Dancing the Mambo Italiano at the Garden of Allah…and other news

Almost exactly this time last year, I launched the Spanish versions of my first two novels – The Garden on Sunset aka El Jardin en Sunset –and– The Trouble with Scarlett aka El Problema con Scarlett. I’m very pleased to announce that The Garden on Sunset is now available in Italian, too!

Translator Stefania Canavese approached me a few months ago, saying that she’d discovered my book and would love the opportunity to translate it into Italian. She willingly agreed to my request that she translate the first chapter so that I could give it to a couple of my Italian-speaking friends. They both said Stefania had done a first-rate job. So I handed over custody of Marcus, Kathryn, and Gwendolyn and let her loose in the Garden. And here is the result:

IL GIARDINO SUL SUNSET (The Garden on Sunset)

IL GIARDINO SUL SUNSET (The Garden on Sunset)

The ebook is available through all these channels:

Amazon (US)

Amazon (UK)

Amazon (Italy)

Mondadori store (Italy)

La Feltrinelli (Italy)

Buecher.de (Germany)

Weltbild (Switzerland)


Barnes & Noble Nook



. . . and in other news . . .

I’ve been asked a few times about the current status of the screen option that was taken out by film producer, Tabrez Noorani, so I thought I’d let you all know that Tabrez (who is now making his directorial debut with Love, Sonia starring Freida Pinto) has extended our original 18-month agreement for another 18 months. He’s still very keen to shepherd this project to the screen, but this process takes an inordinately long stretch of time. Watch this space for further development.

I’ve also been asked about the next Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novel. Yes, there will be a 6th book (and a 7th, 8th, and 9th book, taking us up to the August 1959 closing of the Garden of Allah Hotel.)

Progress is coming along nicely. I’m at the phase that I call “The EEK! This is 30,000 words too long! Where are my monstrously large pruning clippers? Stage.” Even though I’ve been through this  five times before, it’s still hard to cut words/sentences/paragraphs/chapters that seemed precious and necessary through the first four drafts. I have a title in mind, and the sort of cover I want, but I’m not ready to share them with you…yet…but that’s not too far away!



Hollywood’s Garden of Allah Novels on Facebook

Martin Turnbull’s official Amazon author page


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”


The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels by Martin Turnbull~~oOo~~



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Pillow talk with “Reds in the Beds” – and an audio book tip!

Recently, I received an email from a lovely woman in Connecticut who started reading my books the old-school way: via paperback. Then she was given a Kindle for Christmas, so she migrated to the ebooks. And then she got a new job, which required a much longer commute, which cut into what used to be her reading time. She wrote to say how pleased she was that I made my novels available on audio book because now she soaks them up while driving the country roads of New England.

She told me that the audio format is now her favorite way to “read” my books because it feels like a more intimate experience. I’d never thought about that before, so I asked her why. She replied saying that it feels like she’s in the car with a good pal who is telling her about what’s been happening with some mutual friends: Marcus, Kathryn, and Gwendolyn. She said it’s almost like pillow talk because she gets to “hear first hand about their lives and loves and ups and downs.”

I thought it was an ironic way to put it – “pillow talk” – considering the name of my latest audio release is book 5 in the series: Reds in the Beds.

"Reds in the Beds" by Martin Turnbull - audiobook cover

I am very pleased and excited to announce the release of the audio book version of book 5 in the “Hollywood’s Garden of Allah” series: Reds in the Beds.

My narrator – Lance Roger Axt – has done a terrific job of bringing post-war Hollywood to life as we follow Marcus, Kathryn and Gwendolyn through the darkly uncertain times of a Hollywood besieged by the boogieman-du-jour, the Red Scare.

The Reds in the Beds audio book is available through:


Garden on Sunset Audiobook cover SMALLAnd for people who are audio book fans, I have a handy little hint that I’ve just become aware of. Tech blogger Dave Taylor recently used my first book – The Garden on Sunset – to illustrate how listeners can save and share their favorite passages from the audio books they’re listening to. He explains how to do it on his post:
Share fave passages from Audible.com audio books


“Reds in the Beds” 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.


The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels by Martin Turnbull~~~oOo~~~

Grab your free books now (limited time offer)~~~oOo~~~


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Announcing the release of Book Five of Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels: “REDS IN THE BEDS”

"Reds in the Beds" - book 5 - Martin Turnbull

I am very happy to announce that my new novel


is now available!


