Revealing: CHASING SALOMÉ – a novel of 1920s Hollywood

During the ten years it took me to write my nine-book Hollywood’s Garden of Allah series, I kept thinking, Alla Nazimova needs a novel of her own.

Alla Nazimova in 1921

Alla Nazimova in 1921

At the peak of her film career – late 1910s to early 1920s – she was the highest-paid actress in America, and every bit as famous as her silent-cinema sisters: Mary Pickford, Pola Negri, Mabel Normand, Louise Brooks, Colleen Moore, et al. And yet, despite her towering stature in both the theater and cinema worlds, and despite having left behind her Garden of Allah Hotel legacy, “The Great Nazimova” (pronounced na-ZIM-ovuh) faded into obscurity. She was a rule-breaking, convention-defying, intellectual-salon-holding, proto-feminist filmmaker with her own production company and an aversion to accepting the status quo—in Hollywood or in life.

Someone like that deserves her own novel, doesn’t she?

Of course she does, and now she has one:

CHASING SALOMÉ

a novel of 1920s Hollywood

by Martin Turnbull

DUE FOR RELEASE IN AUGUST 2019

CHASING SALOMÉ - a novel of 1920s Hollywood by Martin Turnbull- DUE FOR RELEASE IN AUGUST 2019

~oOo~

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Hollywood, 1920

Alla Nazimova has reached the pinnacle of success. She is the highest-paid actress in town, with a luxurious estate, the respect of her peers, adoration of her fans, and a series of lovers that has included the first wife of her protégé, Rudolph Valentino.

But reaching the top is one thing. Staying there is an entirely different matter.

Nazimova dreams of producing a motion picture of Oscar Wilde’s infamous Salomé. It will be a new form of moviemaking: the world’s first art film.

But the same executives at Metro Pictures who hailed Nazimova as a genius when she was churning out hit after hit now turn their backs because her last few movies have flopped.

Taking matters into her own hands, Nazimova decides to shoot Salomé herself. But it means risking everything she has: her reputation, her fortune, her beautiful home, and even her lavender marriage. But will it be enough to turn her fortunes around? Or will Hollywood cut her out of the picture?

From the author of the Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels and based on a true story, Chasing Salomé takes us inside Nazimova’s struggle to achieve a new level of stardom by raising the flickers to an art form.

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CHAPTER 1

Alla Nazimova opened the mahogany-and-glass doors of the Ship Café with a flourish that sent her scarlet satin opera cape swirling around her. She had long since mastered the art of making an entrance, so she knew that the light from the crystal chandelier directly above would catch the sparkle in her sapphire necklace and bring out the violet in her eyes.

The maître d’ was a rotund chap who looked like he enjoyed his brandies. “Oh, Madame!” He scurried out from behind his podium. “What an honor to have you dine with us tonight!”

“Thank you, Emile.” Alla watched him count the number in her party. “My husband is unable to join us this evening.” He didn’t need to know that Alla had no desire for Charles to be there. She had someone else in tow that night—and it wasn’t her husband.

The Ship Café was neither a ship nor a café. It was a restaurant that had been fashioned to resemble a Spanish galleon and lashed to the Venice Beach pier. It was one of those novelty places that Los Angeles architects had lately been conjuring with unfettered abandon. But with its sloping walls and its low-slung ceiling striped with wooden beams, the overall ambiance was effectively nautical.

She had chosen it for tonight’s celebration precisely because, like most things in Hollywood, it was not what it appeared to be. Adorned in their modish Paris gowns and tuxedos with black silk lapels, most people in Hollywood were not what they appeared to be, either, but in Los Angeles that was hardly a crime.

Emile collected an armful of menus and led them toward the center of the room.

As Alla zigzagged through the maze of tables, heads turned, eyes stared, mouths gaped. Earlier that day she had completed her fifth film in the twelve months since arriving in Los Angeles to commence her contract for Metro Pictures. Every one of them had been a blazing success, so now she was recognized wherever she went. She smiled regally, her right hand fluttering like a captive dove until she reached the head of the table, where she took a seat and patted the right-hand-side silver setting for her new love, Jean.

Dagmar Godowsky, a dark, sleek, swan-like actress who had appeared in Alla’s latest picture, slid onto the seat to her left. “I’m so glad you chose this place. Ever since that wretched Volstead Act started worming through Congress, it’s been getting harder and harder to find a drink around this burg. The other night, we had to drive all the way to the Vernon Country Club, and you know how far that is. Don’t get me wrong—the whiskey was terrific and the Paul Whiteman Orchestra was playing, so we had a great time. But brother, what a trek!”

“UGH!” Viola Dana exclaimed from further down the table. She was a Metro star, too, and a salt-of-the-earth type, the way girls from Brooklyn could be. “Imagine if it actually passes. Why even leave the house?”

“Of course it’ll pass.” Maxwell Karger was the studio manager at Metro. An okay sort of chap, but a little too weak-of-chin for Alla’s tastes. “More than thirty of the forty-eight states are already dry. It’s just a matter of time.”

He was right, of course. Prohibition felt like a swarm of locusts massing on the distant horizon—close enough to hear the relentless thrumming that warned of a time when alcohol would become as scarce as fresh peaches in a Russian winter.

“In that case, let us carpe diem while we may.” Alla raised her hand to attract the waiter lingering at their periphery. “Your finest champagne, please. Preferably Moët et Chandon or Veuve Clicquot.”

He cleared his throat. “Unfortunately, we’re out of both labels.”

“Had a run on them lately?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“What’s left? Taittinger? Mumm?” Alla ignored the evil eye that Karger shot her. She knew what he was thinking. These labels are expensive. If you think Metro is going to underwrite your extravagant tastes . . . She stroked his quivering cheek. “Fret not, mon cher. Madame shall be footing the bill tonight.”

Alla had never figured out how the rumor had started that she wanted to be referred to as “Madame,” but she liked the way it played into her La Grande Dame image. Broadway critics had hailed her as “this generation’s foremost interpreter of Ibsen.” And Metro had billed her as “The World’s Greatest Actress in Her Greatest Play” for her second picture, Toys of Fate. Somewhere in between Broadway’s theaters and Hollywood’s filming stages, Alla had become “Madame.” And every time someone called her that, she would quietly chuckle to herself and wonder what her monstrous, bellowing Cossack of a father would make of it.

As far as she was concerned, when you start out life as a girl from a poor family in Crimea, you can reasonably expect to spend your life scratching out a living in a half-forgotten corner of the Black Sea. But if you end up the highest-paid actress in the world, you’re entitled to be called Madame.

Karger’s shoulders melted at the news that he would not have to part with any of his precious money. In all fairness, he was already handing over thirteen grand a week to have Alla emote in his photoplays. The least she could do was buy a few bottles of Laurent-Perrier, which was the best champagne left in the Ship Café cellar.

