Announcing the release of Book Three of the Garden of Allah novels: CITIZEN HOLLYWOOD

"Citizen Hollywood" by Martin Turnbull

“Citizen Hollywood
by Martin Turnbull
Book 3 in the Garden of Allah novels

I am very happy to announce that my next novel “Citizen Hollywood”
is now available.

The story picks up in April of 1939, a month after the end of The Trouble with Scarlett.


Theater and radio wunderkind Orson Welles stashes himself at the Chateau Marmont until he’s ready to make his splashy entrance. But Kathryn Massey knows he’s there.

Now that Kathryn is back at the Hollywood Reporter, she’s desperate to find the Next Big Thing. Scooping Welles’ secret retreat would put her back on the map, but by the time she hears rumors about his dangerous new movie, she’s fallen prey to his charms.

Marcus Adler is still scrambling for his first screen credit. His Strange Cargo will star Clark Gable after Gone with the Wind wraps. A huge opportunity knocks but Machiavellian studio politics mean Marcus’ name might not make it to the screen. It’s time to play No More Mr. Nice Guy.

Gwendolyn Brick is nearly 30. Her baby brother wants her to move with him to the exotic Orient, but she wants to give Hollywood one last go. When she saves Daryl Zanuck from humiliation, he rewards her with a chance at a role in a major movie.

When William Randolph Hearst realizes Citizen Kane is based on him, he won’t be happy—and when Hearst isn’t happy, nobody’s safe.


The first chapter is available to read on my website: CHAPTER ONE


Martin Turnbull with "Citizen Hollywood"

Martin Turnbull with
“Citizen Hollywood”

Citizen Hollywood will available in all formats. The paperback and Kindle ebook versions are available right now:

Amazon (US) paperback

Amazon (US) Kindle ebook

Amazon (UK) paperback

Amazon (UK) Kindle ebook

And the other versions (including the ones below) will become available as they come online (but they each seem to do it at their own unpredictable pace so check back on the Citizen Hollywood page of my website for updates.)

Barnes & Noble Nook ebook

Apple iTunes ebook

Kobo ebook

Audio book


And when you have read it (and assuming, of course, that you enjoyed it), if you have the chance and inclination, I’d really appreciate it if you could leave a review on my Amazon page. Rate it as many stars as you see fit, and give your honest opinion. The more reviews a book has, the higher its Amazon profile. Thanks!


Have you read Book One yet?

"The Garden on Sunset" by Martin TurnbullThe Garden on Sunset

is available in all formats

More information can be found on my website:

> > >   S P E C I A L   P R O M O T I O N   < < <

As a special promotion to celebrate the release of Citizen Hollywood,
the Kindle version of The Garden on Sunset has been slashed
to only 99 cents until Sunday 16th February 2014.
Procrastination is not recommended!

PLEASE NOTE: It is not necessary to have a Kindle ereader to read the Kindle version of any book.You can download the free Kindle app for any
computer, smart phone or mobile device.


You can also follow me on

Facebook: gardenofallahnovels


And a personal note to everyone who have read The Garden on Sunset and The Trouble with Scarlett and took the time to tell me how much they enjoyed it:
Your support has been wonderfully encouraging.

All the best,

Martin Turnbull

P.S. – feel free to pass this email along to anybody who you think might be interested!

Stay current on all the giddy goings-on inside the Garden of Allah by signing up to the e-mailing list!

The Garden of Allah novels, by Martin Turnbull

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The Holy Grail: One man’s search for the Garden of Allah Hotel scale model

Indiana Jones had his Lost Ark.
Ponce de Leon had his Fountain of Youth.
Sam Spade had his Maltese Falcon.

And I, too, have been on the search for my own personal Holy Grail.

At this point (October 2013) I’ve been reading, researching and writing about Alla Nazimova’s Garden of Allah Hotel on Sunset Boulevard for eight years. The very first book I picked up was “The Garden of Allah” by gossip columnist Sheilah Graham who spent some time there, mainly during her relationship with Garden of Allah resident, F. Scott Fitzgerald, in the late 1930s. The cover of her book features a photo of not the hotel itself, but a scale model. Somewhere in her book, Graham mentioned that when the hotel was razed and a mini mall was built on the site, a scale model of the Garden of Allah was made and placed in the foyer of the bank that sits there now.

Thus, my quest began!

Although I figured it was unlikely that something as fragile as a model still existed all these years later (the hotel closed in August of 1959), I hoped that perhaps someone recognized its value and kept it safe. From time to time, I’d hear stories—I started to think of them more as ‘urban legends’—about the model. Like how the bank did a renovation and, no longer knowing (or caring) what the model was of, planned to throw it out. I’d also hear how one of the tenants in the mall took it and had it on display in their store. Sometimes, I’d hear that the tenant retired or moved away and took the model with him. Or threw it out. Or gave it to someone else.

A video of it popped up online a while ago so I knew it still existed. Then it was offered up in some strange sort of private auction for an outrageous starting price. When I contacted the seller about its current whereabouts and condition, I’d get a couple of vague answers and then nothing.

The trail went cold.

Recently, I was surfing around some of the West Hollywood community websites—they occasionally do stories on the Garden of Allah Hotel—when I came across a comment posted by one of the readers saying, in effect, “Oh, and by the way, if anybody’s interested, I have the model.”