The action picks up a couple of months after the end of WWII, on November 2nd, 1945 at the closing of an iconic wartime institution for Angelenos and servicemen passing through LA: the Hollywood Canteen. What nobody can foresee is that instead of settling back into civilian life, Hollywood is soon caught up in battle with a new demon: the rise of anti-Communism.

It wasn’t until I was almost finished writing my first draft of Reds in the Beds that I became aware of the movie Trumbo (2015) starring Bryan Cranston. Dalton Trumbo wasTrumbo_(2015_film)_poster a highly respected and highly paid screenwriter at MGM when the House un-American Activities Committee descended on Hollywood. One of my protagonists, Marcus Adler, works at MGM and while Trumbo isn’t a character in the book, he is mentioned a number of times. In a variety of ways, Trumbo became the face of the Hollywood blacklist who struggled for years to regain his career after serving 11 months in a Kentucky penitentiary. How could I not mention him? Especially as the Hollywood blacklist came about largely at the hands of the boss of another of my characters, Kathryn Massey.

The fact that this movie surfaced while I was writing about the same events during the same period got me wondering about how Trumbo’s story and the lessons learned (or not learned) surrounding the events of the Hollywood blacklist still resonate. In reality, there were members of the Communist Party in Hollywood, but their numbers and the influence they brought to bear on the content of Hollywood movies was a meager fraction of the picture the HUAC was intent on painting. It’s about how public perception is everything and once that mud has been slung, it’s very hard to wash clean away. And that principle is as true today as it was back then.


“Reds in the Beds” 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.


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


Reds in the Beds is available in all formats.

Martin Turnbull with "Reds in the Beds" - January 2016

Martin Turnbull with “Reds in the Beds” – January 2016

Amazon (US) paperback

Amazon (US) Kindle ebook

Amazon (UK) paperback

Amazon (UK) Kindle ebook

Amazon (Australia) Kindle ebook

Barnes & Noble Nook ebook

Barnes & Noble paperback

Apple iBook ebook

Kobo ebook

Book Depository paperback (free worldwide shipping)

For more information see the Reds in the Beds page of my website.


And when you have read it (assuming, of course, that you enjoyed it), if you have the chance and inclination, I’d really appreciate it if you could leave a review on 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!


Have you read Book One yet?

is currently available for FREE in ebook formats.

"The Garden on Sunset" by Martin Turnbull

More information can be found on my website.


If you enjoy seeing old photos of Hollywood and Los Angeles, and of the people and personalities that populated it, follow me on Facebook: gardenofallahnovels


And a personal note to everyone who has read my previous Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels and took the time to tell me how much they enjoyed them, I’d like to take this opportunity to send out a great big


Your support has been wonderfully encouraging.

All the best,

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



The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels by Martin Turnbull


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Limited time offer: The first two books in the “Hollywood’s Garden of Allah Novels” are currently being offered for free

Grab your free books now (limited time offer)In the lead up to the January 2016 release of the fifth book in my “Hollywood’s Garden of Allah Novels” series – REDS IN THE BEDS – I’ve decided to offer the first two books in the series for FREE. (ebook format only.)


Book 1: The Garden on Sunset
Right before talking pictures slug Tinsel Town in the jaw, a luminous silent screen star converts her private estate into the Garden of Allah Hotel. The lush grounds soon become a haven for Hollywood hopefuls to meet, drink, and revel through the night. George Cukor is in the pool, Tallulah Bankhead is at the bar, and Scott Fitzgerald is sneaking off to a bungalow with Sheilah Graham while Madame Alla Nazimova keeps watch behind her lace curtains. But the real story of the Garden of Allah begins with its first few residents, three kids on the brink of something big. They learn that nobody gets a free pass in Hollywood, but a room at the Garden on Sunset can get your foot in the door.

Book 2: The Trouble with Scarlett
It’s 1936 – Gone with the Wind is released by first-time author Margaret Mitchell and becomes an international sensation. Everyone in Hollywood knows that Civil War pictures don’t make a dime but renegade movie producer David O. Selznick snaps up the movie rights and suddenly the whole country is obsessed with answering just one question: Who will win the role of Scarlett O’Hara?


This is a LIMITED TIME promo I’m running, so if you’ve been tempted to give my books a go, act now! Procrastination is not recommended!

To take advantage of this offer, click HERE.


"Reds in the Beds" - book 5 - Martin TurnbullDue 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.


