My Big Fat Hollywood Meeting

Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d be writing before I even published my first novel:

This week I met with a film producer who has approached me about adapting my novels for the screen.

But before I go into that, let me take you a few steps back so that you can appreciate the bigger picture here.

Garden of Allah hotel logo

When I first read about the Garden of Allah, I was surprised I’d never heard of the place. I’ve been reading about Hollywood since I was a teenager and here was a hotel where Errol Flynn stayed when he first came to L.A. So did Sinatra. And F. Scott Fitzgerald. Bogie was there while he was wooing Bacall. And it was the hotel-of-choice for Algonquin Round Table members, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley. The list went on and on. How did I not know about this place??? So I started researching it, and the thing that immediately struck me about the Garden of Allah was that it opened in 1927, the year the talkies hit Hollywood, and it closed in 1959, the year the studio system fell apart. So the Garden of Allah Hotel witnessed the entire golden years of Hollywood.

PING! An idea was born: I could tell the story of the heyday of Hollywood through the eyes of the hotel that was there to see it all. From the advent of the talkies to the onslaught of television, there was a terrific story to be told and I’d found a great angle from which to tell it. Egads! This story virtually sells itself.

Or so I thought.

So I went ahead, researched the era, plotted out all nine books covering all 32 years that the Garden was open, and wrote the first book. Then I drew up a list of 46 literary agents who were likely to be interested and, as detailed on this blog, I approached each one of them. I didn’t really worry about the rejections–it comes with the territory and all I needed was one yes. I saw this as a strong idea with broad commercial appeal and it was a series. In case you haven’t noticed, everything’s a series nowadays. So when every last agent told me to, in effect, get lost, I was left thinking, Really…? You don’t see the appeal here…? REALLY??? (Mind you, these are the same people who said “NO!” to The Help–60 times–before someone said, “HELL, YES!” and now the book’s sold something like five million copies.)


So I went the self-published route and have been very happy with the whole experience. But through this whole process, from Big Idea Day until about a month ago, it was really just me and my laptop creating this world, or more accurately re-creating it, tapping away hoping somebody else would see the potential in this story. And the whole time, I kept thinking, Wow, this would make a great mini-series. It has a definite start–the day the hotel opened, and a definite end–the day it closes. You could have all sorts of modern-day stars cameoing the likes of Garbo, Crawford, Cukor, deMille, Parker, Flynn. It could be great!

"Yes, but who vill play me in zee mini series...?"

Then an email arrived about a month ago from someone saying he was a film producer, had just learned about the Garden of Allah, googled it to find my website, and asked me where he could find my books. It’s a wonder I didn’t leap for joy while simultaneously peeing my pants and choking on a snickerdoodle, but I didn’t. But when it arrived, I was deeply in Final Edit Mode, and that’s such an ass-kicking, mother-humper of a process that I didn’t pay much attention beyond, Oh really? You’re a…ahem…“film producer”…? Aren’t we all, man. Whatever. He seemed nice, though, so I emailed him back and told him that the first one would be out at the end of December, and then sort of forgot about him.

But then…

I posted my first chapter online and he emailed to say that he was very interested and keen to see an advance copy, if that were possible, and when can we meet? It look us a while to find a mutually-convenient date but we agreed on Tuesday of this week. That’s when I realized I’d finally met someone who saw the potential of this story and I haven’t just been deluding myself that this could make a great…something-or-other.

So, my first big, fat Hollywood meeting was really just a cup of coffee at the café around the corner, but it went very well. I told him how I’d researched the whole thing, plotted out nine books covering the golden years of Hollywood, telling the history of Hollywood through the eyes of the people who lived through it all. He totally got it, totally loved it, totally dug it.

Boardwalk Empire

We talked, too, about Boardwalk Empire (an HBO show set in 1920s Prohibition era Atlantic City) and the parallels between the two stories. He said that it has been a success across the board – commercially, critically, creatively, ratingsly (is that a word?), especially with the 21-to-34 demographic, which surprised me. I wouldn’t have thought that that generation would have cared about what happened in the far distant past.