My head spun around fast enough to make Linda Blair flip out when I saw the reader included his email address. By the end of that same day, he and I exchanged several emails. He was more than happy for both Jon Ponder (from Playground To The Stars and Alla Nazimova Society) and I to drop by and see the model for ourselves.

It was quite a thrill. Not only to finally get to see the model, but to find it in such a well-preserved state. The guy said that when it sat in the bank, there was no cover on it so when he brought it home, he spent countless hours carefully cleaning it with Q-tips. The wiring still worked, but he needed to replace about 75% of the bulbs. He also mounted it on a table and custom-built a glass cover. And there it sat, in all its glory my Holy Grail.

And you can bet I had my camera at the ready!

(Click on all photos for a larger version.)

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I also shot two short videos with my basic point-and-shoot camera:

So, the lesson here is to take your urban legends seriously and never give up the search for your own Holy Grail.


The Garden of Allah novels, by Martin Turnbull

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FROM HAYVENHURST TO THE GARDEN OF ALLAH: Celebrating the 100th anniversary of a Los Angeles icon

William Hay is a name not heard too often these days, but this year marks the 100th anniversary of the construction of what became one of the most iconic watering holes in Los Angeles history.

Hay was a Los Angeles developer who did much to shape the landscape of West Hollywood. In 1905, he developed an area he called Crescent Heights whose boundaries were Sunset Boulevard, Fairfax Avenue, (then known as Crescent Drive,) Santa Monica Blvd, and Hayvenhurst Drive. (Originally, Havenhurst Dr. was spelled with a “y.”)

Hayvenhurst at 8152 Sunset Boulevard, built 1913

Hayvenhurst at 8152 Sunset Boulevard, built 1913

By 1913, Hay had divorced his first wife and married Katherine, his second. He built an estate on a still-unpaved Sunset Boulevard for them, which he dubbed “Hayvenhurst.” Around 1915, and for reasons lost in the mists of time, Hay built a second mansion where the Director’s Guild now stands and left Hayvenhurst to stand empty until the arrival of one of the most famous and highest-paid actresses of the era.

By the time she moved to Hollywood in 1918, Russian-born Alla Nazimova was a highly successful leading lady on Broadway, heralded for her definitive interpretations of Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler and A Doll’s House. Based on the success of her first movie, War Brides in 1916, Nazimova was offered a five-year, $13,000-a-week contract with Metro Studios, working for future MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer. Such was her power that not only did her contract pay her $3,000 a week more than Mary Pickford, but it awarded her the right to approve director, script, and leading man. Following the success of Revelation and Toys of Fate (both 1918) Nazimova moved to Los Angeles to begin production on her third film, Eye for Eye.

Alla Nazimova in her 1921 production of "Camille"

Alla Nazimova in her 1921 production of “Camille”

A grand movie star needs a grand movie star mansion, so when she came across the unoccupied Hayvenhurst mansion, she leased it from Hay, and spent $65,000 remodeling the place inside and out, building a pool, and landscaping the property’s three and a half acres. She named it the “Garden of Alla” referring to an enormously popular 1904 novel The Garden of Allah by Robert Smythe Hichens (made in a movie by David O. Selznick starring Marlene Dietrich in the mid-1930s.)

To keep this in historical perspective, Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks purchased a remote hunting lodge they would rename Pickfair in 1919, and then spent five years remodeling it into a mock-Tudor four-story, 25-room mansion. So during this time, Nazimova’s “Garden of Alla” was probably the westernmost fine movie star home in all of Los Angeles. Beverly Hills didn’t start attracting its share of celebrities until after Pickfair was completed in 1924.

The completion of Alla’s renovations saw the beginnings of the house’s rise to prominence. When Nazimova arrived in Hollywood, she found a worrying dearth of culture. So she started up a weekly salon along the lines of Gertrude Stein’s Paris salons, and gathered together fellow European ex-patriots and other well-educated intellectuals around silent-era Hollywood to discuss all manner of subjects: philosophy, literature, art, history and, no doubt, sock away copious amounts of illicit booze in the process.

Being an intelligent, ambitious and talented woman, Nazimova liked to surround herself with like-minded folk, and her salons often included people like playwright and screenwriter Mercedes de Acosta (a close friend of Greta Garbo), stage actress Eva la Gallienne (one-time lover of Tallulah Bankhead . . . but then again, who wasn’t?), actress Jean Acker (married to Valentino), actress Lilyan Tashman (famous for her million-dollar wardrobe), and Natacha Rambova, costume designer on Nazimova’s 1923 movie Salome, and the second wife of Valentino.

Unfortunately, being a highly paid movie actress doesn’t guarantee you have the smarts when it comes to money. By the mid-1920s, Nazimova had suffered a number of disastrous films and found herself facing bankruptcy. A couple by the name of Jean & John Adams approached her with a plan to turn her property into a hotel. On the surface of it, the plan seemed sound. It would ensure an on-going income as Nazimova slid towards the unemployable middle age that actresses understandably fear. Nazimova readily agreed, left them with what was probably most of her dough to clear the land and build 25 two-story villas (later expanded to 30), and hit the road to revive her once-illustrious theater career.

