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Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood    by William Mann order for
by William Mann
Order:  USA  Can
Harper, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

One of the longest running mysteries about Hollywood's elite centers on the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, who was killed in 1922. William J. Mann revisits this cold case in Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood.

Drawing on recently released FBI files and a host of other materials, Mann investigates this unsolved crime as he visits the film industry of the 1920s and offers his own solution to this classic case of murder and mayhem Hollywood style.

This is not the first book to center on Taylor's death. In 1986 Sidney Kirkpatrick wrote A Cast of Killers that detailed the attempts by director King Victor to find Taylor's killer. Later, in 1990, Robert Giroux, chairman of a major publishing house, tackled the case as well in A Deed of Death.

Bruce Long in the website Taylorology has also been collecting and posting information about the director's death.

Sifting through all the information contained in these resources, it becomes apparent that some of the key players in the case include film industry noteables Mable Normand, Mary Miles Minter and Margaret Gibson as well as a handful of servants and minor crime personalities. According to Mann, Adolph Zukor, the founder of Paramount, also hovers in the background and had reasons to see to it that the truth about the crime was concealed.

'Once I began writing the story, I realized I needed to do more than just unravel the mystery and bring some justice to Taylor,' explains Mann. 'I needed to tell the whole sweeping saga of Los Angeles in the 1920s, and why covering up the crime had been so necessary. I needed to tell the stories not just of Taylor, Minter, and Normand, but also of the gangsters and two-bit hoods who operated in the shadows of Tinseltown people like Margaret 'Gibby' Gibson, an ambitious actress for whom the end always justified the means, and her partners in crime, Don Osborn and Joe Pepa.'

William Mann's credits include Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn, Hello Gorgeous: Becoming Barbara Streisand, and How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood. He recognizes that Hollywood, especially in the 1920s, could be a very dangerous place and he captures the essence of this glittering film capital.

Not everyone will agree with his findings or take on the murder that occurred 92 years ago, but he certainly has provided more food for thought and opened up some forgotten avenues that others may choose to travel in the future.

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