Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Garden on Sunset: A Novel of Golden-Era Hollywood (Hollywood's Garden of Allah Novels Book 1), By Martin Turnbull

Did you ever want to time travel back to Hollywood in the 1930s? Do you inhale the films of Hollywood's Golden Age? Do you ever wonder what Hollywood was truly like at that time? If you can answer "yes" to at least one of these questions, then you must read Martin Turnbull's "The Garden On Sunset: A Novel of Golden-Era Hollywood (Hollywood's Garden of Allah Novels, Book One)."

In "The Garden on Sunset," Martin Turnbull introduces us to Kathryn, Gwendolyn, and Marcus, three 20-something odd socks who fall in with each other through happenstance: all three find themselves living at the Garden of Allah Hotel in Los Angeles.

Kathryn wants to be a journalist, despite the frantic push into acting by her stage mother. Gwendolyn, from Florida when Florida was the old South, wants to be an actress, but finds herself fighting off mashers as the Cigarette Girl at the Coconut Grove. Marcus, who was kicked out of his Pennsylvania home and family after his father caught him making out with his boyfriend, wants to write screen plays. He fled to the Garden of Allah at 8152 Sunset Boulevard because this is the address Madam Alla Nazimova had given him when she visited him years before. Her kindness to a small boy with diphtheria, and her message that he should visit her at her home, has carried him through his father's betrayal and it is the only place he knew he would be welcome.

Unfortunately for Marcus, Madam Nazimova has sold her mansion, and it has become the Garden of Allah Hotel. The three young people meet at a bash celebrating the Hotel's Opening Night (which happens to coincide with Marcus's visit). For the next three years, we follow them as they deal with bootlegged liquor and a time when unwed pregnancies were scandalous, and loving someone of the same sex could end a career and send you to prison.

While surviving their own battles with the restrictions of the times, the three friends are befriended by Talulah Bankhead, Greta Garbo, George Cukor, and Ramon Navarro, to name just a few. Madam Nazimova does finally appear, and we learn why she befriended Marcus when he was a young boy. The friends also find themselves tangled up with Louella Parsons, William Randolph Hearst, and Marion Davies.

Turnbull brings the "Golden Age of Hollywood" to life with the same type of humor, insight and love used by Armistad Maupin in "Tales of the City," his homage to 1970s San Francisco, centered around a group of iconoclastic, loving, odd-sock friends.

"The Garden on Sunset" is an exceptional book. If you love time traveling while sitting in your comfortable, reading place, you will think so too.

Print Length: 313 pages
Publication Date: January 16, 2014
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

The Trouble with Scarlett: A Novel of Golden-Era Hollywood (Hollywood's Garden of Allah Novels Book 2), Martin Turnbull

In his second "Garden of Allah" novel, "The Trouble with Scarlett," Martin Turnbull takes us back to the late 1930s where our three friends, Kathryn, Marcus, and Gwendolyn are a little older, much wiser, and still living at Hollywood's Garden of Allah Hotel.

As Turnbull takes the gloves off, we begin to see the nastier side of old Hollywood. Louella Parsons and Kathryn go head to head (Louella shows us her claws, as she dumps a chicken fricassee dinner on Kathryn). Hedda Hopper shows up, and Kathryn proves there is more than enough Hollywood gossip for the three of them.

In this second installment, Turnbull provides us with a wonderful, front row seat to 1938-39, probably the most glorious two years for film making in Hollywood history. Along the way, we learn that Talulah Bankhead, Joan Crawford, and Paulette Goddard all were considered for the role of Scarlett in "Gone with the Wind," and that Vivian Leigh was the long shot because she was British. We also learn a few secrets concerning the making of "The Women" (my favorite film), and the "The Wizard of Oz."

In one breathtaking scene that takes place during the filming of "Gone with the Wind," we wilt with Marcus as he sweats in the heat in an old, wool, confederate uniform. Joining hundreds of extras, he moans and slowly "dies" as Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) wanders through their midst. Off camera, a still prostrate Marcus delivers a message to Leigh from George Cukor, who has been ousted as director since Clark Gable, apparently, refused to be directed by a "fairy."

We also meet F. Scott Fitzgerald as he takes up temporary residence at the Garden of Allah. As he works on screen plays, he falls on and off the wagon; and off the wagon, he is not a pretty sight. Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley move in, providing the kind of advice only they could offer (along with many authentic "Parkerisms" such as when Dorothy tells Gwendolyn that her Scarlett O'Hara-type dress "flounce per ounce ratio is just right").

It truly does not get better than this if you are a film buff and you love to "time travel" while reading. I loved Turnbull's first Garden of Allah novel, "The Trouble on Sunset," and I love this second novel. Thankfully, he has four more in print, and four more promised after that.

Print Length: 347 pages
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC