Tinseltown: Book summary and reviews of Tinseltown by William J. Mann

Tinseltown

Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood

by William J. Mann

Tinseltown by William J. Mann

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Book Summary

The Day of the Locust meets The Devil in the White City and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this juicy, untold Hollywood story: an addictive true tale of ambition, scandal, intrigue, murder, and the creation of the modern film industry.

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 power to influence. Yet Hollywood's glittering ascendency was threatened by a string 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, ambitious 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 recreated 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.

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Book Awards

  • award image Edgar Awards, 2015

Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A stellar and gripping true-crime narrative... An engrossing and comprehensive look at the birth of the motion picture industry and the highs and lows it faced in the early 1920s... Mann has crafted what is likely to be a true-crime classic." - Publishers Weekly

"[A] gripping true-crime narrative... 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." - Booklist

"Starred Review. A gripping true-crime story that encompasses a colorful period in film history... Mann seamlessly weaves the details of the murder investigation, witnesses and newspaper accounts into the rich history of early film... Mann masterfully captures the zeitgeist of Hollywood in its early days." - Kirkus Reviews

"Sex! Drama! Scandal! If you have the slightest curiosity about the dark purple scars of Hollywood history, this is the go-to book you cannot miss... Epic and fabulous—every page is haunting, every chapter a film noir. I was up all night." - Rex Reed

"William Mann fires on all cylinders in this fascinating real-life crime story that has stumped film fans since 1922. A page-turner with incredible research and prose double-boiled, Tinseltown is a whodunit tour de force, revealing the dark heart of Hollywood." - Patrick McGilligan, author of Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light

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William J. Mann is an author and historian best known for his studies of Hollywood and the American film industry, especially for Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn, named a Notable Book of 2006 by the New York Times and by Publishers Weekly. He has also written Hello, Gorgeous: Becoming Barbra Streisand, Wisecracker: The Life and Times of William Haines, for which he won the Lambda Literary Award; Behind the Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood, 1910 - 1969; The Edge of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger; and How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood. He is also the author of six novels.

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