With the matter of refreshments settled, Alla then ordered enough salmon mousse on Melba toast to feed the extras on a D.W. Griffith extravaganza. That done, she sat back and looked around the dining room.

Most of the tables were full and the patrons were ordering booze like dehydrated fish gasping for their last drink. They were all good-looking ladies and gents whose fortunes had soared from the gobs of cash the studios were willing to throw at the flickers. Gay chatter filled the long room, and a few restive souls had ventured onto the elongated dance floor that split it in two.

Alla’s gaze skipped from the glossy smiles to the glittering tiaras. Who could ask for anything more?

Almost instantly, she found herself answering: I could. I want more. The growl of her long-dead father’s voice erupted in her head. You greedy, ungrateful little worm. All this money and fame and success and you’re still not satisfied. PAH!

The waiter arrived with two bottles of Laurent-Perrier stashed in pewter wine buckets; a busboy followed him holding a tray of champagne coupes. Alla was grateful for the distraction as they buzzed around, uncorking bottles and filling glasses.

Her director, Herbert Blaché, raised his champagne coupe. He was a dapper Englishman with a French name, a painstakingly trimmed mustache, and sharp eyes. His wife, Alice Guy, had once been head of production at the Gaumont Film Company in France. Alla could scarcely imagine how a woman had become the head of a film studio—nor could the French. As soon as Herbert and Alice were married, she had been forced to resign her job. God forbid a smart, well-read woman should be in a position to tell men what to do. But France’s loss was Alla’s gain.

“A toast, if I may,” Herbert declared. “To Madame Nazimova. As ever, a joy to direct, even amid the bleakness of a cholera epidemic.”

He was referring to the outbreak that propelled the plot of Stronger Than Death, the picture they had completed filming that afternoon. Alla played a French girl with a weak heart forced to dance in order to help quash an uprising somewhere near Calcutta. She winced at his words. She had been celebrated for her Nora in A Doll’s House and for her Hedda Gabler and would happily have continued her career on the boards except that these picture people had gone and dangled a preposterously lucrative carrot in front of her. What was she supposed to do? Say no? So she hadn’t. And now she was prancing around, pretending to be a French dancer whose dicey ticker might be the end of her.

Surely we can do better than this nonsense?

Alla murmured her thanks and held her smile as though she hadn’t a care.

She cast around the room again to see if any new or interesting faces had joined the bustle and her gaze lighted on a raven-haired beauty somewhat in the Theda Bara mold. She turned to Dagmar, who knew everybody wherever she went. “Who is that?”

Dagmar only needed a swift peek. “She’s one of those Ziegfeld Follies girls who’ve come west to make it in pictures. She goes by Nita Naldi, but I doubt that’s her real name.”

“Ziegfeld?” Yet another girl who thought a pretty face was the only required asset. “So she’s not a real actress.”

“Au contraire. She’s filming Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at Famous Players-Lasky with John Barrymore. I’ve heard whisperings that she’s put in a star-making turn. I don’t know why she’s bothered, though. My friend May Robson is working on that picture, and she told me that as soon as filming is done, Nita’s returning to New York to be in a musical play called Aphrodite. It’s based on that novel by Pierre Louÿs.”

The name clutched at Alla’s throat like Jack the Ripper. Pierre Louÿs was one of her favorite writers, not least because he wrote about people who lived on the fringes of society. It also helped that he was good friends with Oscar Wilde, whose work Alla adored beyond measure.

Aphrodite, you say?”

The novel was about courtesans in ancient Alexandria and was the sort of project Alla could sink her teeth into and relish every bite. But instead, she was supposed to be content with playing defective dancers frolicking around West Bengal while everybody in sight was dropping dead.

She let out a prolonged sigh. “How fortunate for Miss Naldi.”

Beneath the starched white tablecloth, Alla reached toward Jean’s leg. She wanted to feel the warmth of her thigh, to stroke it gently as a promise of delights to come later that evening.

Alla had met her on a recent trip to New York. At twenty-six, Jean had arrived a little late in the game to become an actress, but was attractive nonetheless. Alla had been in a tobacconist’s on 67th Street. Perfumed cigarettes had become all the rage, so she had instructed the tobacconist to imbue them with the bespoke fragrance that Caswell-Massey had concocted for her. As she waited to be served, in walked this girl, her carob-brown hair snipped into a head-turning Castle bob.

A tentative conversation over the Cuban cigar counter had grown into a more intense exchange over macarons and passionfruit tea at the French café around the corner, which soon led to passion of a different sort in Alla’s apartment at the Hotel Des Artistes. Before anybody could say “Uncle Vanya,” Miss Jean Acker had signed a $200-a-week contract with Metro Pictures and was sitting by Alla’s side in an Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railcar back to Los Angeles.

But Jean’s leg was out of reach, which did little to bolster Alla’s flagging spirits.

Nobody had said anything—not to her face, at any rate—but when viewing some of Stronger Than Death’s dailies, Alla had been galled to see that she had put on too much weight. On the way out of the screening room, she had told herself that she hadn’t been too fat to seduce that young script girl, Dorothy Arzner. She didn’t mind your fleshier carcass. But by the time she had arrived home to her mansion on Sunset Boulevard, Alla had come to her senses. The camera was unforgiving. She had to slim down before Heart of a Child started filming, because nobody was going to believe her as a hundred-and-thirty-nine-pound poverty-stricken waif.

Dagmar offered up a slice of toast she had slathered with salmon mousse. When Alla pushed it away, Dagmar harrumphed. “What’s up with you? You’ve been little Miss Down-in-the-Mouth all evening.”

Alla deflected her question with an airy shrug. “You know what I’m like at the end of filming. Drained and depleted.”

Dagmar shook her head. “That’s a load of hooey and we both know it.”

Alla lobbed back a wide-eyed look that said It most certainly isn’t, but Dagmar wasn’t buying it. “I’m pretty sure I know what it is.” She jutted her head toward Jean, who had been dragged into an earnest discussion with Herbert about how Cecil B. DeMille had used his camera on Gloria Swanson in Don’t Change Your Husband. That is to say, Herbert was lecturing and Jean was nodding.

“You do?” Alla asked.

“Viola told me all about it.”

At hearing her name, Viola extricated herself from the conversation at the other end of the table. “I told you about what?” She read their faces and dropped her voice to a whisper. “You mean Grace Darmond, huh?”

Alla could feel defensive walls rise around her. “Isn’t she with Vitagraph?”

“Was,” Viola said. “She’s now filming The Hope Diamond Mystery at some Poverty Row second-rater.”

“Oh my goodness!” Dagmar exclaimed. “I just saw someone I know.” She excused herself and scampered away.

