I am now ready (and excited!) to reveal details of the next book in my Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels.
Book 5 picks up a couple of months after the end of WWII. With Hitler and his Nazis finally vanquished, America was settling into peacetime when the specter of a whole new enemy appeared: the Communist threat. And fast on its heels rose the HUAC – House un-American Activities Committee – wielding its self-appointed power like a viking sword.
Here is the cover:
I focused on the microphones because we’re now in the late 1940s when radio was still king. The most powerful microphones in the country were the ones in Hollywood — everyone listened to what Hollywood had to say, and that’s the way Hollywood liked it. But then along came the House un-American Activities Committee who turned their microphones against them. Hollywood was left scrambling to defend itself.
To give you a better idea of what to expect, here is the book’s description:
REDS IN THE BEDS
Book 5 in the Garden of Allah novels
by Martin Turnbull
Hollywood history is more than just colorful. It’s dripping with red.
As World War II ends, a new boogieman emerges: the Red Menace. When a scandal accuses Tinseltown of being riddled with Communists, MGM writing department head Marcus Adler needs to keep his reputation beyond reproach. Unfortunately in Hollywood, nobody’s past is spotless.
While the House un-American Activities Committee prepares to grill the brightest stars in town, gossip columnist Kathryn Massey is doing everything she can to shed the FBI informer mantle she carried during the war. Desperate to avoid tangling with a notorious mobster, Massey may have to take on J. Edgar Hoover himself to secure her freedom.
The war killed Gwendolyn Brick’s dream of opening her own store, but valuable secrets can creep into the strangest of places. From behind the perfume counter at Bullocks Wilshire, Brick makes a shocking discovery that could revive her dream and change multiple lives for good.
In postwar Hollywood, there are reds in the beds, the sharks are circling, and it’s feeding time.
Reds in the Beds is the fifth installment in the Hollywood’s Garden of Allah saga, a series of historical novels set in Hollywood’s heyday. If you like authentic and richly-detailed history, compelling and memorable characters, and seeing fiction and history seamlessly woven together, then you’ll love Martin Turnbull’s authentic portrayal of the City of Angels.
Flip through the pages to see Hollywood’s history come to life before your eyes.
And here now is the first chapter:
Kathryn Massey unclenched her fists and wiped the clamminess from her palms as best she could with a pitifully inadequate lace handkerchief. She hadn’t expected to be this nervous—it was hardly the first time she’d appeared on the radio—but she’d never shouldered the duties of host by herself. With only a few minutes before showtime, she could feel sweat prickling her scalp, so she cast about the Hollywood Canteen for distraction.
She found it in the indomitable form of Bette Davis shouldering through the crowd like General MacArthur storming the Pacific. First to the sandwich table, then the coffee station, where she stopped by a cluster of tuxedoed Warner Bros. executives before she pressed her way through a jungle of servicemen toward Kathryn, shaking hands as she went.
Bette’s famously large eyes bulged when she broke free of the throng. “Heavens!” she exclaimed, accepting Kathryn’s hand to help her climb onto the edge of the stage. “What I wouldn’t give for a bourbon!”
“What else did you expect on closing night?” Kathryn glanced over at Harry James and his orchestra, who’d launched into “Waitin’ for the Train to Come In.” It was her cue that she’d be up next. She wiped her hands again on the limp handkerchief.
Bette shrugged. “I can scarcely believe it’s all coming to an end.” She examined Kathryn’s face. “Are you as nervous as you look?”
For over two years now, Kathryn had appeared on the Kraft Music Hall radio show as the resident Hollywood gossip columnist, and had proved that she could match Bing Crosby’s impromptu banter quip for quip. A couple of weeks ago, NBC approached her with an idea for a special broadcast from the Hollywood Canteen on its closing night. “Bing’s going to be back East promoting Duffy’s Tavern,” they said, “so we want you to host it.”
Kathryn figured if she could pull this off, who knows what it might lead to. Her own show? She’d barely been able to contain her excitement, but now the dread that she might screw it up was pressing on her shoulders.