Leaving Los Angeles was probably Nazimova’s big mistake. Had she stuck around and kept an eye on what the Adamses were up to, she might have caught onto the fact that they were shysters out to bilk her for every last penny they could squeeze. By the time the hotel opened in January of 1927, Nazimova was back in Los Angeles but the project had drained her of nearly all her money and the Adamses were nowhere to be found. The hotel opened and, thanks to the house’s reputation of being an interesting place where interesting people gathered to talk about interesting things, quickly became a popular place to stay. However, Nazimova was broke and reduced to living in one of the villas now standing in what used to be her own backyard.

On July 17, 1928, Nazimova sold the Garden of Alla back to Hay. He paid her $80,000 but deducted debts accrued by the Adamses. Nazimova ended up with $7,500 after having sunk $250,000 into the hotel. Hay installed a management company and he continued to run it until June of 1930 when he sold his interest in the Garden of Allah to the Central Holding Corporation. By this stage, the hotel was now known as the Garden of Allah (with an “h”—something that Nazimova frowned on) and the hotel’s glory years began.

Advertisement for the Garden of Allah hotel, 8152 Sunset Blvd

Advertisement for the Garden of Allah hotel, 8152 Sunset Blvd

From the late 1920s, through the Depression, the war years and into the ‘50s, the Garden of Allah could always provide hopeful Hollywood arrivals with a pillow, a pal, and a party. Over those years, a virtual who’s who of Hollywood checked in: Bogie and Bacall, Errol Flynn, David Niven, Harpo Marx, Tallulah Bankhead, Artie Shaw, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Ronald Reagan, Ronald Colman, Louis Calhern, John Carradine, Dorothy Gish, Kay Thompson, Jackie Gleason, Leopold Stokowski, Orson Welles, Gloria Stuart, Ava Gardner, and Frank Sinatra are just some of the people who called the Garden of Allah home.

At the same time, the Garden of Allah became an extension of the Algonquin Round Table. Humorist and theater critic Robert Benchley was one of the first to take up residence. So when Dorothy Parker was offered the Hollywood carrot, she too checked in. Fellow scribes and Algonquinites followed, including Donald Ogden Stewart (“Marie Antoinette”, “The Women”, “The Philadelphia Story”) Alexander Woollcott, Marc Connelly (“Captains Courageous”, “I Married a Witch”, “Merton of the Movies”), George S. Kaufman (“Dinner at Eight”, “A Night at the Opera”, “A Day at the Races”, “The Man Who Came To Dinner”)

A tightly knit community evolved among the Garden of Allah residents, creatives for whom the motion picture was an art form. Outside the Garden’s walls were the control-freaky front office suits requiring them to start tapping away at their typewriters at 9 a.m. and stop at 5 p.m. as though they were simply taking dictation and happy to fit in with the carpenters and scenery painters. The Garden of Allah’s writers and actors found themselves among kindred spirits who understood the pressures and frustrations that went along with a successful Hollywood career. Being the outgoing, sharp-witted and articulate types, they spent a lot of time socializing together. There was always some sort of party going on, especially if the unofficially self-appointed host of the Garden of Allah, Robert Benchley, was in town.

Attracting an ongoing flow of actors, writers, musicians, directors, and technicians, it could be said that the Garden of Allah evolved into a microcosm of Hollywood itself. Opening at the dawn of the talkies in 1927, and closing at the dusk of the studio system in 1959, the residents of the Garden of Allah saw the unfolding of what we now fondly call the golden years of Hollywood. They witnessed—and not insignificantly contributed to—the advent of sound, the development of Technicolor, the rise and subsequent decline of the power and popularity of radio, the propaganda war machine years of World War II, and the battle against the onslaught of television with widescreen epics through the 1950s. No other hotel in Hollywood’s fabled history—not the neighboring Chateau Marmont, the glamorous Beverly Hills Hotel, or the recently lamented Ambassador Hotel—could lay claim to such a central role in the evolution of the art form that, it could well be argued, came to define the century.

Like the studio system itself, the writing began to appear on the stuccoed walls of the Garden of Allah by the late 1950s. A series of ever-more apathetic management buyouts saw the Garden decline in popularity. By that time, the population of Hollywood (and by extension Los Angeles) was more stable and had less need for the sort of long-term residency that the Garden offered. And so in 1959, it fell to its knees before the great Angelean harbinger: the God of Progress, and was sold to yet another developer who tore it down and converted the site into a mini mall that looks like any other mini mall between San Pedro and Rancho Cucamonga.

Proposed "8150 Sunset" mixed use redevelopment of the Garden of Allah site on Sunset Boulevard, announced September 2013

Proposed “8150 Sunset” mixed use redevelopment of the Garden of Allah site on Sunset Boulevard, announced September 2013

In September 2013, a property development company called Townscape announced their plans to build a mixed-use project on the site of the Garden of Allah. The plans for “8150 Sunset” include a 9-story tower alongside a 16-story tower, together with various restaurants, bars, stores, a market, and seven levels of parking. Pretty much everybody agrees that something must be done with the mini mall eyesore that has stood in the Garden of Allah’s place for the past 50 years, and at this point there’s no telling what the final project will look like.

A faithful rebuilding of the Garden of Allah Hotel would be too much to hope for, but the developers have gone out of their way to make the point that they’d like to incorporate into their plans some sort of tribute which acknowledges that upon this land once stood a unique Hollywood icon.