The Hollywood's Garden of Allah novels by Martin Turnbull~oOo~


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Golden-era Hollywood stars abound at Eleanor Powell’s Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony, 1984

When I started writing my Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels, it was just me and my laptop and my big idea to write a series of books about living, loving, and working in Hollywood during its golden era. I really gave no thought to where this endeavor might lead, or who it might lead me to. But over the past four years, I’ve had some experiences and met some people I never thought I’d come across in a million years.

Recently, I was approached by a woman who found a stack of photos among her late brother’s effects, but wasn’t sure what to do with them. She scanned a couple and emailed them to me. It looked like a ceremony for a Hollywood Walk of Fame dedication for Eleanor Powell. Not knowing what else to do with them, she sent me the whole lot.

There were around 20 photos in all, and I found that it was indeed the posthumous dedication for Eleanor Powell that took place on Vine Street, Hollywood on February 15th, 1984. Back then, some of the stars from the golden era were still with us, and many of them made an appearance.

But then there was some photos of a guy in his late 30s with his wife and son. I remembered that when Eleanor Powell married Glenn Ford, they had a son, Peter, who went on to write a biography of his father. So I did a bit of Googlizing, found he had a website, and wrote to him explaining I had these photos, and asked if he was interested in having them.

You know what it’s like when you send these messages into the ether–you never know if it’s received, or read, or strikes a chord worthy of a reply. Much to my surprise and delight, he wrote back immediately. He said that ceremony back in 1984 was a big day for him and his family but surprisingly they had no keepsakes! He said that they would love to have these photos.

So sometime over the next month, we’re getting together so that I can give him this packet of photographs as I felt they really belong with them. Meanwhile, I thought I’d scan the more interesting ones and posted here for people to enjoy.


You can read more about Peter Ford’s remarkable childhood and subsequent life HERE.


Debbie Reynolds speaking at Eleanor Powell’s Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony, with Gene Kelly in the background:

Debbie Reynolds speaking at Eleanor Powell's Walk of Fame ceremony 15FEB1984Debbie Reynolds 15FEB1984Gene Kelly:

Gene Kelly 15FEB1984 -1 Gene Kelly 15FEB1984 -2Jimmy Stewart at Eleanor Powell’s Walk of Fame ceremony, with Peter Ford, the son of Eleanor Powell and Glenn Ford, with his family on the right:

Jimmy Stewart at Eleanor Powell's Walk of Fame ceremony 15FEB1984Eleanor Powell and Glenn Ford's son, Peter and family 15FEB1984Jane Withers at Eleanor Powell’s Walk of Fame ceremony:

Jane Withers 15FEB1984 -2 Jane Withers 15FEB1984 Jane Withers with Eleanor Powell pillow 15FEB1984Jane Withers with Jeff Parker:

Jeffrey Palmer and Jane Withers 15FEB1984Kathryn Grayson at Eleanor Powell’s Walk of Fame ceremony:

Kathryn Grayson 15FEB1984Gene Nelson, Kathryn Grayson, James Stewart, and Eleanor Powell’s friend Eleanor Debus:

Gene Nelson, Kathryn Grayson, James Stewart, Eleanor Debus - 15FEB1984Eleanor Powell’s son Peter Ford, with his son, Jeff Parker, and Rip Taylor at the Vine Street Brown Derby restaurant:

Eleanor Powell's son Peter Ford, with Jeffrey Palmer, Rip Torn - 15FEB1984Eleanor Powell Walk of Fame dedication ceremony:

Eleanor Powell Walk of Fame dedication ceremony 15FEB1984Virginia O’Brien at Eleanor Powell Walk of Fame dedication ceremony:

Virginia O'Brien 15FEB1984Fayard Nicholas from the amazing Nicholas Brothers tap dance act at Eleanor Powell Walk of Fame dedication ceremony:

Nicholas Brother 15FEB1984The crowd gathers outside the Merv Griffin Theatre at 1555 Vine Street Theater, Hollywood for the dedication ceremony for Eleanor Powell’s Hollywood Walk of Fame:

Eleanor Powell Walk of Fame dedication ceremony in front of the Merv Griffin Theater 15FEB1984



For tons of photos and information about the places and people mentioned in the Garden of Allah novels, visit Martin Turnbull on Facebook.


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Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels – book 5 cover, blurb and first chapter

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:

"Reds in the Beds" - book 5 - Martin Turnbull

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:


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.

