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.
Book 9 in the Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels
by Martin Turnbull
DUE FOR RELEASE IN NOVEMBER 2018
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.
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.
The Garden of Allah Hotel as seen from Sunset Blvd, circa late 1940s. (colorized)
It opened in January 1927 and closed in August 1959.
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.”
“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.”
“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.
“You have to sit on this news until I’m ready to announce it.”
“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.
CLOSING CREDITS is due for release in NOVEMBER 2018
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)