Viola slid into Dagmar’s vacated seat. “My current paramour is filming The Great Air Robbery at Universal right now.” Ormer Locklear was an accomplished stunt pilot, who was also married. But so was Viola, and in Hollywood, marriage vows were as rubbery as a French letter. “The scenarist is poker buddies with John Clymer, who wrote The Hope Diamond Mystery, and he told George who told Ormer who told me that their leading lady is a lady lover with a lady lover of her own.” Viola drifted her movie-actress eyes past Alla and onto Jean.

Alla took great care to freeze her face. Nobody had—or could—label her a stringent moralist, especially when it came to marital fidelity. She had always seen herself as a free spirit, unconstrained by staid principles that equated “wives” with “goods and chattels.” Her intimate circle was aware that her own so-called marriage to her so-called husband was a sham. But sometimes it was expedient to play by the rules. Even if you didn’t agree with them.

So this news that Jean was sleeping with someone else shouldn’t have stung Alla like a corkscrew pressed to her flesh. If she could have been true to her moral code and waved away the news with a blasé flick of the wrist, she would have.

But she didn’t.

She couldn’t.

And that’s because you’re The Great Nazimova, so it never occurred to you that this girl fourteen years your junior would think of looking elsewhere. Let alone to an actress working on Poverty Row. You’re forty, and that’s the end of the road for leading ladies. Who do you think you are—Mary Pickford? You’re an egotistical nincompoop who deserves a slap across the face.

The ensuing silence might have grown unbearable had it not been for Dagmar’s well-meaning but ill-timed return with the man she had dragged through the restaurant with disconcerting zeal.

Alla guessed he was around Jean’s age, but those swarthy continentals with their olive complexions were hard to pin down. He was not without appeal, however, with those sleepy-lidded eyes that slanted slightly at the outside edge, giving them a distinct come-to-bed quality.

However, Alla didn’t need to be introduced to him, because she already knew who he was: an Italian taxi-dancer who’d kept himself out of the gutter by giving lessons in the Argentine tango to neglected society wives and bored divorcées. And only a fool would assume that dance lessons conducted in private homes were the only exercise going on before the hour was up.

Men like him were a dime a dozen, especially in New York, where a while ago he had met a scandal-prone divorcée, Blanca de Saulles, who had shot her ex-husband at point-blank range. This hoofer-for-hire had got caught up in the drama by testifying that the deceased had been having an affair with his exhibition dance partner. Consequently, the rumor swirled that Mrs. de Saulles had killed out of desperate love for her flashy swain. The whole affair was the stuff of turgid melodramas, not unlike the histrionic pantomimes currently boring Alla to tears.

And now Dagmar was hauling this shameless would-be Latin lover toward her.

“Madame!” she exclaimed, prodding him forward. “I would like to introduce you to—”

“I know who he is!” Alla refused to look at him and instead focused her fury on Dagmar. Deep down—though not very far down—Alla knew that she wasn’t playing fair. She was angry that she’d let herself get so pudgy. She was indignant that Jean was sleeping with another woman. And she was jealous of that Ziegfeld Follies girl across the room who got to act in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde while Metro had her playing Eurasian twins and destitute chorus girls.

Dagmar blinked. Alla’s withering tone had caught her off guard. “But Madame, he—his—this is Rodolfo di Valentini, and he’s been dying to—”

“How dare you bring that gigolo to my table?”

Dagmar and di Valentini exchanged scared-rabbit glances as every diner in a four-table radius looked up from their broiled squab and veal cutlets.

“I’m sorry, Madame.” Dagmar stammered. “It’s just that—”

If they want The Great Nazimova, I’ll give them The Great Nazimova. Alla thrust her hands toward the ceiling. “Why is he still here?” She stared past Viola to the six-man house band, which had launched into “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody.” Alla counted to ten. “Have they left?”

Viola nodded. “They slunk away like wounded snakes.”

“Good.”

“Oh, come now,” Jean said. “Surely you don’t mean that.”

After what Alla had learned about that Poverty Row hambone, Jean was the ideal victim of her residual venom. “Do you even know who Rodolfo di Valentini is?”

“I read the newspapers just like everyone else.”

If Alla had ever learned how to drive an automobile, she would have risen to her feet and swept haughtily out of the place. But she had never bothered, so now she was stuck at a table of people sitting awkwardly and studying their ashtrays. You’re the official hostess, she told herself. This unease is wholly your fault and it’s up to you to repair it.

“I think that is more than enough commotion for one night,” she said blithely. Both bottles of Laurent-Perrier were empty. Alla wriggled her fingers; their waiter appeared. “Two more, if you please, mon bon garçon. By the time you get back, we shall be ready to order dinner.” She faced her woebegone party. “Has anybody seen Broken Blossoms? I hear Lillian Gish’s performance is a revelation.”

~oOo~

CHASING SALOMÉ is due for release in AUGUST 2019

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Alla Nazimova Society

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See also: Ship Cafe, Venice Beach, California

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Also by Martin Turnbull
the Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels:

Book 1 – The Garden on Sunset
Book 2 – The Trouble with Scarlett
Book 3 – Citizen Hollywood
Book 4 – Searchlights and Shadows
Book 5 – Reds in the Beds
Book 6 – Twisted Boulevard
Book 7 – Tinseltown Confidential
Book 8 – City of Myths
Book 9 – Closing Credits

The Hollywood's Garden of Allah series by Martin Turnbull - all 9 titles

~oOo~

Grab your free books now (limited time offer)

~oOo~

Connect with Martin Turnbull:

Website

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Pinterest

~oOo~

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Literary Luncheons, Drawing Room Afternoons, and bridge parties at the Garden of Alla Hotel, circa late 1920s

Alison Martino from the Vintage Los Angeles Facebook page recently contacted me to say that she had been gifted with two pieces of memorabilia connected to the Garden of Allah Hotel and wondered if I had ever seen anything like this before.

No! I hadn’t! Nor had I even heard that such things took place there. Given the Garden of Allah Hotel’s rather louche (and earned) reputation for wild parties, bootleg liquor, and loose morals, the fact that “Literary Luncheons” and “Drawing Room Afternoons” and bridge parties were held there fairly boggles my mind.

Round Table Luncheons and Auction Bridge at the Garden of Alla copy Musical Luncheon at the Garden of Alla copy Drawing Room Afternoons at the Garden of Alla copy

Advertisement for "Sunrise" at the Carthay Circle Theatre copy Advertisement for Douglas Fairbanks in "The Gaucho" at Grauman's Chinese Theater copy Advertisement for Charlie Chaplin in "The Circus" at Grauman's Chinese Theatre copy

Fortunately, we can date these programs. They carry advertisements for the Carthay Circle and Grauman’s Chinese theaters. Sunrise opened in September 1927, The Gaucho in November 1927, and The Circus in January 1928, so I think we can assume this comes from very late 1927/early 1928, by which time the hotel was open (it opened on January 9th, 1927) but still operating as “The Garden of Alla” before the “h” at the end of “Allah” was added.