“Leilah O’Roarke.”

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.


Recent reviews:

“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


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My interview with Louella Rehfield, the niece of gossip columnist, Louella Parsons.

Even though I’ve been researching and writing about the golden years of Hollywood with my “Garden of Allah” novels for ten years, every now and then something happens that makes me feel I’m still just a teenager growing up a million years ago (aka the 1970s) and a million miles away in (aka Melbourne, Australia). One such time was when I learned of the discovery of traveling trunks that once belonged to Alla Nazimova.

And it happened again this week.

I posted a photo of an outdoor ice-skating rink in Westwood called the Tropical Ice Gardens on my website’s photo blog.

Tropical Ice Gardens at Westwood Village in 1938

Tropical Ice Gardens at Westwood Village in 1938

I later heard from a Louella Rehfield who told me that she started skating there when she was seven, and said that it was a great rink. Then she mentioned she’d been to the Garden of Allah Hotel. And then she added a P.S.

“Louella Parsons was my aunt. Do you remember her?”

I sat there staring at my screen, slowly taking in what had just happened. Louella Parsons’ niece had just written to me! I had no idea Louella Parsons still had any family left – her daughter never married – so this happenstance took me by surprise . . . to say the least.

After a few emails back and forth, I asked her if she’d be open to letting me interview her. She readily agreed. She was so lovely and gracious, and we had a wonderful chat. It touched on all sorts of aspects of life in LA and Hollywood, from Louella Parsons to LB Mayer and Charlie Chaplin, to the Garden of Allah, Ciro’s, and the Brown Derby. I figured people who are as into the golden years of Hollywood as I am would find it fascinating.

So here now is our conversation:

Martin Turnbull: Are you LA born and bred?

Louella Rehfield: No. I was born in Chicago. In fact, my aunt was from Illinois.

And how were you related to Louella Parsons?

My father and Louella were brother and sister.

Did she make the move out to LA first?

Yes, in 1925. She started working for Essanay Studios in Chicago as a scriptwriter in 1915, then later for WR Hearst, which was when she started to write a gossip column. She invented it—for better or worse! But then she came down with tuberculosis, so she moved west to Palm Springs in 1925. She recovered, and moved to Los Angeles, and she married Doc Martin in 1930. She bought the house on Maple Drive in Beverly Hills and stayed in that house until she had to be hospitalized when she developed an early form of Alzheimer’s.

She lived on Maple Drive the whole time?


So then at some point did your father move your family because Louella was there?

Because Louella was there, and also because this was the top of the Depression. He’d been a glove salesman, and people couldn’t even eat, let alone buy gloves. So he packed the family up in our 1937 Studebaker and drove to California. I will never forget my first feeling of Los Angeles was going through San Bernardino and the aroma of orange blossoms was so great.

So it really did smell of orange blossoms?

Oh yes, because San Berdoo at that point was mostly orange groves.

All oranges and no smog, huh? How old would you have been at this point?

I was six.

And then what happened?

We found a wonderful house to rent in Westwood.

Did your father find work in California?

My aunt got him a job working for the Westmore Brothers.

The make up guys?

Yes. She got him a job as a traveling salesman.

So the Westmores were making their own cosmetics and he sold them?

Louella Parsons on CBS Radio

Louella Parsons on CBS Radio

He would go traveling up and down the coast selling them to beauty shops and drug stores. Unfortunately, he was not very good at it and after about three or four years, Perc Westmore had to fire him. By that time, my aunt had a radio show, which was sponsored by Jergens Lotion, and she got him a job. His function was to get a movie star and have her endorse the product, and he worked there for a long time.

So if you were from Illinois, were you raised ice-skating?

No. What happened was, when I was six, Sonia Henie had just won her first Olympic title, and turned professional. She was doing a touring show, which my parents took me to see. The minute I saw her, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Soon after, we moved to LA in 1937 and ended up living around the corner from the Tropical Ice Gardens in Westwood—the one that you posted about. I hit the ice, and I never looked back.

That photo of the Tropical Ice Gardens made it look like a pretty big rink. Was ice-skating big anyway, or was it big because of Sonia Henie?

It was because of Sonia. She revolutionized ice-skating for so many of us.

So you skated competitively?

Young Louella Rehfield ice-skating

Young Louella Rehfield ice-skating

Yes I did, and in fact the first three times I competed, I won! At 9, 10, and 11!

