The Garden on Sunset (Hollywood’s Garden of Allah #1) by Martin Turnbull

I have to agree with some of the other reviewers in wondering how a publishing house passed on this book (and presumably the others that follow.) This book was a wonderful surprise from the time I found it through a Book-Bub recommendation, all the way to final page.

It is obvious that Martin Turnbull has a love for all things Hollywood and it really comes through for the reader. He knows not only his stars, but the studio system and the growth of Los Angeles and the Hollywood area. I love the setting – the end of the roaring twenties through early 1934. It not only showed the highs and lows of society at the time but the waxing and waning fortunes of those in the motion picture industry as the move was being made from silent film to talkies.

This is an excellent portrait of early 1900’s California. Hollywood was in its earliest incarnation because New York and Chicago had become too expensive and were both weather dependent. As the film industry expanded its stories, it required room to build sets and weather that was reliable in which to film. It was the the golden west, The Golden State, Go West! Young man and woman. Motion pictures and the studio system were part of the yellow brick road and becoming a star was the pot of gold at its end.

I would also like to applaud the storyline for its inclusion of gays and lesbians in Hollywood. These characters are drawn as people who are part of the social fabric. Instead of this being a book that is labelled as “gay and lesbian” it is a book about people and their placement and  inclusion in the lives of others and their place in history –  something that all too often is edited out of stories as if gay people only started to exist in the last 30 years.

I loved the three main characters: Kathryn, Gwendoline and Marcus. They all find their way to Hollywood from near and far in order to pursue individual dreams and to find themselves and lose themselves. I loved the setting: an aging silent film stars mansion that has been converted to a hotel. She herself has aged out of silent films and has personal reasons for the financial dilemma in which she finds herself.

It was a boozy, jazzy time and I loved every page. It reminded me very much of Tales of the City and I know I am going to purchase the rest of the series as a sneak peak at the back indicated the stories will continue all the way to the World War II era (and hopefully beyond). A good book paints a picture in your brain, a great book gives that picture dimension so that you become part of it. This is a very good book that could become great. This would be an excellent magazine or newspaper serial as well as an amazing cable television series a la “Mad Men” if done correctly by the right people.

If you love Hollywood, the Jazz Age, and a cast of great characters, you won’t be disappointed by this read. Not at all.


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