The author William J. Mann was about nine years old when he first learned about the 1922 murder of the Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor. Taylor, who was also a popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, was killed at his Hollywood home, and his murder—despite a massive police investigation and many books on the subject—remains officially unsolved.
The night of the murder, February 1, one of Taylor’s neighbors reported seeing a man on his doorstep. Early the next morning, Henry Peavey, Taylor’s cook and valet, found his boss, dead on the floor of his living room, “head towards the west,” Mann writes, arms at his side. There was a patch of congealed blood behind his head: “Except for the blood…the dead man looked immaculate.” The neighbors first on the scene wondered how Taylor could have died “so neatly.” The first detective on the scene thought Taylor had died from a stomach hemorrhage; the bullet wound in his back was discovered later when the body was lifted.
After dishy biographies of Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbra Streisand and the gay actor and designer Billy Haines, Mann claims to solve Taylor’s murder in his latest book, Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at The Dawn of Hollywood—and he does so in a thrillingly written book, storylined like a detective yarn, and brimming with the personalities and atmosphere of 1920s Hollywood.