Later, I started working for my aunt. She had this radio show. Fifteen minutes, every Sunday evening. Walter Winchell was on from 6 to 6:15, and she was on from 6:15 to 6:30. That was when I had my first job. I started working weekends for her when I was about 16. We were all having dinner one night at La Rue, which was a fabulous restaurant. It was with the sponsors of her radio show, and the sponsor announced that they were going to go into television. Well, my aunt rushed me off to the Ladies Room, where she could try and deal with this. She knew she couldn’t do television and so this was the end of her radio show. It was also the end of my father’s job at Jergens. But I continued working for her on the weekends. I got paid $25 a week, which was good money then. She was a very generous lady.

What were you doing for her on the weekends?

One of my main jobs was to listen to Walter Winchell and make sure none of the stories he was using were ones that she was using. So I’d listen to Winchell and take notes, and if he had a story she was using, I had to rush in and tell her.

So that would be the end of her story then, and she had to find something else?

Yes. And she’d do interviews with stars, which she had taped previously. One Sunday, the engineer came out of his booth just before the show went on live radio and announced that he had inadvertently erased tonight’s interview. I learned the greatest lesson from that: When you’ve done something wrong, just admit it. Don’t try and make up excuses. Just tell them what you’ve done.

How did your aunt cope with that? What did she do?

She was fine because of the way he handled it. He was straightforward and told her what happened. They got another tape from another show and used that, so it worked out fine.

All of us on the outside, not part of the family, have this view of Louella Parsons as being quite a ruthless woman who wielded great power, and wielded it absolutely. What I’m really curious to learn is how you saw Louella Parsons from your perspective, almost on the inside looking out. What was your experience of Louella like?

It varied. Sometime she was so wonderful, and sometime she was so mean to me. Something would happen and she’d say, “What do YOU know??” Ten minutes later she’d be so nice and so sweet, and generous and kind. She was the most generous woman I’ve ever known. And she LOVED Hollywood. If anyone did anything that was against Hollywood, she would never forgive them.

So Louella’s loyalty was ultimately to the Hollywood film industry?

Exactly. Well put.

Louella Parsons at the Moulin RougeAt the Moulin Rouge (which used to be Earl Carroll’s) on Sunset Blvd. From left to right: Barbara Ettinger, Mecca Graham, Louella Rehfield, her husband Jerry, Louella Parsons, and Ed Ettinger. (circa 1952 or 53.)

Let’s say you were at La Rue with your aunt, did people approach the table to schmooze with her?


There was no sucking up to Louella going on in public?

No, at least not at the restaurants we went to.

Which ones were your regulars?

The Brown Derbys, La Rue, and of course Chasen’s because that was the one closest to her house. Dave Chasen was as sweet a man as you could imagine. He gave me a bunch of his restaurant silverware as a wedding present.

What was the atmosphere at Chasen’s like?

The thing I remember most is that when you walked into the lobby, facing you was a full-sized painting of WC Fields dressed up as Queen Victoria. It was great! I don’t know what happened to that picture.

Did you have a favorite restaurant around town?

I loved all of them. I loved Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood.

Don the Beachcomber, North McCadden Place, Hollywood

Don the Beachcomber, North McCadden Place, Hollywood

When you read my books, you’ll find several scenes set at Don the Beachcomber. What was it about Don’s that you liked so much?

The food was marvelous!

You hear about their strong rum-based drinks, but not the food. So it was good, too?

Oh yes. For the food, I guess Don’s was my favorite, but I loved La Rue, and Chasen’s, and of course I adored the Brown Derbys, because I spent so much time at the Hollywood Brown Derby. I also worked for the advertising agency, Young & Rubicam, which was half a block from the (Vine Street) Derby. My aunt had a staff meeting once a week to which I was invited. It was in the private room, so I have some great memories of that place.

What was the food like at the Brown Derby?

Great American food. You’re familiar with the Cobb Salad? Bob Cobb was a marvelous man.

The Vine Street Brown Derby, Hollywood, 1944

The Vine Street Brown Derby, Hollywood, 1944

I’ve always pictured that at the Brown Derby, there was a lot of table-hopping and a lot of hi-how-are-you-ing. Would that be an accurate description?

I don’t ever remember table-hopping.

Was that more of a nightclub thing, like at Ciro’s or the Mocambo?

Yes! I spent lots of time at those places.