The Garden of Allah novels, by Martin Turnbull~~~oOo~~~

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Announcing the launch of the ALLA NAZIMOVA SOCIETY

Six or seven years ago when I first started to research and write my Garden of Allah series, I had no idea where it might take me, or who I might meet along the way. Facebook wasn’t on my radar yet, and Twitter probably wasn’t even on the radar of the guy who dreamed it up.

Since then, of course, I’ve met all sorts of people who share my interest in and passion for Hollywood movies, Los Angeles history and architecture, and the personalities who have shaped it over the years. I have a lively and active bunch of Facebookers who make me laugh, share my discoveries, and fill in my gaps.

The Garden of Allah hotel, 8152 Sunset Blvd

The Garden of Allah hotel, 8152 Sunset Blvd

A little while ago, however, one particular Facebooker caught my attention. Whenever I posted something about the Garden of Allah hotel and its original occupant, Alla Nazimova, this person would make a remarkably knowledgeable or insightful observation. It quickly became obvious to me that whoever he was, he sure knew his stuff. His moniker – Playground to the Stars – piqued my curiosity too so I clicked onto his Facebook page and found it was dedicated to the Sunset Strip with loads of references to Nazimova and the Garden of Allah.

So I emailed him and asked him who the hell he was, and how come he knew so much about Nazimova and the Garden of Allah???? He replied, telling me that his name is Jon Ponder and “Playground to the Stars” is the title of a book he’s writing about the history of the Sunset Strip, of which the Garden of Allah plays a central role. When I suggested that we ought to meet, he readily agreed. Handily, we live within 10 miles of each other.

That lunch was a two-hour gabfest about all things Nazimova, the Garden of Allah and the Sunset Strip. Jon’s been researching this stuff longer than I have! He recognized the important role that the Garden of Allah played in the development of the Strip and is using it as a framework in which to set his crime-and-scandal account of one of L.A.’s most famous boulevards. It became pretty obvious to me that we’ve been walking different sides of the same street for the past few years—me on the fiction side of Sunset Boulevard and he on the non-fiction.

Alla Nazimova, in 1921

Alla Nazimova, in 1921

Over more lunches, dinners, brunches and wine, a wonderful friendship has ensued. During the course of all that free-flowing chardonnay, we shared a lament that Nazimova, the gal who started it all, who was once a great and shining star of both stage and screen now languishes largely forgotten. In 1917, when Mary Pickford was earning $10,000 a week, Nazimova was earning $13,000, making her the highest paid actress in the world. In the early 1920s, when most career-minded women in America could only choose between the typing pool and standing behind the make-up counter at Bullocks, Nazimova was producing her own movies.

For all that, and so much more, we decided that Alla Nazimova deserves to be remembered and celebrated for everything she was and everything she contributed to motion pictures, theater, Los Angeles, feminism and history. So to that end, we have now launched the


Alla Nazimova Society website

Alla Nazimova Society website

The Alla Nazimova Society is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the artistry of the extraordinary Alla Nazimova. Our website is filled with all the information and photos we can lay our hands on which cover her life in all its incarnations. Our aim is to become the go-to source for everything there is to know about her life.

We invite you to come visit us, browse around the information we’re posting, join our mailing list, share your thoughts with us. We would love to hear your contributions and receive your participation. And so, we suspect, would Nazimova herself.

Alla Nazimova Society website

Alla Nazimova Society on Facebook

Playground to the Stars website

Playground to the Stars on Facebook

Martin Turnbull website

Garden of Allah novels on Facebook

Garden of Allah novels by Martin Turnbull

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Coming attractions: Book 3 of the Garden of Allah novels – “Citizen Hollywood” – Chapter 1

Progress toward publication of “Citizen Hollywood” – the 3rd novel in the Garden of Allah series – is about to take a big step: I’ll soon be sending the manuscript to my editor, Meghan Pinson, for the first (of two) round of editing. But for those readers out there who’d like a taste of what’s coming, I am very pleased to present the first chapter.

"Citizen Hollywood" - book 3, the Garden of Allah novels


a novel by
Martin Turnbull

Book 3 in the Garden of Allah series


Gwendolyn Brick could feel the resentment filling her like a blister. As the curvy cigarette girl at the Cocoanut Grove, she was used to being ogled, but the looks lingered longer now. They came with a smirk from the men and a sneer from the women, and there was no point pretending she didn’t know why.

It was inevitable that someone would say something. Sooner or later, a snarky bastard was going to have that one drink too many and snap off some smart line to impress his friends.

When she spotted two men in suits of imitation vicuña following the maître d’, she pegged them as trouble. They reeked of midlevel studio yes-men with enough power to sway pretty young girls. The maître d’ sat them near the dance floor, which meant they were well connected and not the sort she could afford to rebuke—especially now that Bugsy Siegel and Mickey Cohen had bought the Trocadero. All Cocoanut Grove staff had been instructed not to put any client’s nose out of joint. No exceptions.

People were less inclined to be seen at a nightclub with mob connections, but Siegel and Cohen were influential men and their aggressive marketing had bitten into the Grove’s business. It was ten o’clock on a Friday night, and the outermost ring of tables was largely empty.

Gwendolyn had seen studio execs like these two bozos a thousand times before. They were lining the far edge of their table with empty highball glasses to advertise their drinking prowess, and within an hour, they were at four apiece. Gwendolyn watched the one with the red hair open his platinum cigarette holder and screw up his nose in annoyance. There was nothing for it but to take them head-on.

