Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood


Today’s nonfiction post is on Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann. It is 480 pages long and is published by HarperCollins. The cover has a 1920’s picture of a young woman on top with the Hollywood strip on the bottom. There is language, talk of sex and rape, and violence in this book. The intended reader is someone interested in true crime, murder mysteries, and complex true plots. The story is told from interviews, newspaper articles, letters, dairies, and other first person sources. There Be Spoilers Ahead.

From the back of the book- By 1920, the movies had suddenly become America’s new favorite pastime, and one of the nation’s largest industries. Never before had a medium possessed such influence. Yet Hollywood’s glittering ascendency was threatened by a strong group of headline-grabbing tragedies- including the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a legendary crime that has remained unsolved until now.
In a fiendishly involving narrative, bestselling Hollywood chronicler William J, Mann draws on a rich host of sources, including recently released FBI files, to unpack the story of the enigmatic Taylor and the diverse cast that surrounded him- including three beautiful actresses; a grasping stage mother; a devoted valet; and a gang of two-bit thugs, any of whom might have fired the fatal bullet. And overseeing this entire landscape of intrigue was Adolph Zukor; the brilliant and ruthless founder of Paramount, locked in a struggle for control of the industry and desperate to conceal the truth about the crime. Along the way, Mann brings to life Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties: a sparkling yet schizophrenic town filled with party girls, drug dealers, religious zealots, newly minted legends, and starlets already past their prime- a dangerous place where the powerful could still run afoul of the desperate.
A true story re-created with the suspense of a novel, Tinseltown is the work of a storyteller at the peak of his powers- and the solution to a crime that has stumped detectives and historians for nearly a century.

Review- If noir mysteries are your thing then you need to read this book. Written in a film noir style with details and twenties slang for favor this is interesting murder mystery that keeps you guessing. I did guess who I think did it but Mann and I think differently about that. All the characters are three dimensional. Mann’s research into this almost 100 year old murder is solid. But the best part of the book is the writing style. Mann uses words to give the correct ambiance to the story. They are not movies but pictures, it is not a clue but a clew, and dozens of other little touches to give this book the feel of the twenties and I loved it. Mann builds the story from the past of all the people involved then the night of the murder then moving into the slow future. He gives the reader perspective on both the murdered and those around him. There is so much right about this book that I could just go on and on about it but I will stop with I highly recommend this book.

I give this book a Five out of Five stars. I get nothing for my review and I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review by HarperCollins.