My guess is that it was a way to bring respectable ladies into the place, perhaps to continue Alla Nazimova‘s tradition of the salons she used to hold, a la Gertrude Stein. They would also have encouraged Angelenos to think of the hotel as being more than just somewhere to rest your weary head.

I especially love the page advertising a “Round Table Discussion under the direction of Margaret Campbell – Conversationalist, Poet, Actress.” I’ve never come across anyone who listed “Conversationalist” as a profession, so I was a bit dubious about Ms. Campbell’s qualifications. However, I ought not have been so skeptical. She was, indeed, an actress with 25 film credits on her IMDB page.

To learn more about these high-brow gatherings, I contacted Jon Ponder from Playground to the Stars. He has researched the Garden of Allah Hotel as much as I have – possibly even more – so I figured he might be able to shed some light on this terrific find. He came back with three articles from the Los Angeles Times dated around the same time as these programs.

From the Los Angeles Times, August 28, 1927

Garden of Alla Group Instructed in Bridge

Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1927:

Bridge Trees Popular

"Your Baby and Mine" column by Myrtle Meyer Eldred, Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1927 (2)

And also from the Los Angeles Times, November 18, 1927

Bridge Dinner at the Garden of Allah

When I read these articles, I am rather astounded by the depth of detail about exactly who turned up, where they were from, who hosted, what was served, and the general atmosphere enjoyed that afternoon.

It’s an interesting insight into the Garden of Allah Hotel that, even after 10 years of research, I had never suspected even existed. It makes me wonder what other secrets lay buried under the weight of history.

~oOo~

Starlets waiting under sign of the Garden of Allah Hotel, Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, 1932 (colorized)

This photo of three women waiting under the Garden of Allah Hotel sign facing Sunset Blvd was taken in 1932. (I’ve had it colorized to give a more immediate feel of what it was like to actually be there.) Somehow, I doubt these three girls were the Literary Luncheon/Bridge Club type. The gal on the left and the one in the middle have both kicked off their shoes! In public!

I have a feeling that professional conversationalist Margaret Campbell would not have approved . . . but am fairly sure Alla Nazimova would think it perfectly fine. She was, after all, never one to follow the rules.

Alla Nazimova as Mahlee in "The Red Lantern" (1919)

Alla Nazimova as Mahlee in “The Red Lantern” (1919)

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Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels
by Martin Turnbull

  • Book 1 – The Garden on Sunset
  • Book 2 – The Trouble with Scarlett
  • Book 3 – Citizen Hollywood
  • Book 4 – Searchlights and Shadows
  • Book 5 – Reds in the Beds
  • Book 6 – Twisted Boulevard
  • Book 7 – Tinseltown Confidential
  • Book 8 – City of Myths
  • Book 9 – Closing Credits

~oOo~

Connect with Martin Turnbull:

Website

Facebook

Pinterest

~oOo~

Grab your free books now (limited time offer)

~oOo~

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Releasing the audiobook of “Closing Credits” (and a screenshot)

For those of you who prefer to consume their Hollywood historical fiction through their ears, you might be happy to hear about my latest release: the audiobook version of the 9th and final installment in my Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels:

BOOK 9: CLOSING CREDITS

My wonderful narrator, Price Waldman, who also narrated Book 8: City of Myths is back to give voice to Closing Credits, in which the 1950s, the Hollywood studio system, and the Garden of Allah Hotel on Sunset Boulevard all come to an end.

Closing Credits Audiobook Cover copy 430kb

Sometimes the end is only the beginning.

Kathryn Massey thought a long-forgotten secret was dead and buried—just like the 1950s are about to be—but when a mysterious list circulating Screenland ignites salacious rumors about the gossip columnist, it’s her life that now falls under the magnifying glass.

Marcus Adler is a rare survivor of the Hollywood blacklist. Beset by writer’s block, he’s intrigued by an abandoned box in the basement of the Garden of Allah Hotel. Its contents could rejuvenate his career—but cost him his reputation.

Gwendolyn Brick stumbled into the blossoming television industry. No fan of the spotlight, she’s conflicted by the opportunities coming her way. Things are about to change, and when she teams up with Lucille Ball, she won’t let the network stop the rapid march to progress.

On busy backlots and in quiet basements, secrets and lies dance with fame and failure amid Hollywood’s dying golden era. Nobody knows how this movie’s going to end . . . but it’ll be one for the ages.

~oOo~

The Closing Credits audiobook is available through:

Amazon

Audible

iTunes

Links to the paperback and ebook versions are on the Closing Credits page on my website.

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As I reported in my last post – Is there life after the Hollywood’s Garden of Allah hotel? – I am now working on a novel about the original Garden of Allah resident, Alla Nazimova. And in fact, last weekend I finished the first draft. Completing a first draft means the story no longer exists solely in your head but is now in a form that you can do something with. It’s an important milestone because you can’t polish into a sparkling diamond a manuscript that you haven’t written yet.

Nazimova novel by Martin Turnbull

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The front of the Garden of Allah Hotel on Sunset Blvd (colorized)

 

Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels:

  • Book 1 – The Garden on Sunset
  • Book 2 – The Trouble with Scarlett
  • Book 3 – Citizen Hollywood
  • Book 4 – Searchlights and Shadows
  • Book 5 – Reds in the Beds
  • Book 6 – Twisted Boulevard
  • Book 7 – Tinseltown Confidential
  • Book 8 – City of Myths
  • Book 9 – Closing Credits

~oOo~

Connect with Martin Turnbull:

Website

Facebook

Pinterest

~oOo~

Grab your free books now (limited time offer)

~oOo~

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Is there life after the Hollywood’s Garden of Allah hotel?

With the release of Closing Credits, the 9th and final installment of my Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels, the question naturally became: What’s next? My father recently asked me, “Now that your last book is out, what are you doing with all that free time?” He was amazed when I told him that my next book was already researched, plotted out, and that I was half-way through the first draft. And now that I am, I thought perhaps it was time to give you a sneak peek at what I’m working on:

After having spent ten years reading, researching, and writing about the Garden of Allah Hotel, I decided it was time that the Garden’s original owner, Alla Nazimova got her own novel. She led an extraordinary life, which has already been documented in a first-rate biography by Gavin Lambert. On re-reading Lambert’s book, I found myself thinking of the crossroads she faced in the early 1920s when her primary friendships were with Natacha Rambova and her boyfriend, Rudolph Valentino with whom Nazimova had starred in 1921’s Camille. I’ll reveal more about this novel at a later date but watch this space for more info.

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I also get asked quite frequently what is happening with the screen option that was taken out by film and TV producer, Tabrez Noorani. I can confirm that the option came up for renewal in November 2018 and it was renewed. I don’t know much more than that other than Tabrez’s company has been working on the project. The wheels of that industry turn mighty slowly so there’s no telling when I will have more news, but when I do, I’ll certainly let you know.