The blond one wore a pencil moustache that looked suave on Clark Gable but slimy on him. “Cigar,” he said. “Cuban if you have it. Any brand.” She handed him a one-dollar cigar and he gave her a twenty-dollar bill. “You can keep the change if you just say it for me.” A drip of sweat snuck out from under his toupee and rounded the back of his ear, but he was too plowed to notice.

“What is it you want me to say?” Gwendolyn asked.

Pencil Moustache leaned forward. “Fiddle-dee-dee.”

Gwendolyn let out a soft groan.

Back in the days before David O. Selznick cast Vivien Leigh in Gone with the Wind, every pretty girl from California to Maine reveled in the sparkling hope that she might be Scarlett O’Hara. Gwendolyn had even wrangled herself into what she thought was her screen test, but turned out to be Hattie McDaniel’s for the role of Mammy. Gwendolyn was just there to give Hattie someone to act off. Not that it mattered, because it became the most disastrous screen test in history. Gwendolyn’s dress caught fire and she stumbled into the backdrop and her hoop skirt flipped up, and she wasn’t wearing panties. And the camera was still rolling. In Technicolor.

“The fiddle?” Gwendolyn stalled.

Pencil Moustache grabbed her by the elbow. “Come now, you sweet lil ol’ Southern belle, you.” His fingers bit into her skin. “Say it and my nineteen bucks in change is all yours.”

Gwendolyn felt her eyes tearing up. Her gaze fell on a table of two couples. The women were talking and nodding with their heads almost close enough to touch, and both were looking directly at her. The men were simply staring at her.

She pulled out her widest smile. “Come on, fellas. How about you give a poor working girl a break?”

The guy pulled out another twenty and dropped it next to the other. He ran the tip of his finger along the edge of her tray and pushed down on it. If he let go suddenly, Chesterfields and Monte Cristos would launch in every direction. She felt his other hand wrap around her arm like a python; her hand began to throb. His chum began to snort with laughter.

Whiskey breath filled the space between them. “Less the buck for the cigar, that’s a thirty-nine-dollar tip for you, Scarlett, my dear. Not bad for three little words. Come on. Say it like you did in your screen test. Just for me.” He pushed down on the tray a little bit harder.

“Why you wanna get me in troub—”

“I hope you’ve got a very good reason why you’re manhandling my sister like that.”

Gwendolyn watched Pencil Moustache’s eyes widen as he took in all six feet four of her darling baby brother. He released her arm and cautiously lifted his finger from her tray.

Gwendolyn turned around and drank in the sight of Monty in full dress uniform. The five gold buttons down his front picked up the lights from the stage and seemed to glow like beacons against the stark alabaster of his jacket. His face was granite, but she knew that look in his eye. She used to see it when he’d just gotten away with mischief, like stealing fresh cookies from the window sill of the Crowley place around the corner.

Monty stepped up to the table and saluted. “Petty Officer First Class Montgomery Brick of the U.S. Navy, at your service.” The two lowlifes attempted salutes. “And may I present my sister, Miss Gwendolyn Brick.” The men nodded at Gwendolyn. Monty rested his palms on their table. “I’m going to assume that what I saw as I came to greet my sister after a six-year tour in the U.S. Navy helping to preserve peace during these troubled times wasn’t what it looked like.”

The men nodded slowly, as though hypnotized.

“Very good.” Monty straightened up. “Now, if you gentlemen have everything you need in the way of tobacco, I’d like to accompany my sister on her break.”

Monty led Gwendolyn to the bar at the rear of the Cocoanut Grove. Chuck, the bartender, held out his hands. “Give me your tray,” he said. “Your brother’s just had a word with the boss. You got yourself a double break tonight.”

As they walked through the bustling foyer of the Ambassador Hotel, Gwendolyn decided she wanted Monty all to herself. Opportunities like this came once every five or six years and she had to make the most of it, so she guided him out toward the deserted pool area. They stepped outside and looked up at the sky. The stars were sprinkled above them like crystals.

She tightened her grip on his arm and led him to the diving board. His cotton jacket smelled freshly laundered and was smooth under her hand. They sat side by side and she asked, “Why didn’t you let me know you were coming? How long can you stay?”

Monty seemed broader, thicker across the chest than when she last saw him. He even seemed taller. Navy life must really agree with him, she thought.

“Sorry for the short notice, Googie, but I was given forty minutes to pack. I’m only here for one night.”

“One night? Mo-Mo! That’s not fair!”

“No, it’s not fair,” he agreed, “it’s the navy. I’m en route to New York. The brass decided I was the best choice to head up the U.S. Navy exhibit at the World’s Fair.”

“What an honor!”

“Between you and me, it’s really a recruitment drive. That Hitler bastard is on the march. The military’s been gearing up all year.” He stared out across the pool for a moment, then snapped out of it. “At any rate, as soon as the ship docked, I hotfooted it over to your place. I knew you worked nights, but I thought that roommate of yours might tell me where you were.”

“Kathryn’s on a train convoy to Dodge City. Some sort of publicity campaign that Warner Bros. are putting on for the new Errol Flynn movie.”

“Lucky for me, some old drunk appeared and told me where you worked.”