As the Harry James orchestra plowed into its final sixteen bars, Bette and Kathryn positioned themselves in front of the chrome microphone with “NBC” painted in red along the base. A technician at his console held up his right hand. He folded his fingers one by one until he was down to his thumb. Kathryn took a deep breath and leaned into the mike.
“A big hello to all our radio listeners across these United States. My name is Kathryn Massey, and I am thrilled to welcome you to a very special edition of Kraft Music Hall.” While Harry James played the show’s jaunty theme music, the navy blue and army green uniforms erupted into a roar. “We are broadcasting to you live from the world-famous Hollywood Canteen, which closes its doors tonight.
“We have a number of special guests, and I’ll be welcoming them to the stage very soon. But first, I want to thank and congratulate the woman without whom the Hollywood Canteen would never have become such a vital epicenter of the war effort here.” Kathryn raised her arms. “Come on, fellas, help me give the loudest cheer you can muster to the tireless Miss Bette Davis!”
This time, the crowd—not just the servicemen, but the dance hostesses, kitchen staff, and all the volunteers—let loose with a foot-stomping ovation so thunderous that the wagon-wheel chandeliers started to sway.
“Thank you, everybody!” Bette shouted into the mike. “Really, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, it’s been my greatest pleasure and deepest honor to serve our brave boys.” She wrapped her arm around Kathryn’s waist. “It’s the least we could do.”
As the applause subsided, Kathryn showed the crowd a piece of cardboard. “Bette, I want you to read the statistics printed on this card to show the people at home what an undertaking this has been.”
Bette took the card and scanned the figures. “The Hollywood Canteen has been open three years, one month, and twenty-eight days, during which time we have fed nearly four million servicemen, poured nine million cups of coffee . . .”
As Bette made her way down the list, Kathryn looked across the hundreds of faces, every last one of them thrilled to make it into what had become a Los Angeles institution during the war. But then the one brooding face among a thousand buoyant ones caught her eye. She swallowed hard.
Halfway through the war, Kathryn had been recruited by the FBI. It was more like conscription than recruitment, really, leaving her little option but to spy on her neighbors, friends, and co-workers. For Kathryn Massey, the face of the FBI was Nelson Hoyt, who stood in the crowd smiling that unctuous smile of his. She hadn’t seen it since a particularly nasty clash outside the NBC studios on the day Japan surrendered. But here he was, popping up again like a groundhog with distemper.
Kathryn felt Bette’s fingernails jab into her waist. Bette’s eyes flared. For God’s sake, say something!
“Thank you, Bette,” Kathryn burst out. “Four million thank-yous, one for each of the servicemen who have passed through these doors.” Her first guest joined them on stage. “Next up, I am excited to welcome one of America’s favorite vocalists, here to treat us with a slice of ‘Shoo-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy.’ Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Miss Dinah Shore!”
* * *
A dry Santa Ana wind blew along Cahuenga Boulevard as Kathryn lit up a Chesterfield and leaned against the Canteen’s northern wall. Apart from that one little glitch near the top of the show, everything had gone exceptionally well, but she hadn’t approached the NBC brass yet. She needed a cigarette first.
“I believe congratulations are in order.”
Ugh. Kathryn fired off her best stink-eye. “I think the show went very well.”
“I’m talking about your recent nuptials.”
“I hoped I’d seen the last of you.”
“I take it your mother was happy to learn you’d finally settled down?”
My mother? The streetlamp behind Hoyt’s left shoulder threw his face into shadow, obscuring his smile. But Kathryn could tell from his tone that it was more of a smirk. “Of course,” she lied.
“Married life is treating you well?”
“It is.” At least that much was true. Kathryn and her husband had found a way to make their marriage work—a plan that chiefly entailed separate villas at the Garden of Allah. She started for the Canteen’s entrance, but he stopped her with a simple statement.
“I have something I need to ask you.”
When the FBI says it has a question, a girl had better stop. Kathryn turned her head toward him.
“Ring Lardner Junior. How well do you know him?”