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A few blog posts ago I shared some of my favorite vintage photos of Hollywood and Los Angeles that I’d posted on my daily photo blog, and I got so much terrific response that I thought I’d post some more:

a forest of oil derricks crowds the huntington beach coastline, los angeles, 1940

The Huntington Beach coastline in 1940 was a forest of oil derricks. Oil discoveries in Huntington Beach, Long Beach and Santa Fe Springs in 1920 and 1921 drove massive drilling.

Maxwell House Coffee and Mayflower Doughnuts at Broadway and 8th Street, downtown Los Angeles, 1937. All that blazing electric light looks like a beacon to night owls and insomniacs…not to mention femme fatales plotting wicked revenge.

Motorists celebrate the completion of Sunset Boulevard during the spring of 1904. (Although why they’re driving along the sidewalk is anybody’s guess.)

Crowds gather to see “Frankenstein” at the Orpheum Theatre, downtown Los Angeles, December 1931. I love how the banner proclaims: “10000 Thrills Frozen Into An Epic Of Terror.”

Night shot of the Carthay Circle Theatre, San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, the year it opened, 1926

~oOo~

I’ve read a couple of books lately that might be of interest to fans of golden-era Hollywood:

hollywood godfather - the life and crimes of billy wilkerson

“HOLLYWOOD GODFATHER –
the life and crimes of Billy Wilkerson”
by WR Wilkerson III

As readers of my novels will already know, the founding publisher of The Hollywood Reporter, Billy Wilkerson, is a featured character throughout the novels. There wasn’t a whole lot of information on Wilkerson for me to use so I hoped that I was able to give my readers a feel for what this guy was like–and I believe that I have. But oh my! Between the Reporter, the nightclubs, the feuds, the blacklist, the mafia, and putting Las Vegas on the map, I wish I’d had this eye-popping, warts-and-all, nothing-held-back biography by Wilkerson’s son to refer to. The story reads like an outrageous movie.

I’m on an Irving Thalberg spree at the moment. MGM’s head of production for the first dozen years of the studio’s life burned brightly and was then snuffed out all too soon. But boy, he sure packed a wallop while he was around. Both these books are by Mark Vieira.

Irving Thalberg: Boy Wonder to Producer Prince is the full-detailed biography that tells you pretty much all you’ll ever need to know.

Hollywood Dreams Made Real: Irving Thalberg and the Rise of M-G-M is the coffee-table version. Less detailed with biographical information but packed with some of the most gorgeous photographs I’ve seen from the studio era.

I suspect that once I’m done with Irving Thalberg, my focus will shift to Ben Hecht, the amazingly prolific screenwriter, playwright, and novelist. For many years he was the go-to guy a studio or producer went to if they needed help fixing their script. He has 165 credits on IMDB many of them listed as “uncredited.” Somehow he also found the time to direct 7 movies and become a busy civil activist. I haven’t read either of these books yet but they promise to be a terrific read.

Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures by Adina Hoffman

The Notorious Ben Hecht by Julien Gorbach

I’m always on the lookout for a book that covers an aspect of Hollywood or Los Angeles history. So this one that’s coming out in May about the history of the Chateau Marmont (which opened across the street from the Garden of Allah two years later) is on my wishlist. But hmmmm…there’s something awfully familiar about that name…if I could just put my finger on it…

The Castle on Sunset by Shawn Levy (released May 7, 2019)

~oOo~

Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels:

  • Book 1 – The Garden on Sunset
  • Book 2 – The Trouble with Scarlett
  • Book 3 – Citizen Hollywood
  • Book 4 – Searchlights and Shadows
  • Book 5 – Reds in the Beds
  • Book 6 – Twisted Boulevard
  • Book 7 – Tinseltown Confidential
  • Book 8 – City of Myths
  • Book 9 – Closing Credits

~oOo~

http://www.MartinTurnbull.com

Martin Turnbull’s audio books on Audible.com

~oOo~

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The end of an era: CLOSING CREDITS, the 9th and final Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novel is now available

It’s not every day that you get to announce the culmination of a project that’s taken ten years, but today is such a day. I am happy and excited and relieved and sad and amazed and more than a little verklempt to announce the publication of Closing Credits, the ninth and final novel in the Hollywood’s Garden of Allah series.

"Closing Credits" by Martin Turnbull, the 9th and final installment in the Hollywood's Garden of Allah series

Ten years ago all I had was an idea—but it was a doozy: Tell the story of the Garden of Allah Hotel and the unfolding evolution of the golden era of studio-system Hollywood through the eyes of three ambitious wannabes. Somehow, I instinctively knew who my three main characters were: Marcus Adler, Kathryn Massey, and Gwendolyn Brick. I knew what they looked like, talked like, how it felt to be around them, their strengths and flaws, and what their journey through 1920s, ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s Hollywood was going to be like. All I had to do was write it!

Well, yes, okay, there was a little bit more to it than that (my research bibliography totals over 140 books) but now that I’ve typed the final “THE END”, it astounds me that I’ve gone from:

Story idea - Garden of Allah - Sunset Blvd - golden years Hollywood

This is my original note that I made when the idea came to me back in 2008.

to:

When I started, I didn’t know anyone who had done what I was setting out to do. And nobody certainly knew who the heck I was. But now I have nine titles out (plus three boxed sets), and there are a ton of enthusiastic people who follow me on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and my books have been optioned for the screen. But more importantly, I’ve met all sorts of wonderful people who share my passion for this remarkable era where like-minded, creatively inclined kindred spirits worked together to invent and refine an art form that reached every corner of the globe. To each and every one of you who have been cheering me on, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support, comments, emails, tweets, and messages. It’s really meant the world to me during this decade-long marathon that seems to have flown by.

~oOo~

You can read the Closing Credits description and first chapter HERE.

~oOo~

Closing Credits is now available in the following formats:

Amazon (US) Kindle ebook

Amazon (US) paperback

Amazon (UK) Kindle ebook

Amazon (UK) paperback

Amazon (Australia) Kindle ebook

Amazon (Canada) Kindle ebook

Amazon (Canada) paperback

Barnes & Noble Nook ebook

Apple iBook ebook

Kobo ebook

Book Depository (free shipping worldwide for all paperbacks)

AudiobookCOMING SOON!

For more information, see the Closing Credits page on my website

~oOo~

When you have read Closing Credits, if you have the chance and inclination, I’d really appreciate it if you could leave a review on whichever website you bought it. Rate it as many stars as you see fit, and give your honest opinion. Just a couple of lines will do! The more reviews a book has, the higher its profile rises. Thanks!
Martin Turnbull
PS – Or if you’re not comfortable leaving a review, I’d still love to hear from you.