Gwendolyn took his broad hands and sandwiched them between hers. “I’m so glad to see you. I know how much you love the navy life, but I hate not seeing you whenever I want. Ten years and I’ve never really gotten used to it.”

Monty’s face turned grim. “To be honest, I’m kinda worried about you.”

“Me?” Oh, dear God, no, Gwendolyn thought. She felt her face go pale. Surely he hadn’t seen her screen test all the way over in Guam?

“It’s probably not my place to say.”

“You’re my only living relative, which means you get to say it anyway.”

Monty hesitated, but not for long. “You’ve been hacking away at this movie-star game now for years, but really, sis, where’s it gotten you? Have you even been in one movie yet?”

Gwendolyn wasn’t sure where the conversation was heading, but she didn’t like the sound of it. “For your information, I had a screen test for David Selznick. Ever heard of him?” Monty shook his head. “He’s the guy producing a little picture called Gone with the Wind. I’m good friends with his wife, Irene. Her father is Louis B. Mayer. He runs MGM and earns more money than the president. So it’s not like I’ve been spinning wheels in the mud here.”

Monty’s handsome face softened from a frown into the hint of a smile. “A screen test for Gone with the Wind? How come you haven’t mentioned this in your letters?”

Because the screen test ended up being the most mortifying moment of my life, she thought. “I didn’t want to jinx my luck.”


Gwendolyn had grown accustomed to thinking of the moment she flashed her hoo-ha at the cameras as the three seconds that killed her Hollywood career. It wasn’t until Greta Garbo pulled some influential strings to get her a role in George Cukor’s new picture, The Women, that she’d regained traction. “I didn’t get the part, but I’m going to be in a new MGM picture.”

“Is it a big part? What’s your character like?”

Gwendolyn broke away from her brother’s gaze. “It’s just a walk-on, really. No lines or anything.” She looked back at him in time to see his smile fade into the shadows.

“Googie,” he said, “ten years and all you’ve got to show for it is a screen test and one little bitty role?”

Gwendolyn scowled. “Do you know how rare that is? One in a hundred thousand hopefuls gets a screen test. They have to be very, very impressed with you to order up one of those.”

Monty let go of her hand. After a few silent moments, he said, “Once my stint at the World’s Fair is over, they’re making me a chief petty officer.”

“That’s good, right?”

“For an enlisted guy, it’s pretty good, yeah. And they’re restationing me.”

“What does that mean?”

“They’re moving me.” Gwendolyn wanted to grab her brother’s hand and squeeze it real hard. Please say Long Beach! Please say Long Beach! “I’m being transferred to the Philippines.”

She crossed her arms to keep warm. Her uniform wasn’t made for plying the outdoor cigarette trade. “And where’s that, exactly?”

“It’s in the Far East. South of Japan.”

“Sounds exotic.”

“Subic Bay is the biggest navy installation in the Pacific. This is a big step up for me, Googie.”

“You’ve really made a good life for yourself, haven’t you?” Gwendolyn took her brother by the arm and snuggled closer. “I’m very proud of you.”

“I’ll be in New York until the end of July and go to Subic Bay right after that.” Monty stiffened his spine and cleared his throat. “Why don’t you come with me?”

“Move? To the Far East?”

“That part of the world, it’s a wonderful place to live. I know tons of guys who’ve been stationed there and they all say the same thing.”

“That’s okay for you, Monty, but my life is here. I’m building a career.” As she heard the words come out of her mouth, she knew how ridiculous they sounded. You’re twenty-nine years old, she told herself. You know very well that hitting thirty in Hollywood is like hitting sixty everywhere else. You don’t have many chances left.

Monty winced. “You’ve spent ten years selling cigarettes to drunkards and letches and all you’ve got to show for it is a screen test and a bit part. That’s no career.” He grabbed her pinkie finger and wiggled it the way he used to when they were kids back in Florida with their boozed-out mother sprawled out on the couch and nobody else to look after them. It was their way of saying You and me forever.

Don’t say it, she thought. Don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it.

“Oh, Googie,” he said, “just how much longer are you going to wait for a big break that probably will never come?”


This chapter is also available to read on my website:

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The Evolution of a Book Cover – Part III – “Citizen Hollywood”

With the manuscript for my third novel in the Garden of Allah series – Citizen Hollywood – en route to my editor, Meghan Pinson at My Two Cents Freelance Editing, it was time to turn my attention to one of my favorite parts of the publishing process: designing the cover.

As with my first two books, I went back to Dan Yeager at Nu-Image Design – at this point, I can’t imagine working with anyone else.

This time, however, I wasn’t quite so clear on what I wanted.

In Citizen Hollywood we continue to follow the fortunes of our three favorite Garden of Allah residents: MGM screenwriter Marcus Adler, Hollywood Reporter columnist Kathryn Massey, and plucky actress Gwendolyn Brick. It’s now 1939. Gone with the Wind hasn’t been released yet, but it’s in the can so Hollywood needs a fresh Big New Thing to obsess over. Orson Welles happily supplies it when he answers Hollywood’s beckoning call.

As nearly all of us probably know, his first picture was Citizen Kane whose central character of Charles Foster Kane was modeled on newspaper tycoon, William Randolph Hearst. Not that Welles would admit it at the time, but speculation that Welles might have the cojones to craft an unflattering portrait of America’s most powerful man was so rife that it ensured everyone was talking about it.