The non sequitur propelled Kathryn to face Hoyt more squarely. “The screenwriter?” When he nodded and crossed his arms, she knew she had to give him some sort of answer. Intuition told her to downplay any contact she’d had with him. “He and Garson Kanin holed themselves up with Katharine Hepburn in the villa next to mine to bash out the screenplay for Woman of the Year. Outside of that, I’ve seen him at parties here and there.”
“What about Lewis Milestone?”
The sudden switch piqued Kathryn’s curiosity. “He directed The North Star, which Lillian Hellman wrote. She’s one of my neighbors. I went to the premiere at the Carthay Circle, and Lillian introduced us. He and I had such a long chat that I turned it into an interview, mostly about the war movies they—”
“I read the interview.”
She threw her hands up, wishing now she’d made her getaway. “Then why even ask me?”
“One more, and I’ll let you go back inside.” Passing headlights caught him full in the face. He smiled again, this time not nearly so smugly, and it reminded her that he was halfway decently attractive. For an FBI fink. She made a go-ahead-ask-your-damned-question gesture.
Kathryn tried to cover her surprise with a cough, but knew the guy was too shrewd to be fooled. He would be aware that Leilah’s husband headed up security at Warners, but did he also know she ran a trio of high-class brothels? Or that her best friend, Gwendolyn Brick, had sold Leilah black-market nylon stockings during the war?
“She shops regularly at Bullocks Wilshire, where my ex-roommate works. Gwendolyn’s mentioned her a few times.”
Hoyt nodded slowly.
“What do these people have in common?” Kathryn ventured.
“Who said they had anything in common?”
Kathryn stubbed out her cigarette into the gravel. “Suit yourself, Mister Mysterious.” She headed for the Canteen’s front door and didn’t even break her stride when he called out,
“See you around . . . Mrs. Adler.”
* * *
For a couple of hours, Kathryn worked the donut table with Martha Raye and Billie Burke until there was nothing left to hand out, and then accepted a series of invitations to dance. Even though she wasn’t officially a hostess, she figured it was the final night, so she said yes to every soldier, sailor, marine, and pilot who asked her.
It was one o’clock in the morning when she looked around for Bette to say goodbye. The kitchen supervisor guessed that Bette was hiding in the office. “But knock gently, she’s probably asleep.”
Kathryn pushed open the office door and peeked inside. Bette was sitting on the ratty sofa with her shoes kicked off, resting her feet on a stack of city directories. One hand held a half-filled tumbler of something Kathryn guessed was stronger than grape Kool-Aid.
“Come in if you’ve got a light,” Bette told her.
“Since when is Bette Davis without means to light a cigarette?” Kathryn asked.
“Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be caught dead without matches,” Bette said, “but this ain’t no ordinary night.” She held out her cigarette while Kathryn pulled a book of Mocambo matches from her purse.
Kathryn lit it, then one for herself, and joined Bette on the sofa. “You going to miss all this?”
“It’s been a hell of a lot of work,” Bette admitted, “but so damned fulfilling in ways I never imagined when we first started.”
“You should be very proud,” Kathryn said. “Tonight went off without a hitch.”
“It did,” Bette said, “except for that moment at the top of the broadcast. Rule number one: No dead air.”
“Don’t remind me!” Kathryn helped herself to a slug of Bette’s tumbler. Whiskey. Expensive.
“So who was he? The handsome puss with the chin and the smirk. Don’t tell me you’ve taken a lover already. You’ve only been married three months. That’s the last thing I need to hear—I’m getting hitched soon.”
Kathryn had put off spilling the truth. She’d told Humphrey Bogart, but that had backfired and she found herself mired even more deeply with the Bureau. Still, Kathryn needed to do something, and Bette Davis knew a thing or two about survival.
“Remember that night you sang on Kraft Music Hall? We were in my dressing room when the New York Times arrived for an interview.”
“Sure I do.”
Kathryn gulped another belt of Bette’s whiskey. “The Times thing was just a cover. He’s actually with the FBI.”