So I asked him where do we go from here. He told me he’d be very happy to receive as much as I cared to show him whenever I was ready to show him. He didn’t pressure me but let me know that he’s keen to see my work. So yesterday I sent him the final draft.

This is all rather exciting…potentially. I imagine the sort of conversation we had goes on in this town 100 times a day, and at least 98 of them go nowhere. And of the two that do, one of them gets totally ripped off. Of course, the history of this town is the history of people ripping off other people, stealing their stories and ideas, and gypping them out of what’s their due. I don’t know that I’m smart enough to be the 1 in 100 who skates through unscathed, but it does happen so we’ll see. With any luck, not to mention canny legal maneuvering and blatant sucking up (do they have casting couches for writers?) The Garden of Allah might be coming to a screen near you.

Read the first chapter of The Garden on Sunset now!

~~~ ~~~


About Martin Turnbull

The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels blog is by Martin Turnbull, a Los Angeles based historical fiction author writing about the golden era of Hollywood in his series of novels set at the Garden of Allah Hotel, which stood on Sunset Blvd from 1927 to 1959. Check him out at and Facebook: "gardenofallahnovels"
This entry was posted in Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to My Big Fat Hollywood Meeting

  1. Cheryl Walters says:

    Marty this is very exciting news, l have my fingers & toes crossed for you! I cannot wait to buy the first book, sit down and the couch & read away. How much longer????

    • Thanks, Cheryl. Publishing this way entails that you upload three different versions: the paperback version, the Amazon Kindle ebook version, and the everyone-else ebook version (i.e. for the Barnes & Noble Nook, the Sony Kobo, Apple’s iBook and whole bunch of others.) The process isn’t hard, but it is fiddly and fraught with unintended errors. Then, after you’ve uploaded each version, they go through their own automatic checking, formatting and verification process before they go live. As an author, you can’t really chose when that date it because it depends on everything being correct, and how many other authors are in lined up ahead of you. So you book goes live when it goes live, and not a minute before. But assuming all of this goes according to plan, all version should be live by the end of the year. Keep those fingers and toes for me!

  2. Jaye says:

    Wowza, Martin. This is cool news. Just goes to prove that hard work, more hard work, a bit of luck, and yet more hard work really do pay off.

    Now don’t go all Hollyweird on us (what is considered weird in Hollywood these days? Anything? Black silk pajamas and ivory cigarette holder? Being carried around town in a giant egg? I’m so out of touch.)

    I’m so excited about the book coming out. Can’t wait to read the whole thing.

  3. Pingback: A Quick Update | J W Manus

  4. Isabelle says:

    Garden of Allah is mentioned in several, if not every, bio written about Valentino. His second wife, Natacha Rambova, was a protege of Nazimova. I also read about the Garden in at least 1 bio on Clara Bow and is also mentioned in several Tallulah Bankhead bios. Strange that a prolific reader of old Hollywood never heard mention of this magical place before? Good luck with your book.

    • Thanks, Isabelle. I know! How did I miss this. I didn’t get around to reading those bios you mentioned until I’d started my research. Then suddenly I found it was everywhere. Just one of those crazy things, I guess.

  5. I’m positively giddy over the prospect of this! May you be in the 2 percent….

    • Philip – if you’re positively giddy over the prospect if this, it’s probably a contact high you’re getting from me. Who knows if this’ll actually go anywhere–it was, after all, just a cup of coffee–but I’d imagine that many of the movies and TV shows we love were conceived over a cup of coffee (and/or martini, extra dry, and don’t be stingy with the olives.)

  6. Woolsey says:

    Wow! You have gotten yourself out there, you are living your dream and that is what really counts and I believe something will come of this!

  7. Pingback: Lights! Action! The Garden on Sunset, by Martin Turnbull « Jaye's Love Affair With Genre Fiction

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