One of the most striking things about Citizen Kane is its amazing black and white cinematography. The lighting design makes the movie look like it’d been etched in glass. So I wanted the cover for Citizen Hollywood to be in black and white. But that’s all I really knew. I sent Daniel the two most famous images from Citizen Kane:

The misty shot of Xanadu, Kane's ultimate pleasure palace (read: San Simeon)

The misty shot of Xanadu, Kane’s ultimate pleasure palace (read: San Simeon)

Charles Foster Kane runs for New York State governor.

Charles Foster Kane runs for New York State governor.

I also sent him the links to a number of books on L.A. set around this time. They were all very film noir-ish, very gangster, very James Ellroy. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when Daniel came back with this:

"Citizen Hollywood" - cover #1

This is not at all what I had in mind. But I learned that sometimes when you get what you definitely don’t want, it nudges you closer to what you do want.

Instead of ignoring Welles and hoping his movie debut died a quiet death, Hearst went on the rampage. When you’ve got hundreds of newspapers–not to mention Hollywood’s leading gossip columnist, Louella Parsons–at your disposal, and you decide to go on a rampage, everybody knows about it. Consequently, a battle raged around Hollywood causing most people to fall in one of two camps.

Those on the creative side were concerned that Welles be allowed to exercise his right of free speech and make the movie he wanted to make, regardless of who he may or may not have modeled his protagonist on. The other camp was the management side of the studio system who depended on the Hearst papers to carry advertisements for their movies. To be blackballed by the Hearst group meant a huge dent in their ability to get the word out about their latest release. And if you were seen to be on the side of Welles, then you were dead to Hearst.

This was a big deal in Hollywood at the time and as it affected the whole town, I wanted the bigger picture to be reflected on the cover of Citizen Hollywood. Plus, I wanted to keep the font of the title the same as the previous two books. So Daniel and I tossed around some ideas, and this was the result.

"Citizen Hollywood" - cover #2

A-HA! Now we were on to something. First off, though, I didn’t want the newspaper headline. We’d used that for The Trouble with Scarlett and I didn’t want to repeat myself. So I asked Daniel to lose the newspaper headline and move the title toward the top of the cover. I also wanted to find a different color of the font. The most striking color on Scarlett‘s cover was red and, again, I didn’t want to repeat myself. So I found a nice shade of Azure blue which I liked.

And while I liked the grainy effect he’d applied here, it was wrong for a book set amid the fight over Citizen Kane because that movie is associated with very sharply defined cinematography. So I wanted the building looming on the left (it’s the Griffith Observatory which looms over Hollywood in the same way that Xanadu looms over Citizen Kane and San Simeon looms over the Hearst legacy) to be sharply defined.

On the plus side: when designing the cover of a book, one of the most important questions to keep in mind is: “What is it going to look like when it appears on a search result on Amazon and is reduced to the size of a large postage stamp?” When I reduced this latest design to postage stamp size, the title remained clear and sharp. THUMBS UP!

But one thing bothered me. There now seemed to be a lot of black on this cover. I was fine with the bottom area but I wondered if the top area could be softened with a subtle starry night sky. It needed to be enough to give it some texture but not so much that it would detract from the cover. So I asked Daniel if he could add a starry-but-not-too-starry night sky, that would be a marvelous thing. The design he came back with was exactly what I wanted.

I am now very excited to present the cover for my next novel:


CITIZEN HOLLYWOOD - Book 3 in the “Garden of Allah” series by Martin Turnbull

Book 3 in the “Garden of Allah” series
by Martin Turnbull
(click to enlarge)

Hollywood, 1939: When Tinseltown begins to woo wunderkind Orson Welles, he stashes himself at the Chateau Marmont until he’s ready to make his splashy entrance. But gossip columnist Kathryn Massey knows he’s there.

Kathryn has been on the outs with Hollywood since her ill-fated move to Life, but now that she’s back at the Hollywood Reporter, she’s desperate to find the Next Big Thing. Scooping Welles’ secret retreat would put her back on the map, but by the time she hears rumors about his dangerous new movie, she’s fallen prey to his charms. She needs to repair her reputation, find out if Welles will take on the tycoon, and extricate herself from an affair with a man whose kisses make her melt like milk chocolate.

Hollywood writers are only as good as their last screen credit, but Marcus Adler is still scrambling for his first. His “Strange Cargo” will star Clark Gable after “Gone with the Wind” wraps, but Machiavellian studio politics mean Marcus’ name might not make it to the screen. It’s time to play No More Mr. Nice Guy. Opportunity knocks when his boss challenges the writing department to outdo “The Adventures of Robin Hood”, and Marcus is confident—until the love of his life bursts back onto the scene. How can he write another word until he knows for once and for all whether he and Ramon Navarro will be together? And to make matters worse, it seems like someone in town is trying to sabotage him.

Everyone knows if you haven’t made it in Hollywood by the time you’re thirty, it’s curtains . . . and Gwendolyn Brick is starting to panic. She’s considering moving to a naval base in the Philippines with her baby brother, but she wants to give Hollywood one last go before she gives up. When she saves Twentieth Century Fox honcho Daryl F. Zanuck from an appalling fate at a poker game that goes awry, he rewards her with a chance at a role in a movie. Gwendolyn needs to win before her ship sets sail.

