I embarrassed myself several times (in a good way) as I openly wept in public during several scenes in the book. I found them sensitively written and quite affecting. … I’m actually pretty blown away how much this series has swept me away and held my interest — there have been other series I’ve read that started off well and then lost my interest the further I got into it. Turnbull’s characters continue to grow and become richer as they mature and become (presumably) wiser. I recommend this book every bit as highly as the first three.
From the publisher’s description:
At the dawn of 1942, the dark days of Pearl Harbor still loom over Los Angeles. America is now at war, and posters warn home-front Hollywoodites that loose lips sink ships.
Wartime propaganda is the name of the game, and the studios are expected to conjure stories that galvanize the public for the war effort. Marcus Adler is an MGM screenwriter whose latest movie was stolen out from under his whiskey glass, and he’s determined it won’t happen again. He comes up with a sure-fire hit, but his chance to triumph is threatened by a vicious rumor: “Marcus Adler is a goddamned Commie.”
Gwendolyn Brick is the handiest gal with a needle this side of Edith Head. After losing her job at the Cocoanut Grove, she dreams of opening her own dress store. But banks don’t make loans to single girls. However, wartime in L.A. opens the door to an opportunity that will rake in the bucks. But will it be worth the trouble if it drags her back into the orbit of Bugsy Siegel?
At the outbreak of war, the Hollywood Reporter’s circulation starts to shrink like a food rations coupon book. Its lead columnist, Kathryn Massey, realizes she can no longer ignore the obvious: her boss, Billy Wilkerson, is gambling away his fortune—and her future. Could their very survival depend on a place nobody’s heard of called Las Vegas?
In the city of searchlights, suspicions can lurk behind every shadow.
Searchlights and Shadows is the fourth in Martin Turnbull’s series of historical novels set during Hollywood’s golden age.
Martin Turnbull is a co-founder of the Alla Nazimova Society.
I literally just finished Citizen Hollywood, the third in Martin Turnbull’s “The Garden of Allah” novels. Once again he has delivered. Gwendolyn, Katherine and Marcus are so well developed that you feel like they are old friends. The way Martin brings old Hollywood to life is a joy and I find myself wishing I had been a part of it. Since reading the trilogy, I can’t watch an old movie with Orson Wells, Tallulah Bankhead, Errol Flynn, Humprey Bogart, et al, without thinking about the residents of The Garden and wondering how Gwendolyn, Katherine and Marcus would feel about how their movies have stood the test of time and what Hollywood has become over the years… Please tell me there is a fourth book on the way.
Alla Nazimova Society co-founder Martin Turnbull was interviewed recently by the Kim Cooper and Richard Schave, the folks behind Esotouric and the Los Angeles Visionaries Association (LAVA) about Alla Nazimova and the Garden of Allah. You can listen to the podcast through the Los Angele Magazine website.
Update: Esotouric has released their second podcast interview with Martin. You can listen to it by clicking here.
One of the objectives of the Alla Nazimova Society is to identify and locate artifacts related to the legacy of Madame Nazimova. Among the items at the top of this list is a scale model of the Garden of Allah Hotel, which was once displayed in the bank building that now occupies the property where Nazimova’s home, which was later converted into the the hotel, once stood.
Thanks to the diligence of Society co-founder, Martin Turnbull, we have located and examined this model, which is in a private home in West Hollywood. The good news is that the model, now 53-year-old, appears to be in excellent shape. The original airtight case is long gone but the current owner has built a new glass case joined with brackets.
Martin published photos and an article about the find here: “One Man’s Search for the Garden of Allah Scale Model.”
Here, briefly, is what we know so far about the history and provenance of the model.
Earlier this year, CA California Home+Design published an article about the demise of the Garden of Allah Hotel. The money quote came from Martin Turnbull, author of the Garden of Allah novels and Alla Nazimova Society co-founder:
“It became a magnet for a certain type of person,” says Martin Turnbull, a novelist who has extensively researched the property for his book series The Garden of Allah. “It tended to draw the New York intelligentsia, who had come out here to earn money writing for the movies.” F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, Harpo Marx and Robert Benchley were just some of the tenants who fell into that category. Regular visitors included actors such as Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn and Tallulah Bankhead (who reportedly enjoyed skinny-dipping in the Black Sea–inspired pool).
One small fact-check quibble with an earlier section of the article, however.
Reviews for The Trouble with Scarlett, by Martin Turnbull:
As a fan of The Garden on Sunset, it was a joy to join again in the endearing story of the three Hollywood ascendants: Marcus, Kathryn, and Gwendolyn. Through an adept combination of skillful character development and evocative settings, Martin Turnbull has, in the second novel in a promised series, become even more of a solid and resonant storyteller.
In The Trouble with Scarlett, Turnbull’s characters have become (as real people do over time) more stable and clearly defined, and what might have deteriorated to an expected “gimmick” of involving his fictional characters with real people in historic events has instead become even more seamless, what might have been a clumsy technical contrivance is now an organic and properly rhythmic narrative voice.
Reviews for The Garden on Sunset, by Martin Turnbull:
Like Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust, Martin Turnbull’s Garden on Sunset is steeped in Hollywood decadence–yet not so jaundiced and infinitely more fun. It grabs you by the throat and plops you smack down in the middle of Tinseltown during Prohibition, scraping elbows along the way with a constellation of stars, from Tallulah Bankhead to Greta Garbo. It’s one helluva kick-off for a promised series of page-turners. Count me in.” — Sam Irvin, author of Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise
“What a fun glimpse into old Hollywood and the fabulous Garden of Allah Hotel with its fascinating tenants. The three main characters, Marcus, Kathryn and Gwendolyn mix it up with such legendary names as Ramon Novarro, Tallulah Bankhead and George Cukor–not to mention the exotic Nazimova herself. Made me wish I was there!” — Debra Ann Pawlak, author of Bringing Up Oscar: The Story of the Men and Women Who Founded the Academy
From the publisher’s book description:
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.
Martin Turnbull is a co-founder of the Alla Nazimova Society.