~oOo~

Now that Closing Credits is available, the 3rd Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels trilogy is also available (ebook only):

Garden of Allah Trilogy #3

The Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels trilogy #3

Book 7 – Tinseltown Confidential

Book 8 – City of Myths

Book 9 – Closing Credits

Trilogy #3 on Amazon (US)

Trilogy #3 on Amazon (UK)

Trilogy #3 on Amazon (Canada)

Trilogy #3 on Amazon (Australia)

Trilogy #3 on Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Trilogy #3 on Kobo

Trilogy #3 on Apple iBooks

~oOo~

Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels:

  • Book 1 – The Garden on Sunset
  • Book 2 – The Trouble with Scarlett
  • Book 3 – Citizen Hollywood
  • Book 4 – Searchlights and Shadows
  • Book 5 – Reds in the Beds
  • Book 6 – Twisted Boulevard
  • Book 7 – Tinseltown Confidential
  • Book 8 – City of Myths
  • Book 9 – Closing Credits

~oOo~

http://www.MartinTurnbull.com

Martin Turnbull’s audio books on Audible.com

~oOo~

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Golden-era Hollywood versus Disney’s Hollywood Studios – a side-by-side comparison

I’m freshly returned from a week’s vacation at the so-huge-it’s-almost-overwhelming Walt Disney World resort in Florida. As a Californian, I was curious to see how their Magic Kingdom measured up to the Disneyland’s Magic Kingdom that I’m used to — it’s much the same, but bigger. As a movie fan, I was keen to see their recreation of Pandora from the movie Avatar — it’s superb, especially the simulated thrill ride, “Flight of Passage.” But as a writer of Hollywood historical fiction, I was particularly keen to experience their Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park.

I was there in 1997, long before I started researching Los Angeles history for my Garden of Allah novels. This time around, however, I am much more familiar with the various landmarks around LA (as documented in my daily Photo Blog) and wanted to see how faithfully they had reproduced LA at its architectural peak.

I’m happy to say that it exceeded my expectations. With so much thought given to so much detail, I thought you might like to see some side-by-side comparisons of the best of the bunch. Each title will link you to more information.

~oOo~

The Academy Theater in Inglewood

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Baine Studio Building, 6609 Hollywood Blvd (at Whitley Ave)

Harry Baine was a businessman and LA County Supervisor who created the Hollywood Christmas Parade in 1928. This building was designed by architects Henry Gogerty & Carl Weyl, who designed many buildings including the Hollywood Playhouse on Vine St., Hollywood.

~oOo~

Biltmore Hotel, downtown Los Angeles

The recreation of the Rendezvous Court at the Biltmore Hotel opposite Pershing Square is found inside the “Hollywood Tower of Terror” ride, which I thought was a clever touch. (Ironically, Disneyland here in California no longer has this ride–it’s now Guardians of the Galaxy. Don’t get me started…)

~oOo~

Carthay Circle Theatre, Westwood

Note the old-fashioned semaphore traffic signal. There are several of them around this theme park. Nice touch, Disney!

~oOo~

Crossroads of the World shopping mall, Sunset Blvd

Of course, the original Crossroads of the World doesn’t have a Mickey Mouse perched atop its iconic tower. Disney also lights this very well at night.

~oOo~

Dr. Beauchamp Dentistry building at Hollywood and Cahuenga Blvds

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Security-First National Bank , 5207 Wilshire Blvd

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Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Hollywood Blvd

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Hollywood Brown Derby restaurant, Vine St, Hollywood

Their neon signage at night is particularly effective:

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Max Factor building, Highland Ave, Hollywood

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Pan Pacific Auditorium, Beverly Blvd

It also lit up beautifully at night:

~oOo~

The Darkroom photographic store, 5368 Wilshire Blvd

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Warner Brothers Theater, Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills

The original theater wasn’t painted in those bright colors, of course, but get a load of that Art Deco detailing!

~oOo~

Ralph’s supermarket on Wilshire Blvd

~oOo~

Oakland Floral Depot, 1900 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland

~oOo~

Beverly-Poinsettia Commercial Building, 7290 Beverly Blvd

I’m not sure if this last building was modeled after a real-life counterpart so if you can identify ait for me, I’d love to hear from you.

 

~oOo~

As I walked out of the park that night I thought, Until Elon Musk invents a time machine for us, this’ll have to do. Truthfully, it’s not a bad substitute.

~oOo~

"Closing Credits" - Book 9 in the Hollywood's Garden of Allah series by Martin TurnbullThe 9th and final Garden of Allah novel – Closing Credits – is getting closer to publication. I’ll be getting the manuscript back from my editor in the next couple of days. So we’re still on track for a November release…or maybe even earlier!

~oOo~

Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels:

Book 1 – The Garden on Sunset
Book 2 – The Trouble with Scarlett
Book 3 – Citizen Hollywood
Book 4 – Searchlights and Shadows
Book 5 – Reds in the Beds
Book 6 – Twisted Boulevard
Book 7 – Tinseltown Confidential
Book 8 – City of Myths
Book 9 – Closing Credits

~oOo~

The Hollywood's Garden of Allah series by Martin Turnbull - all 9 titles

~oOo~

isit golden-era Hollywood with two free books!~oOo~

www.MartinTurnbull.com

Martin Turnbull on Facebook

~oOo~

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Say Goodbye To Hollywood: revealing the 9th and final Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novel.

The first book in my Hollywood’s Garden of Allah series – The Garden on Sunset – came out in January 2012. Back then, my planned 9-novel rollicking ride through golden-era Hollywood still stretched before me like the yellow brick road through the advent of the talkies and then Technicolor; the search for Scarlett O’Hara; the fight over Citizen Kane; the war years at the Hollywood Canteen; the postwar rise of anti-Communism and its resulting blacklist; the decline of radio and the rise of television; movies going widescreen and 3-D and stereophonic, and anything else they could come up with to forestall the inevitable breakdown of the studio system.

There was so much story to tell, so much history to explore, and I was excited to plunge into it all. And now six years have flown by and suddenly we’re close to the end of the rollercoaster. This coming November (2018) I will be releasing the final novel in my series, but for now, I am excited to offer you a preview of what is coming.

CLOSING CREDITS

Book 9 in the Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels

by Martin Turnbull

DUE FOR RELEASE IN NOVEMBER 2018

"Closing Credits" - Book 9 in the Hollywood's Garden of Allah series by Martin Turnbull

This final book stretches from late 1955 to summer 1959 and is about the end of everything:

  • this series of novels
  • the 1950s and everything it represented
  • the restrictive Production Code
  • Hollywood’s golden-era studio system
  • the Garden of Allah Hotel

I wanted a cover that would represent all that, and decided that the Garden of Allah’s closing night party in late August 1959 symbolized it perfectly.

You can see a collection of photos taken that night HERE. As you’ll see, it was quite the merrymaking event.