“NO!” Kathryn had never suspected Bette Davis was so shockable. “What did he want?”
“To recruit me as an informer.”
“The Bureau harbored strong suspicions that Bogie was a Commie.”
Bette got up from the sofa and headed for one of the filing cabinets, where she pulled out a half-empty bottle. “Don’t stop now.”
“Long story short: I told Bogie, and we hatched a plan. We nearly got away with it, but not quite. All I managed to do was piss off the Bureau, who then threatened to short-circuit my career by spreading a rumor that I’m a lesbian unless I did what they wanted.”
“Bastards! Wait—is that why you got married so suddenly? And your husband, the screenwriter, is he your actual husband, if you catch my meaning?”
Kathryn could feel her face reddening. This was the first time she’d alluded to her sham marriage to someone outside the Garden of Allah. It made her feel naked.
Bette dropped back onto the sofa and held her refilled tumbler out for Kathryn. “I’ve long suspected that you’re far more interesting than you appeared. I’m glad to know I was right.” She let out a belch, then paused for a moment before she said, “You know how all my Canteen volunteers were ID’d and fingerprinted by the FBI?”
“You said it was just a formality.”
“Yeah, well, about a year ago I found out that they had this place under surveillance.”
“In their eyes, my policy of allowing anyone of any race to dance with whomever they wished was a breeding ground for Communism. They convinced themselves that the Commies sent party members in here to stir up trouble. They expected a race riot every night!”
Kathryn could feel the soothing effects of Bette’s high-priced booze calm her Nelson-Hoyt jitters. “That’s absurd.”
“Try and tell them that. They now suspect me of being a Communist. Or at least a sympathizer. Does that make me a pinko? I can never keep that baloney straight. It’s such a relief that we’ve made it to the end without so much as a flicker of a race riot.”
Kathryn got to her feet. It was getting close to two a.m. and she was beat. “I’m glad your tango with the FBI has come to an end,” she told Bette. “I fear mine is only halfway through.”
Bette alighted from the sofa and took Kathryn’s hands in hers. “You can’t let them do this. Didn’t we just fight a world war to ensure we keep our First Amendment rights? Otherwise, what the hell was the last three and a half years for? We need to come up with a way to get them off your back.”
Kathryn felt tears sheen her eyes. It had never occurred to her that someone like Bette Davis would leap to her defense. Bette had a lot to lose if the FBI decided to take her down. “But what can we do?”
“I haven’t the foggiest idea,” Bette said, squeezing Kathryn’s hands. “Tell you what. Bill and I are getting married at the end of the month. Once we’re back from the honeymoon, let’s get together. I’ll make sure the maître d’ at Chasen’s gives us a quiet corner booth. Surely we can come up with something, because if a couple of smart broads like us can’t do it, then this whole damn country is in far worse trouble than either of us realized.”
Reds in the Beds is due for release January 2016
For tons of photos and information about the places and people mentioned in the Garden of Allah novels, visit Martin Turnbull on Facebook.
“Martin Turnbull has succeeded in doing what would seem to be the impossible – transporting readers to the Golden Age of Hollywood with a story that has its main characters mixing and mingling with the people and at the places all classic movie-aholics have heard about for so many years.” – Amazon review for The Trouble with Scarlett
“Martin Turnbull is a master at historical fiction. He isn’t afraid to name names, air the dirty laundry, or reveal the (literal) skeletons in the closet. Citizen Hollywood is sexy, gritty, and cheeky, yet still retains its moments of tenderness without sentimentality bogging down the text.” Shylock Books blog
What a wonderful storyteller. Mr. Turnbull captures the era of old Hollywood so perfectly you do not want the book to end. I am now on the third in the series and the quality of the writing never flags. If you love this period in the movies you must read these books. – Amazon review of Citizen Hollywood
This is one of the best, most compelling, well-written series of old Hollywood. From the very first paragraph of the very first book, you are right there in the Garden of Allah. The novels are totally believable, well executed and thought out, take a chance on this series and you won’t be disappointed. Amazon review of Searchlights and Shadows