When William Randolph Hearst realizes Citizen Kane is based on him, he won’t be happy—and when Hearst isn’t happy, nobody’s safe. Marcus, Kathryn, and Gwendolyn need to go for broke, and the clock is ticking.

Citizen Hollywood is the third in Martin Turnbull’s series of historical novels set during Hollywood’s golden age.

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Meeting the voice inside my head: the creation of an audiobook

microphoneI am an avid audiobook fan. In fact, most of my non-fiction reading gets done via audiobooks which I listen to on my iPod while I walk to and from the gym every day. I wouldn’t get around to half the books I’ve enjoyed without audiobooks. I LOVE THEM!

And so, now that I think about it, it’s rather odd that it took me so long to look into getting an audiobook done of my first Garden of Allah novel, The Garden on Sunset. Maybe because it’s fiction and I tend to associate audiobooks with non-fiction? At any rate, I was reading one of my favorite blogs on self-publishing –, who is about as savvy as savvy gets – and she talked about a website called Audiobook Creation Exchange which pairs authors with voice over actors.

acx-logoI signed up straightaway.

I was excited at the thought of having my own audiobook for sale and happily filled in all the usual fields—copyright owner’s name, book category and genre—but then was stopped cold by the section which asks you to:

Describe the ideal narrator’s voice:

I’ll admit that more than a couple of times in the past, I’ve daydreamed of having my novels translated to audiobooks, but at no time did I stop to think about whose voice the books would be read in. Like most of us, I find it hard to stomach the sound of my own voice so all I knew was that the voice of my audiobook wasn’t going to be mine.

Fortunately, ACX has a list of options to help narrow down your choices. That is to say, it is a help but the list is virtually endless.

Under GENDER, they have three choices—male, female and either. I’m a male so I always assumed the narrator would be male. But then again, two of my three lead characters are female so why not have a woman narrate it? So I chose Either.

Under AGE, they have seven choices, from Young Child to Elderly.

Under LANGUAGE, they have six choices, including Arabic and Japanese.

Under ACCENT, they have 30 choices, including six different American ones, as well as both Australian and New Zealand. To Aussie and Kiwi ears, the accents are different, but I’m surprised Amazon knew that.

Then came the big one: STYLE. No less than 62 choices of narration style are offered. The previous categories weren’t hard to choose, but faced with selecting just out of 62 possibilities suddenly became paralyzing.

I did have a voice in my head, but what did it sound like? Did it sound like me but more Professional? Authoritative? Inspirational? Persuasive? Or was it someone else altogether? And if it was, what did he sound like?

I knew I didn’t want it to be Sultry or Velvety or Spooky or Melodramatic or Submissive. I wasn’t even sure what a submissive voice sounded like although I guess the audiobook of Fifty Shades of Grey probably found it handy. Maybe I wanted Engaging or Versatile or perhaps even Quirky? Wistful? No. Storyteller? Perhaps. As two of my lead characters are female, Male Narrating A Female Part was a possibility.

I pondered this one quite a lot. As a frequent audiobook listener, I knew first hand that the quality of the narration directly informs the listening experience. The wrong voice can wreck an audiobook so this was an important decision. I decided that I wanted the listener to be fully involved in the story so I chose Engaging.

With all that decided, it was now time to find my narrator. ACX has over 11,000 narrators listed on their site. Their website allows you to narrow down your options according to the genre of books the narrators have listed themselves as being able to perform, as well as the languages they speak and the accents and styles they can do.

That left me with a list of only 159 narrators that could possibly be a good match. But it was better than 11,196 so I started at the start and spent about an hour listening to the sample recordings posted on their page. Six or seven voiceover actors later, I realized that it only took a maximum of fifteen seconds to know if this person was right or not. Usually more like ten.

John C. Zak - voice over artist / narrator

John C. Zak

After a while I began to wonder if perhaps this voice inside my head only existed inside my head. It dawned on me that it was quite possible that nobody had the voice I’d conjured. I needn’t have worried. On the fifth page I found John C. Zak who had everything I was looking for – depth, warmth, authority, fluidity. His samples were both articulate and friendly, soothing but engaging.

But would he be interested?

Recording every word of The Garden on Sunset—and be word perfect—would take him hours and hours and hours. Although you can offer your narrator a one-time fee, I assume most writers like myself choose the other payment option: going 50/50 on the royalties. A project like this could take hours of effort with no or little remuneration but there was no harm in asking.

John emailed back almost straight away and told me he’d be delighted to take on the project. He said that he had three other books to complete first which I didn’t mind. In fact, I was glad to hear it. Evidently, I’d chosen someone who was in demand.

So I made an official offer which he officially accepted and we set an official schedule for deliver of the first chapter—just to make sure that I liked what he was doing before he spent 9451 hours doing a voice I don’t care for.

But, again, I needn’t have worried. In due course John posted the first chapter of his narration and it was exactly what I wanted. Right off the bat! I gave him the go-ahead to record the rest of the book and the other day he announced to me that the audiobook was completed. So I listened to it and loved what he’d done. He put a lot of effort into giving my audiobook a narrative style that was at the same time crisp and clear, engaging and involving. He’s delivered an audiobook that’s highly listen-to-able (if that’s a word) and I’m very happy to make it available now to via


"The Garden on Sunset" by Martin Turnbull - Audiobook cover

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