I asked my cover designer, Dan Yeager to come up with an amalgamation of those images, and I think he’s done a marvelous job. It is also my hope that Closing Credits gives us a taste of what we missed out on, and a fond farewell as we come to that final, bittersweet THE END.

~oOo~

BOOK DESCRIPTION

Sometimes the end is only the beginning.

Kathryn Massey thought a long-forgotten secret was dead and buried—just like the 1950s are about to be—but when a mysterious list circulating Screenland ignites salacious rumors about the gossip columnist, it’s her life that now falls under the magnifying glass.

Marcus Adler is a rare survivor of the Hollywood blacklist. Beset by writer’s block, he’s intrigued by an abandoned box in the basement of the Garden of Allah Hotel. Its contents could rejuvenate his career—but cost him his reputation.

Gwendolyn Brick stumbled into the blossoming television industry. No fan of the spotlight, she’s conflicted by the opportunities coming her way. Things are about to change, and when she teams up with Lucille Ball, she won’t let the network stop the rapid march to progress.

On busy backlots and in quiet basements, secrets and lies dance with fame and failure amid Hollywood’s dying golden era. Nobody knows how this movie’s going to end . . . but it’ll be one for the ages.

Closing Credits is the ninth and final installment in Martin Turnbull’s Hollywood’s Garden of Allah saga.

~oOo~

The Garden of Allah Hotel as seen from Sunset Blvd, circa late 1940sThe Garden of Allah Hotel as seen from Sunset Blvd, circa late 1940s. (colorized)
It opened in January 1927 and closed in August 1959.

~oOo~

CHAPTER 1

Kathryn Massey wished she had a button on her desk labeled “SILENCE.” During the twenty years she’d worked in the Hollywood Reporter newsroom, she’d grown inured to the incessant shrieking of telephones, lewd comments thrown around like clay pigeons, and barking laughter at the expense of some studio peacock whose weekly salary exceeded the gross national product of a small European nation.

The zip and zing of sixty-five people battling to meet a collective deadline usually galvanized her into a feverish blur of fingertips pounding typewriter keys. But there were days when the din drowned her thoughts and she wished she could hit her SILENCE button and make the racket fade away.

This was one of those days.

She reached for her Chesterfields. The pack was empty, the ashtray filled to overflowing. She had worked hard to build Window on Hollywood into the read-first column that had filmland denizens asking, What is Kathryn Massey writing about today?

Tomorrow’s column addressed a subject that could point the way for a brand-new future for Hollywood. But only if she worded it exactly right.

She had just come from a press preview for The Man with the Golden Arm. The movie had everything going for it. Starring Frank Sinatra, directed by Otto Preminger, and based on a National Book Award–winning novel, it was about an ex-con’s attempt to kick his heroin habit. Stirring stuff. Gritty. Unflinching. And likely to be at the front of the line when it came time to hand out shiny awards—except for one little detail: the producers planned to release the picture without Production Code approval.

Preminger had done it with The Moon Is Blue, and that brave shot across the bow had paid off handsomely by pulling in eight times its budget. But this Sinatra movie, with its ex-cons, card sharks, strippers, and heroin addicts did more than break the Code’s rules; it was a double-fisted, middle-finger salute to the sacrosanct Code and the blue-nosed puritans whose morality was stuck in Victorian-era quicksand.

This was 1955, for crying out loud. What could and could not be depicted on screen needed to be overhauled—or better still, overturned. If The Man with the Golden Arm was the hundred-pound bowling ball to knock over those carefully arranged wooden pins, Kathryn was all for it.

And if she could word her column to persuade rather than browbeat, she might set the whole town talking. But she needed to say it right and at the moment, the squall around her served to distract rather than ignite.

She dropped the empty cigarette pack into her trashcan and cast around the office for a catalyst to kickstart her juices. What caught her eye, though, was the Reporter’s honey-blonde receptionist stomping toward the women’s bathroom. Deadline or not, the sight of this one-woman Sherman’s March to the Sea was worth investigating.

Her telephone buzzed.

“This is Kathryn Massey.”

“Are you free to talk discreetly?” Darryl Zanuck sounded as though every syllable was being throttled out of him.

“I’m sitting in a roomful of people all within spitballing distance.”

“I want to come see you.”

In the usual course of events, men like Zanuck issued a summons and people like Kathryn broke the speed limit to accommodate them.

“When did you have in mind?”

“Tonight. Your place.”

The “OH!” rocketed out of Kathryn before she had a chance to smooth away its sharp edges. “How’s about eight o’clock? I’m in number twelve.”

“Be sure Nelson Hoyt is there.”

He hung up, leaving her to wonder what the blue blazes had just happened. For Zanuck to request a meeting at the Garden of Allah was puzzling, but to ask that her private-eye boyfriend also be there was intriguing.

Kathryn’s mind returned to the vision of Cassandra beelining for the ladies’ room, and she got to her feet. She found the girl at the farthermost mirror repairing her watery mascara and parked herself at the neighboring vanity. “You okay?”

Cassandra reached into her purse and pulled out three sheets of paper that had been stapled together. She crumpled them between her knuckles like the bouquet of a bride jilted at the altar. “Mr. Wilkerson had me paw through yesterday’s trash to look for a memo he accidentally threw out.”

“Is that it?”

“No. This is a list of employees and their salaries.” Cassandra thrust the papers into Kathryn’s hand and told her to check the name at the bottom of the third page.

Kathryn smoothed out the papers on the vanity and flipped to the last page in the sheaf. Her eyes narrowed. The number wasn’t much but she guessed it was probably the going rate for a seventeen-year-old mailroom boy.

“Now look at my name, top of page two.”

Kathryn turned the sheet over. “You earn seven dollars a week less than the mailroom boy?”

“Yup, the one who’s been working here eleven months.”

“But you’ve—”

“Nearly ten years.”

Kathryn checked her salary against her own name. The amount was accurate. “You want me to take this to Wilkerson?”

“Look at Mike’s figure.”

From the day Mike Connolly had arrived at the Reporter, Kathryn had suffered through a love-hate relationship with the guy who wrote the other high-profile column. He had pushed The Rambling Reporter to admirable prominence, but his snide tone and underhanded tactics left her wishing he’d creep back to Daily Variety, from whence he’d slithered.

She stared mutely at the number beside his name until Cassandra asked, “Do you feel like puking?”

“I’ve been here for twenty years. I had a radio show. I helped elevate the Hollywood Reporter name to national prominence. I—I’m—”

“—paid a whole bunch less?”

Kathryn sat immobile, transfixed by a whirlpool of emotions. It was outrageous. Stupefying. Downright insulting was what it was. “Do you mind if I hang on to this?”

“You can cut it up and make paper dolls, for all I care.”

On the hike back to her desk, Kathryn counted seven women, including herself and Cassandra. Of the ten lowest-paid staff members, eight of them were women. She was the only one on a decent salary.

