Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood (Hardcover)

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New York Times Bestseller

Edgar Award winner for Best Fact Crime

The Day of the Locust meets The Devil in the White City and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this juicy, untold Hollywood story: an addictive true tale of ambition, scandal, intrigue, murder, and the creation of the modern film industry.

By 1920, the movies had suddenly become America’s new favorite pastime, and one of the nation’s largest industries. Never before had a medium possessed such power to influence. Yet Hollywood’s glittering ascendency was threatened by a string of headline-grabbing tragedies—including the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a legendary crime that has remained unsolved until now.

In a fiendishly involving narrative, bestselling Hollywood chronicler William J. Mann draws on a rich host of sources, including recently released FBI files, to unpack the story of the enigmatic Taylor and the diverse cast that surrounded him—including three beautiful, ambitious actresses; a grasping stage mother; a devoted valet; and a gang of two-bit thugs, any of whom might have fired the fatal bullet. And overseeing this entire landscape of intrigue was Adolph Zukor, the brilliant and ruthless founder of Paramount, locked in a struggle for control of the industry and desperate to conceal the truth about the crime. Along the way, Mann brings to life Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties: a sparkling yet schizophrenic town filled with party girls, drug dealers, religious zealots, newly-minted legends and starlets already past their prime—a dangerous place where the powerful could still run afoul of the desperate.

A true story recreated with the suspense of a novel, Tinseltown is the work of a storyteller at the peak of his powers—and the solution to a crime that has stumped detectives and historians for nearly a century.

Praise For…


“Mann tells his story expertly . . . When it’s all over, Mann has argued so ably for his killer-candidate that he finally may have put this controversy to rest.”

“Mann’s call sheet of colorful characters is so richly painted, they not only make the Roaring ‘20s come to life, they’re so bizarre they seem like they could only exist in a movie.”

“Mann’s got the goods . . . Tinseltown may well be the most completist murder mystery of all time.”

“Sex! Drama! Scandal! If you have the slightest curiosity about the dark purple scars of Hollywood history, this is the go-to book you cannot miss. . . Epic and fabulous—every page is haunting, every chapter a film noir. I was up all night.”

“William Mann fires on all cylinders in this fascinating real-life crime story that has stumped film fans since 1922. A page-turner with incredible research and prose double-boiled, Tinseltown is a whodunit tour de force, revealing the dark heart of Hollywood.”

“Massive, exhaustively researched, endlessly fascinating . . . It’s a gripping ride with innumerable twists and turns and scenarios . . . If you love a good mystery and vintage Hollywood lore—which doesn’t read much differently than current Hollywood lore—I recommend Tinseltown without reservation.”

“A stellar and gripping true-crime narrative . . . An engrossing and comprehensive look at the birth of the motion picture industry and the highs and lows it faced in the early 1920s . . . Mann has crafted what is likely to be a true-crime classic.”

“Mann spins this yarn with all the suspense and intrigue of a Dashiell Hammett novel. From beginning to end, the engrossing true tale will keep you guessing.”

“The book’s power derives not just from piecing together the clues and analyzing motives; Los Angeles is very present as well.”

“A gripping true-crime story that encompasses a colorful period in film history . . . Mann seamlessly weaves the details of the murder investigation, witnesses and newspaper accounts into the rich history of early film . . . Mann masterfully captures the zeitgeist of Hollywood in its early days.”

“[A] gripping true-crime narrative. . . . Mann expertly juggles the various threads of the narrative to a satisfying conclusion that is sure to please both true-crime and film-history enthusiasts.”

“For folks interested in true crime and the heyday of Hollywood, this book is a match made in a rather sinister version of heaven.”

“[Mann] brings the early days of the movie industry to sparkling life on the page, whether he’s evoking Los Angeles’ demimonde or explaining how the era’s scandals drove the film industry toward protectionism in the face of morality campaigns.”

“Tinseltown is an immensely enjoyable read as a recreation of a murder, and a fascinating time [and] place.”

“A gripping true-crime narrative. . . . Mann expertly juggles the various threads of the narrative to a satisfying conclusion that is sure to please both true-crime and film-history enthusiasts.”

“If you love a good mystery and vintage Hollywood lore-which doesn’t read much differently than current Hollywood lore-I recommend Tinseltown without reservation.”

A lucid solution to the crime that feels almost as airtight as the final chapter of an Agatha Christie mystery.”

“The book is so evocatively written, right down to the weather, characters’ glances, and what they are feeling, . .. [and] seductively cinematic . . . should be made into a film itself.”

Tinseltown is entertaining enough to feel illicit, but its reporting makes it an essential addition to any respectable bookshelf of L.A. history.”

“Author William J. Mann paints a striking portrait of Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties--a sparkling yet schizophrenic town filled with party girls, drug dealers, religious zealots, newly-minted legends and starlets already past their prime; a dangerous place where the powerful could still run afoul of the desperate.”

Tinseltown does a fine job of parceling out its complex plot, and its author brings early Hollywood to life with the flair of a popular historian.”

“Mann spins this yarn with all the suspense and intrigue of a Dashiell Hammett novel. From beginning to end, the engrossing true tale will keep you guessing.”
Product Details
ISBN: 9780062242167
ISBN-10: 0062242164
Publisher: Harper
Publication Date: October 14th, 2014
Pages: 480
Language: English