I had the pleasure of reading the second installment of The Garden of Allah series: “The Trouble with Scarlett” by Martin Turnbull. We catch up with characters Marcus Adler, Kathryn Massey, and Gwendolyn Brick as they plough through scandal, threats, and pitfalls to reach their goals of making good in Hollywood. If you haven’t read thefirst two books (and you should), you should know the series is set in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Celebrities such as George Cukor, Vivien Leigh, and Greta Garbo make appearances and become major players in Marcus Adler’s quest to write himself into Hollywood history through his dreams of becoming a screenwriter for MGM. Mean cats like Louella Parsons, Hedda Hopper, and Joan Crawford are a constant threat to Kathryn Massey’s blooming gossip column in the Hollywood Reporter. Everyone in between including Irene Mayer Selznick, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hattie McDaniel, and Mercedes de Costa all have a hand in helping Gwendolyn attempt to realize her dream of landing the role of the decade: Scarlett O’Hara. Even Dorothy Parker is a regular character! If these big names aren’t reason enough to order the first two books today, keep reading this review so I can further convince you.
“The Trouble with Scarlett” takes place between 1936 and 1939. True to the first book, author Martin Turnbull allows the reader to soak in the glitz and glam of Hollywood, but also serves the reality of Hollywood on a silver platter. The real Old Hollywood had the same environment of a middle school playground – only a lot of jobs, money, and reputations are on the line. The crux of the plot lies with the casting of Scarlett O’Hara and the production of Gone with the Wind. Each of the three characters has potential opportunity of using the gargantuous film to advance their careers.
I found there was a lot more drama and suspense in this book since the characters have already lived in Hollywood for ten years. They have a foundation beneath their feet and are constantly gaining more experience and taking risky attempts for the sake of progressing in their respective fields. Turnbull’s writing has only improved by becoming tighter, wittier, and like his characters: experienced. While you are reading the novel, you can tell Turnbull knows his stuff! When a big name like Vivien Leigh or Greta Garbo encounters one of the characters, their fictional recreation is not some cardboard reproduction of their screen persona. Turnbull knows the actors and actresses he is representing inside and out. He captures the personalities of these superstars so well the novel feels like a documentation of actual events in Hollywood – perhaps like a diary.
There are so many famous names, places, and events that occur in “The Trouble with Scarlett,” but alas, I must stop myself from giving away too many spoilers! The name drops do not take away from the plot or stunt it, but spur the plot to advance and reward the readers who know their Hollywood history. I have to let you read the book for yourself to find out what happens to the characters I have come to love and see where they go and who they meet.
The next book in the series, “Citizen Hollywood,” will hopefully be released, according the man behind the curtain himself, by December 2013. You can read about it here: http://www.martinturnbull.com/?page_id=717