Edgar Award-Winning Crime Book Takes On An Unsolved Hollywood Mystery

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Fans of true crime books know the Edgar Awards offer great inspiration for one’s reading list, and this year’s crop of “Best Fact Crime” nominees was particularly robust. The winner, announced yesterday, takes on the still-unsolved 1922 murder of director William Desmond Taylor.


The book is William Mann’s Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood, and it’s highly recommended for anyone interested in silver-screen scandals. Dig the deliciously hard-boiled book trailer:

UPDATE: Following its Edgar win, Tinseltown was optioned for a TV series.

The other nominees included Carl Hoffman’s The Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art (both historical investigation and contemporary quest, since author Hoffman does his best to finally solve the 55-year-old mystery); and veteran true crime author Harold Schechter’s The Mad Sculptor: The Maniac, the Model, and the Murder that Shook the Nation (a detailed portrait of a killer and his victim, who was, incredibly, a model for pulpy detective magazines).

Two I haven’t read but will be adding to my queue with haste: Kevin Cook’s Kitty Genovese: The Murder, the Bystanders, the Crime that Changed America, obviously about the famous New York case in which a woman’s horrific murder was witnessed by dozens of people, none of whom called the police or answered her cries for help; and Lacy M. Johnson’s The Other Side: A Memoir, the author’s recounting of her harrowing experiences as a victim of violent crime.



WRT Genovese, the bystander effect there has been HUGELY exaggerated. At least one of the neighbors did call the police. One other yelled at the attacker to leave Genovese alone, which caused him to temporarily retreat, only to return later and finish the job. The idea, as presented in places like Watchmen, that “dozens” of people saw the attack is also overblown as the nature of the assault, which took place in a couple of different locations, meant that no one saw the whole thing and most witnesses thought it was much less serious than it was, more along the lines of a couple having an argument than a man stabbing a woman. I’ve seen interviews with Cook and he mainly faults one guy who lived in the hallway where the last part of the attack took place. This guy heard something, opened up his door, saw Genovese being stabbed, and then closed his door and did nothing.