Louella Parsons at the Cocoanut Grove.From left to right: Maggie Ettinger (big time Hollywood publicist and cousin of Louella Parsons,) Orry-Kelly (Warner Bros costumer and subject of new documentary,) Hearst gossip columnist Louella Parsons, and friend Mecca Graham at the Cocoanut Grove.

Did you have a favorite nightclub?

I loved Ciro’s.

And what was it about Ciro’s that you liked so much?

Herman Hover, who owned it, was doing things that nobody else was doing. They always had great entertainment.

I envy you that you had the chance to experience places like Ciro’s at the height of that era. If I got into a time machine, I’d run straight to Ciro’s.

And you would be dead-on right to do that. The thing that impressed me was that he hired African-American performers like Pearl Bailey, who I met. Oh, and I saw Lena Horne at the Cocoanut Grove, and she was so marvelous. I also saw Sammy Davis Jr. with his family before he became a soloist. He knocked the socks off everyone with his enormous talent.

You mentioned to me that you went to the Garden of Allah.

Louella Rehfield portrait by noted photographer John Engstead

Louella Rehfield portrait by noted photographer John Engstead

It was when I was working for Young & Rubicam. My job was to do publicity on the television shows they were sponsoring. Our Miss Brooks was one. Eve Arden was a doll.

I’m so glad to hear that, because she’s one of my favorites.

You couldn’t pick a nicer lady. She was the best. She’d just had a baby when I was working with her on Our Miss Brooks. She had a very nice husband. I remember one day she came into work and she said she’d been up all night with the baby, but you would never have known it. She gave her usual great performance. She was a professional, and a lovely, lovely lady.

What was your job? What did you do?

I would write stories about the shows I was assigned to, and send them back to New York, and they would try to plant them anywhere that would get them publicity.

And that led you to the Garden of Allah? So we’re now talking about the 1950s?

Yes, 1951, just when the transition from radio to television was happening. I can’t remember whom I was interviewing at the time, but I remember the Garden of Allah. I was so impressed with that place. My god! It was wonderful! But it was also a little spooky.

Spooky? How?

Good spooky. Atmospheric. Knowing that people on the order of Bob Benchley, whom I adored, stayed there. And so many of the New York people if they came to town to work on a film, they would stay at the Garden of Allah. So it had that New York-y kind of atmosphere.

Louella Parsons, the First Lady of Hollywood biography.jpgDid you read the biography that came out about your aunt: “The First Lady of Hollywood: A Biography of Louella Parsons” by Samantha Barbas?

Yes, I did.

Did you think it was an accurate portrayal of her?

I thought it was very well done. I liked it very much.

I’ve always had this impression that although Louella’s public profile was a bit cut-throat and ruthless, there must have been another side of her. I never saw it, until I read that biography. I thought, “That’s what I always imagined. If she liked you, you saw a different side of her.”

Well, as far as human beings are concerned, she was so far ahead of Hedda Hopper, who was really a nasty woman. It wasn’t just that she and Louella were rivals, but Hedda was a very mean-spirited lady. Most everyone who was in Hollywood knew it. But my aunt wasn’t mean-spirited. She hated it when people did something that reflected badly on the industry. That’s what got her down on Orson Welles. She loved WR (Hearst).

Did she ever talk about Hearst? Did she talk about him in glowing terms?

She absolutely flat-out loved him.

So she was a very loyal person, then? Very loyal to her boss?

Yes, she was.

Did he treat her well, do you think?

Yes. They had a great relationship. She spent time up at San Simeon, many weekends. I wish I’d had the opportunity to do that, but I was too young. However, I do remember an evening at Marion Davies’ home in Beverly Hills. Marion was such a sweet lady who became such a terrible drunk. It all centered around the fact that Phoebe Hearst would not divorce him because she was Catholic, so Marion had to be his mistress for however many years that was. Marion took to drink and WR hated that. Marion liked me and I liked Marion. One night we were at my aunt’s house and I was sitting at Marion’s feet, talking with her. She was wearing a diamond ring. I don’t even know—40 carats, maybe? She took it off and gave it to me! I said, ‘Marion, I cannot accept that.” I finally got her to put it back on her finger where it belonged.

She wanted to give it to you, not just let you try it on?

She wanted to give it to me. Of course, if I’d taken it, the chauffeur would have been around the next day. She was drunk, the poor thing.

Do you think that was partly because she was frustrated with the Phoebe situation? If Phoebe hadn’t have been so Catholic and would have agreed to a divorce, Marion would have married Hearst?

