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Murder in Hollywood


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About the Author

Charles Higham, critically acclaimed writer, poet, critic, and playwright, is a literary and film detective. Among his many publications, The Duchess of Windsor, Kate, Bette, and Marlene have earned him high positions on bestseller lists and prestigious literary prizes. After holding the post of Regents Professor and writer in residence at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he was the Hollywood feature writer for the New York Times from 1970 to 1980.


Although the author, a veteran Hollywood biographer (Kate; Bette; Marlene), claims to have solved the murder of silent film director William Desmond Taylor (1872-1922), this overly melodramatic account of his life and death sheds little light on the mystery. In 1907, Taylor, an Irish immigrant, deserted his wife and daughter in New York City and turned up in Hollywood as a screen actor; later, he became a well-known director. Attractive and intelligent, Taylor had many affairs with both men and women, including actress Mabel Normand and his cook and houseman, Edward Sands, a thief and compulsive liar whom Taylor later fired. On the night of February 1, 1922, Taylor was shot and killed at his home. According to Higham, the murderer was actress Mary Miles Minter, who harbored an unrequited love for Taylor. He bases his theory on some police documents given to him by director King Vidor, Minter's lack of an alibi for the time of the murder, and some complicated political corruption, which, according to the author, motivated the district attorney to eliminate Minter from the list of suspects. Higham doesn't really overturn other hypotheses that implicate Normand, Sands and others or an unidentified man seen by a witness leaving the scene. There's more heat than light in this convoluted account. B&w photos. Agent, Dorris Halsey. (Nov.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"The most thoroughly researched and carefully considered of all the books on the legendary William Desmond Taylor murder case." - James Curtis, author of W. C. Fields: A Biography "Drawing on unpublished documents compiled by director King Vidor, and making witty, insightful comments as he does, Higham cuts through a thicket of suspects, motives, and cover-ups to point the finger where it had rather clearly been pointing all along, arguing that for some years a hypocritical, moralistic press did its best to point the finger in other directions. More than the solution, what impresses here are Higham's portraits of Taylor, Minter, et al, as scarred souls who believed Hollywood would be their Lourdes on the Pacific. They were mistaken." - Kirkus Reviews "Murder in Hollywood is engrossing, as much for chronicling the murder as it is for capturing an era as rollicking as a Keystone Cops two-reeler. Higham presents a persuasive argument for his favored suspect,... and the evidence is compelling. But inevitably, it is the time-capsule quality of the storytelling, and a peek at 'hiding in plain sight' homosexuality, that makes the book so interesting." - Lambda Book Report "Paints a dazzling picture of Los Angeles in a golden age of sleaze and corruption." - Times Literary Supplement"

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