What is it about true crime, scandals and celebrity news that attracts readers? This kind of news dots the headlines of the Los Angeles Times and People magazine, but there are also some terrific books on the topic, including a new blockbuster at the Monrovia Public Library.
One of Hollywood’s biggest crimes and scandals occurred 93 years ago in 1922 on Alvarado Street in Los Angeles. The murder victim was William Desmond Taylor, a silent film actor and director with a quiet reputation for dating both ladies and gentlemen, and a valet with a criminal background who knew Taylor’s secrets. On Taylor’s dead body was a locket with a picture of one of the hottest and most talented actresses of the day, Mabel Normand, a known drug user. Another girlfriend was the starlet Mary Miles Minter whose mother did not get along with Taylor.
Because the studios feared that the public would regard Hollywood as a sin city, they tried to cover up the story of the murder and the possible suspects. The story was too big to contain and the combination of celebrity, sex and drugs and the inability to pin the murder on any of the suspects made the headlines. The crime is also a cold case that still continues to fascinate. Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood is a new investigation of the case and all its personalities. The book also captures the movie industry and the vices of show biz. Author William Mann has written a compelling read for those who like Hollywood history and true crime stories.
The Monrovia connection? William Desmond Taylor’s younger brother abandoned his wife, Ada Brennan Deane-Tanner, who then moved to Monrovia to seek treatment for tuberculosis at the Pottenger Sanatorium, where her sister was married to a supervising physician named John Pomeroy. Because Ada was destitute, Taylor sent his sister-in-law a monthly check. When reporters heard about this connection, they headed to Monrovia to get the scoop.