The death of William Desmond Taylor is one of those unsolved murder mysteries beloved of HOLLYWOOD BABYLON and other conspiracy theorists. All kinds of wild tales have been built upon it – from him being killed by one of the glamorous actresses he was involved with, or his gay lover, or his old butler (who may or may not have also been his gay lover) to gangsters he has inadvertently insulted. There’s no way we’ll know, of course, but nearly a hundred years later – the combination of movies, murder and mystery – means that it’s a tale that we’re not ready to let go of.
Gerald O’Donovan here puts the mystery at the centre of a detective fiction with a distinctly Irish feel. In the immediate aftermath of Taylor’s murder, the case is investigated by an Irish cop turned movie studio detective turned private detective, and his questions swiftly lead him into a conspiracy involving other Irish cops who have gravitated west from New York. There are more murders, frame ups and kidnappings and the peril never lets up. I’m a sucker for this kind of Hollywood tale and this is highly entertaining stuff.
What I really loved about it though was the sense of place. This isn’t the Los Angeles of Chandler, instead it’s set pretty much twenty years before. So, it’s a town that feels at the edge of the world; one which still has the pioneer spirit. It’s so well captured and so well drawn (you can almost feel the desert sands on your face) that as much as Chandler’s L.A., it nearly becomes a character all on its own.
My debut novel, THE WANNABES – which has been out of print for a little while – is now available for free. A supernatural thriller of beautiful actresses and deadly ambition in London town, it’s well worth your time. You can get your copy here!