book, to force you from taking an idea or experience and turning it into a book?

I accompanied a fellow mystery writer who was doing research at the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills.  I’ve always been an Alfred Hitchcock fan, and was fascinated by the library’s collection of letters to and from the Production Code office  and the director.  The letters documented the changes the censors demanded Hitchcock make in his films, along with his responses, in which he bargained to retain key features of his pictures.  The correspondence offered unique insights into Hitchcock’s priorities and the role of censorship in shaping his films, and I felt the contents were worthy of a book-length treatment.


  1. What is it about and who is it for?

The book traces the forces that led to the Production Code and describes Hitchcock’s interactions with code officials on a film-by-film basis as he fought to protect his creations, bargaining with code reviewers and sidestepping censorship to produce a lifetime of memorable films. The book is designed to appeal to film buffs, Alfred Hitchcock fans, mystery/suspense film viewers, film studies professors, and anti-censorship groups.


  1. What do you hope the reader will be left with after reading it?

Readers should be left with an understanding of the important role of censorship in shaping movies between 1934 and 1968, and an appreciation for the talent of Alfred Hitchcock in adapting to some rules and sidestepping others to protect cherished scenes and images.


  1. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow writers?

Find a group of fellow authors to provide you with deadlines, support, and constructive criticism.


  1. What trends in the book world do you see—and where do you think the book publishing industry is heading?

Lots of self-published books are crowding professional work out of the marketplace.  As a result, the book publishing industry is more and more dependent on best-sellers, so it is more and more difficult for beginning authors to find an outlet and develop an audience.


  1. What challenges did you overcome to write this book?

The biggest challenge was finding a publisher.  The research itself was something of a challenge, but the material was in a single location, the Margaret Herrick Library, and the activity itself was enjoyable.


  1. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why should it be yours?

That’s a tough question, since it puts my book up against a variety of novels, mysteries, and biographies that appeal to wider audiences.  However, for anyone interested in movies, Hitchcock and the Censors offers rare insights into the impacts of censorship and an original look at Alfred Hitchcock’s attitudes, working methods, priorities, and theories of suspense.


For more information, please see:

About The Author:  John Billheimer, a native West Virginian, lives in Portola Valley, California.  He holds an engineering Ph. D. from Stanford and is the author of the “funny, sometimes touching” Owen Allison mysteries set in Appalachia’s coalfields.  The most recent book in the series is Primary Target, which deals with coal country election shenanigans.  A second series features Lloyd Keaton, a Midwest sportswriter with a gambling habit (Field of Schemes, A Player to be Maimed Later).   A nonfiction work, Hitchcock and the Censors, documents Alfred Hitchcock’s battles with bluenoses and won an Edgar award in 2020.  He has taught courses in film noir, hard-boiled fiction on film, and the modern mystery in film and print at Stanford and Santa Clara Universities.  For more info, see:


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