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Publisher's Summary

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 account 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 ascendancy 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, best-selling Hollywood chronicler William J. Mann draws on a rich host of sources, including recently released FBI files, to uncover the story of the enigmatic Taylor and the diverse group of people who 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 Pictures, 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.

©2014 William J. Mann (P)2014 Blackstone Audiobooks

What members say

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Everybody's a dreamer...

...and everybody's a star. So the Kinks song goes, so does this book. Excellent history of Hollywoodland and the movie business circa early 20s via a cross-section of the lives of a variety of movie folk, both high status and lowly. And there is a murder mystery to boot. The has-beens and never-weres-and-never-gonna-bes live, work, and walk among the elites and other successful players and this is the tension William Mann excellently illustrates. He makes great use of the vernacular of the times via the letters, diaries, newspapers and other contemporaneous sources. It's like reading/listening to "Day of the Locusts" by Nathaniel West. Highly recommend to fans of early Hollywood and early 20th century US history and for murder mystery buffs.

45 of 45 people found this review helpful

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  • Wendy
  • Virginia Beach, VA, United States
  • 02-08-15

Dreams and Desperation in Early Hollywood

Would you listen to Tinseltown again? Why?

Absolutely! What did I miss? Before Tinseltown I had no real knowledge of the Silent Film Era or it's stars. What a fascinating time. The book is detail filled with a glimpse inside the lives of of the earliest movie stars.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The sadness and desperation of a career that didn't quite reach the expected heights and the elderly years of a forgotten star. It's sobering to learn of the later lives of the early screen stars that could not or did not transition to talkies. If we aren't able to adept, progress passes us by and we are forgotten.

Any additional comments?

The book was not only about a real life murder mystery but to me also a cautionary tale about change and adaptability.

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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New info on an old case

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Absolutely! It gives us a glimpse into a different era and how the heavy fisted hand of Hollywood controlled the are that is today Los Angeles, just as they did back then.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Probably Taylor himself. He remade himself and reinvented himself and was a success but who killed him will forever remain a mystery

Which character – as performed by Christopher Lane – was your favorite?

Mary Miles Minter

If you could give Tinseltown a new subtitle, what would it be?

"How little things change". Many of the things described in this book, drug abuse, abortions, suicides etc etc are still par for the course in Hollywood. Things change but stay the same.

Any additional comments?

No but it is a good book and if you are unfamiliar with the Taylor/Tanner case, it is an excellent story and one worth listening to.

36 of 38 people found this review helpful

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Excellent on Hollywood history

If you are a devotee of Hollywood history, then you will appreciate this meticulously researched and engaging examination of the murder of director William Desmond Taylor and the era in which it took place.

26 of 28 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim
  • Holland, TX, United States
  • 03-08-15

A Nasty Place . . . But Keep That Fact Quiet

I thoroughly enjoyed this book while being wary of its total accuracy. Some events—in the very first chapter, notching up Robert Herron's death as suicide for instance—have alternate explanations with evidence backing them up; Mr. Mann never acknowledges alternatives. In addition, the author "speaks" what his characters are thinking, and forefronts his own take on their personalities (albeit with historical justification). Truthfully, I didn't find such quirks a problem as long as I was aware of them. They made for a smooth, flowing narrative with few historical gaps or breaks, and a fun read. The book's originality is its in-depth description of William Desmond Taylor's murder as a blackmail shakedown gone wrong. As the narrative unwinds, Mann biographizes the presumed perpetrators recently come to light. I bought this book cheap for some reason but it deserves better than to lay on the bargain table. If not already acquainted with dog-eat-dog early Hollywood this serves as a good eye-opener. Mr. Mann catches the atmosphere of wide-spread vice and personal desperation masterfully. I say, buy it.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Flavius
  • Morro Bay, CA, United States
  • 04-04-17

Murder at the Dawn of Hollywood

This was one of those books in which my interest never flagged. Although the murder mystery is entertaining, what I found most compelling about "Tinseltown" was how vividly it depicted the fledgling movie industry circa 1920. This is an era I knew nothing about, but Mann tells so many stories from the era (including the tragic story of "Fatty" Arbuckle among others) that I've come to have a better appreciation of the times. This book is full of scandal and skulduggery, but also with warm & decent characters. The final chapters detail the lives of many of the principle characters in the years following the scandal--I found this very satisfying.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Interesting peek into the history of film

What did you like best about Tinseltown? What did you like least?

I really enjoyed hearing about the actors and actresses who pioneered the film industry. I loved doing more research or putting a face to the names in the story. The early Hollywood days have more in common with the modern day than I imagined! The story has a lot of interesting history in it. I think the murder case itself is a little unsatisfying simply because it was never REALLY solved, so you don't fully get a feeling of resolution. That doesn't mean it's not interesting.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Tinseltown?

Hearing some of the rags-to-riches stories of the actors and actresses. While still very rare and uncommon in those days, it makes you smile to think such things were ever possible.

Would you listen to another book narrated by Christopher Lane?

Yes, I think he did a great job.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

Yes! I would love to see some of these people portrayed on film!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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More in the content than just the major headlines

What made the experience of listening to Tinseltown the most enjoyable?

I knew the story of the murder of William Desmond Taylor, but the other stories of the obscure but no less interesting characters made for an entertaining listen.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Tinseltown?

The Osborn/Madsen angle to the Taylor murder. I always believed it was Charlotte Shelby with daughter Mary Miles Minter present.

Which scene was your favorite?

Peavey proving he was not another "scared brotha."

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

No extreme reaction, just shook my head at the stories of the hypocrisy of the moral religious movements

Any additional comments?

I have a new appreciation for Will Hayes and what he was up against in performing his duties as the censorship czar.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Miss Haha
  • NORTH LITTLE ROCK, AR, United States
  • 04-06-17

Fascinating

So much history I didn't know -- and the author weaves all together so well. Totally engrossing. I had the hardest time not going to Wikipedia to read who did it (though I did go to look at pictures of the main characters).

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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I LOVE THIS STORY

I live in Hollywood and I LOVE uncovering it's rich and elaborate history! This is a fascinating, informative, and gripping tale. It enriches my connection to this town when I learn about the intricate web of lives and events that shaped what it has become today. I was saddened to discover that Alvarado Court is now the site of a Ross Dress for Less and parking lot. :( I hate that Los Angeles' historic buildings are torn down and replaced by hideous modern structures. Anyways, if you love true crime, non fiction, and vintage Hollywood then you will love this book. The narrator has a great voice for setting the tone of this murder mystery.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful