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Berkeley Heights Public Library Reference Section Magazines Children's Department
Berkeley Heights Public Library

Tinseltown Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Birth of Hollywood.

by by William J. Mann

Publishers Weekly Many readers will come away from this stellar and gripping true-crime narrative utterly convinced by Mann's solution to the unsolved 1922 gunshot murder of William Desmond Taylor, president of the Motion Pictures Directors Association, in Hollywood. Mann (Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand) hooks the reader from the start, describing the discovery of Taylor's corpse by his valet in a prologue that reads like fiction. The author then provides the backstory with an engrossing and comprehensive look at the birth of the motion picture industry and the highs and lows it faced in the early 1920s, including the economic downturn of 1920–1921 and increasing efforts to censor its productions. Mann weaves these dynamics into the portrayals of Taylor and other key players, including movie baron Adolph Zukor, and three actresses, all of who become suspects in the crime. With a gift for evocative phrasing (one figure is described as having a face like a "living mug shot"), Mann has crafted what is likely to be a true-crime classic. Agent: Malaga Baldi, Baldi Agency. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Hard-core old-movie heads and Hollywood true crime fans know about the 1922 murder of director William Desmond Taylor (formerly William Deane Tanner), which remains unsolved 90 years after the crime. "Hollywood chronicler" Mann (Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969) posits his own theories about whodunit in this overwritten, overlong title. The breathless writing style conjures scandal rags of the past, but the staggering succession of cliff-hanger chapter endings and one-sentence paragraphs, along with the many leaps of faith and major conjecture, become tiring rather quickly. However, Mann's thorough examination of the many suspects and the (always intriguing) underbelly of Hollywood at the time are done well. The author's seemingly intense personal dislike of Paramount Pictures founder Adolph Zukor grates a bit, but the chapters about "movie czar" Will H. Hays, who was hired by the studios to sanitize the industry after so many scandals, shine a new light on the man and his work. While Mann claims to have solved the case, his conclusions are unconvincing; however, his characterization of Tinseltown and its denizens is flavorful. VERDICT Fans of historical true crime and those who enjoy Old Hollywood gossip will like this title, which could spur the curious to further research of the Taylor case.-Liz French, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book list In this gripping true-crime narrative, Mann reopens an unsolved murder case from the early silent-film era. On a chilly February evening in 1922, an unknown intruder brutally murdered successful film director William Desmond Taylor in his Hollywood home. Despite promising leads at the time, the murder remained unsolved, partly due to a severely compromised crime scene. However, film buffs have kept the mystery alive for decades, and the author presents a compelling and meticulously researched theory for what happened on that fateful night. Woven throughout the story is the equally fascinating history of the rise of Hollywood at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties as seen through the eyes of one of its most influential architects: Adolph Zukor, eventual founder of Paramount Pictures. While battling fierce censorship attempts and the backlash caused by successive scandals (wild parties! rampant drug use!), Zukor was instrumental in creating the industry that exists today. Mann expertly juggles the various threads of the narrative to a satisfying conclusion that is sure to please both true-crime and film-history enthusiasts.--Price, Kerri Copyright 2014 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.