She picked up the phone and buzzed Billy Wilkerson’s secretary to see if he was available. Vera told her he was at Santa Anita and wouldn’t be in the office until tomorrow. Kathryn inserted the papers into the zippered side pocket of her handbag. “One campaign at a time,” she told herself, and turned back to her typewriter.

* * *

By the time eight bells chimed on her mantle clock, Kathryn had decided it was just as well that her boss had been at the racetrack. If she’d come roaring in, guns blazing like Annie Oakley, she might’ve ended up shooting herself in the foot. Taking the time to consider all approaches might result in a more equitable outcome—and not just for her, but for every female employee at the Reporter.

“Am I fooling myself?” she asked Nelson.

“About what?” He knew as well as Kathryn did that this was likely to be no ordinary meeting, so he’d stirred up a pitcher of martinis.

“Men are paid more because they have families to raise, kids to send to college, Elks Lodge fees to pay.”

“You don’t actually believe that, do you?” he asked.

Even as she’d said it out loud, she knew she was regurgitating all the drivel Wilkerson would give her. “No, but I’m not sure which way to play it.”

“Are you asking for advice, or do you just need an ear to bend?” He moved aside the vase of pink and mauve peonies she’d arranged to distract her anxious hands.

“You’re a guy, too,” she said drily, “so your loyalty is questionable.”

He kissed her lightly on the cheek. “Do I get extra points for being a guy who’s one hundred percent on your side?”

She smiled. Their rock-strewn trail to romance used to feel like the plot of an over-baked Ida Lupino picture. But once they’d dropped all pretenses that the relationship couldn’t work, everything had fallen into place.

Their summer had been a glorious kaleidoscope of candlelit dinners, Sunday picnics on Malibu Beach, holding hands at the movies, and splurging on expensive champagne that neither of them could sensibly afford. But the first bloom of a new love was not the time to be sensible. Not even if that new love was on its second go-around.

“Yes,” she told him. “You get ten extra points.”

A soft tap-tap-tap wasn’t what Kathryn expected from a movie mogul. Then again, a home visit was unprecedented too. Kathryn pulled at the cuffs of her blouse before she opened the door.

Darryl Zanuck usually held himself like a Roman general. Tonight, however, he looked every inch the sort of five-foot-six guy who wished he were six-foot-five.

He stepped into Kathryn’s vestibule with a reticence she wouldn’t have believed possible if she weren’t witnessing it firsthand. “Thank you for making the time.” He threaded the brim of his Homburg through his fingers.

Kathryn made the introductions and led Zanuck into the living room, where she gave him the choice of sofa or dining room chair. He threw the hat onto the dining table.

As Nelson poured the martinis, she took a seat beside Zanuck. “I assume you’re here for something that ought not be discussed at the office?”

Zanuck reached into his jacket and pulled out a sheet of paper folded into thirds. “I received this in the mail.” He hadn’t looked Kathryn in the eye yet. “It came to the house marked ‘Strictly Private and Confidential.’” He unfolded the paper and laid it in front of her.

None of the twenty names in the neatly typed column sounded familiar. “Who are these women? Ex-girlfriends?”

“Jesus! How many women do you think I’ve had?”

She threw Zanuck a look that said, Don’t make me answer that.

He chugged a mouthful of martini that must have burned his throat. “I don’t have a clue who they are, but you’re as well connected in this town as anyone I know. Probably even better.”

“I suppose that’s true.”

“Do you know any of these names?”

One of them near the bottom—Lorelei Boothe—looked familiar, but only in the vaguest way. Or was she thinking of Lorelei Lee, the character Marilyn had played in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes? “Sorry, but I don’t.”

Zanuck turned to Nelson. “I want to hire you to look into these women.”

Nelson took the paper from Kathryn. “I can certainly do that. My daily retainer—”

“Christ only knows where your investigations might lead—” he pressed his forefinger to the table “—so it goes without saying that you must exercise the utmost discretion.”

“Of course.”

“And that goes for you, too,” Zanuck told Kathryn. “If you promise to keep this on the Q.T., I can offer you the scoop of the year.”

No word in the English language possessed the power to set Kathryn Massey’s heart fluttering like the word scoop. Especially when followed by those three delicious qualifiers: of the year. She sipped her martini, then sipped it again for reinforcement. “I’m all ears.”

Zanuck let a moment tick by. Two villas away, Doris Adler was holding a cribbage party, although given the loud chatter punctuated with bursts of laughter, Kathryn doubted that much cribbage was being played.

“I’m moving to Europe to start a new life with Bella Darvi,” he said.

During her time in Hollywood, Kathryn had witnessed the careers of czars like Zanuck come to an end. Virtually every one had had to be dragged from his office, fingernails raking the carpet.

“That’s quite a step,” she said evenly.

His eyes came to rest on Kathryn’s reproduction of a Maxfield Parrish painting called “The Garden of Allah”—a neoclassic image of a languid trio of gauze-draped women lounging at the edge of a pool. “I’m following my heart for once.”

“Thank you for trusting me with this.” Her mind was whirling: she had been planning how to confront her boss about the insulting pay disparity, but she knew that she’d need as much firepower as she could muster—and this earthquake had landed in her lap right when she needed it.

“I have a condition,” Zanuck said, interrupting her thoughts.

“Name it.”

“You have to sit on this news until I’m ready to announce it.”

“And when—?”

“February at the latest.”

Three months. News this big was like smoke in a wicker basket: likely to leak out at any time. It’d be a miracle if Louella Parsons or Hedda Hopper or Sheilah Graham didn’t catch wind of it first. Or worse, Mike Connolly.

“Can I have your word?” Zanuck asked.

“Absolutely.” She pointed to the list. “May I keep it?”

“All yours.” He followed Kathryn to the front door. Stepping outside, he said, “I’ve always heard about this place. It’s nice. Cozy. Got atmosphere.”

“You should’ve been here in the twenties and thirties.”

His eyes sparked with long-dormant memory. “Prohibition! Those were the days, weren’t they?” He jammed his hat on his head. “But nothing lasts forever.”

She listened to the sound of the gravel crunching under his Mullen & Bluett shoes and watched him dissolve into the shadows.

~oOo~

CLOSING CREDITS is due for release in NOVEMBER 2018

~oOo~

Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels:

Book 1 – The Garden on Sunset
Book 2 – The Trouble with Scarlett
Book 3 – Citizen Hollywood
Book 4 – Searchlights and Shadows
Book 5 – Reds in the Beds
Book 6 – Twisted Boulevard
Book 7 – Tinseltown Confidential
Book 8 – City of Myths
Book 9 – Closing Credits (due out November 2018)

~oOo~

The Hollywood's Garden of Allah series by Martin Turnbull - all 9 titles

~oOo~

http://martinturnbull.us5.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=62c973885c7e930d8b9a754aa&id=e5f41676a2~oOo~

 

 

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