Beautiful Ruins is a work of fiction that includes a few characters who are based on real people. Specifically, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton who starred in the movie Cleopatra (which was released in 1963). The more prominent characters, however, are ones created by Jess Walter.
Pasquali Tursi is the first character that readers encounter, and he is extremely likable. He finds himself smitten with Dee Moray, an actress who was supposed to be in the Cleopatra movie, but who cannot now because she is dying. Dee comes to visit Pasquali’s small village on accident.