Oh, absolutely. They even had a child together, Patricia Lake.

What else did you do for your aunt?

My mother and I used to be in charge of delivering Christmas presents for my aunt. Because, if she received a Christmas present, she had to give them something back. That was part of her culture. So we would be racing over to Bing Crosby’s house on Christmas Eve.

Do you think they were giving her a gift because of who she was, or did they genuinely like her? Or was it a mixture?

Louis B. Mayer and his wife Lorena.

Louis B. Mayer and his wife Lorena.

I think it was a mixture, depending on who they were. She was very close friends with LB Mayer and Joe Schenck. In fact, LB married one of my family’s best friends, Lorena Danker. Her husband, Danny, had a heart attack at around the age of thirty-seven and Lorena was beside herself. They had one child who was a dear friend of mine all through those days, so Lorena was around all the time at Louella’s house. She was welcome any time of the day. So anyway, Lorena first set her hat for Joe Schenck, but Joe being the smart man he was, he wouldn’t fall for her at all. So then she set her hat for LB – and succeeded, and became Mrs. LB Mayer.

What was Lorena like?

She wasn’t the greatest beauty in the whole wide world, but she was the most charming. And she stayed with him until the end of his life.

MGM was close to where we lived, as was Twentieth, so they were the studios we spent most of our time at. I do have a story about MGM. It was my 12th birthday, and my aunt asked me what I wanted. I told her I would love to see Gone with the Wind again. This was, of course, well before any re-releases and home videos or anything like that. So Louella set it up. I went to the Thalberg building at MGM and to one of the projection rooms. I sat there all by myself and got to see Gone with the Wind. Oh! It was just great!

So if the MGM and Fox lots were the two studios you spent the most time at, would you go there in the company of your aunt? Would she take you onto the studio lots if she was doing an interview?

She didn’t drive so she had somebody drive her. The butler, Collins (who was a whole story himself) took on the chauffeur duties, except on Mondays and Tuesdays when either my mother or I would drive her wherever she was going. She’d put tomorrow’s column to bed at one o’clock – her office was in her house – and then she’d get dressed and go out for the afternoon. So one of us had to drive her.

Would you sit in on the interview, or go to the commissary, or what would you be doing?

I’d try to be as unobtrusive as possible! The one I remember the most was at Warner Bros. when they were filming A Streetcar Named Desire. I got to sit in Vivien’s dressing room while my aunt interviewed her. And of course I adored her.

But I’ll tell you the one person in Hollywood who paid attention to me as a human being: Paulette Goddard.

I’m so pleased to hear that, because she’s one of my favorites, too.

What happened was, my aunt had a ranch up in Northridge. She used to spend the weekend there whenever she wasn’t working. Paulette Goddard and Charlie Chaplin were there one weekend, and I got to meet them. I adored Chaplin. I think the world of him, and I hate what our government did to him. That horrible man who was head of the FBI all but kicked him out of the country. But I think things worked out okay for him with Oona and their home in Switzerland.

So now that you’ve retired and moved away from Los Angeles, do you miss it at all?


I’d guess the LA you grew up in is probably a long way from the LA of now.

There’s just no resemblance at all.

I think you’re one of the lucky people who got to experience LA and Hollywood at its peak. There are a lot of people who are likely to be reading this interview who are very jealous of you, Louella! Can I assume that you were named after your aunt?

Yes, I was. When my daughter was born, my aunt said, “Of course you’re going to name her Louella.” And I said, “Of course I’m not!” But I did compromise. Diana’s middle name is Louella.

Well, Louella, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to talk with me. It’s been wonderful. For someone like me who’s been reading and writing about this era for so long, it’s such a thrill to get to speak with somebody who experienced it first hand.

Louella Rehfield today

Louella Rehfield today

I’m so glad we had this opportunity. And I’m glad you’re doing what you’re doing. I can hardly wait for my first book of yours to arrive.

Well, see, now I’m getting a bit nervous because I’ve only written about it, but you actually experienced it. Louella pops up a lot in the first few books, so when you’ve read them, I’d love to hear if you think I’ve portrayed life back then accurately. You were there! You lived it!

I will let you know. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.

It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you, too!


 Martin Turnbull is the author of the Hollywood’s Garden of Allah novels, set in and around the Garden of Allah Hotel during Hollywood’s golden era.


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