Book Review: “The Trouble with Scarlett” by Martin Turnbull

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:

A Cinematic Angel: Karolyn Grimes


The long-awaited episode featuring Karolyn Grimes, also known as Zuzu Bailey from  It’s a Wonderful Life, has finally arrived! This is a podcast filled with cinematic treasures as Karolyn discusses the importance of the Christmas classics It’s a Wonderful Life and The Bishop’s Wife. Karolyn calls herself an “antique”, but you will soon find that the so-called antiquity is merely an element of her timelessness in the face of film history. She’s so charming and is ever-willing to preserve the memories of these films.

It’s been six months since our last podcast, but this one is worth the wait! Satisfaction guaranteed.

12 Days of Classic Films

For the third year running, we have showcased our twist of the Christmas classic, “The 12 Days of Christmas.”  Wouldn’t you rather get one of these films over a swan or a leaping lord?  We would!  If you want to hear our rendition of this song, CLICK HERE to listen and skip ahead to 07:28.  No, we do not sing this song – that would be very bad.  Our dear friend, Jill, lovingly lent her voice for which we are grateful.  Disclaimer: if you are going to listen to the song, “SO” is short for “Scarlett Olive”…yes, it sounds a little narcissistic… 

12 Angry Men

Ocean’s 11

10 Little Indians

9 Von Trapps

8 Major Studios

7 Brides and Brothers

6 You Get Eggroll

5 Golden Boys!

4 Me and My Gal

3 On a Match

2 For the Road

And a podcast that is free!

Merry Christmas, friends!  Keep an eye out for our interview with Karolyn Grimes, the actress who played Zuzu Bailey in the beloved Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).  It will be released later this month.

Sweet Charity

During my first week of university, I remember being stopped on a busy sidewalk and asked – for about twenty minutes – if I would support a certain charity.  Seeing that I had four years of debt ahead of me, I kindly declined.  It seems supporting charities is the “hipster” thing to do these days – especially for celebrities.  Angelina Jolie was not the first celebrity to adopt an army of children or single-handedly try to save the rainforest. Celebrities who were famous many decades before her were supporting good causes.  The act of supporting causes is not an old one, but perhaps covered more in media today than in the 1940s.

During WWII, the media covered celebrities raising war bonds as they toured America not to show off their philanthropy, but with a humble spirit.  There are two other actresses who managed to advance women’s roles in film and volunteered years of their lives to support troops during WWII.  I would like to honour the accomplishments of Marlene Dietrich and Bette Davis.

Marlene Dietrich perfectly emulated both sexes.  She could don the most glamorous dresses and wear a tuxedo in the same film.  While Jolie adopts a brew of babies, German-born Dietrich risked her life to entertain Allied troops in WWII.  Her war efforts also included singing love songs in German over the radio to demoralize the German soldiers.  Photographs of this glamorous star serving selflessly in soldiers clothing is simply inspiring and a perfect picture of feminine strength.

This picture perfectly sums up Marlene’s image.

Bette Davis was one of the first, if not the first, actress to spit in Hollywood’s eye and forsake the glamour it wanted to adorn on her.  She sought roles that allowed her to be uncouth and “ugly.”  This image worked, and by 1939, she was one of the most successful women in Hollywood.

To help on the Hollywood home front during the war, Davis organised and managed The Hollywood Canteen.  The Hollywood Canteen was a restaurant that served sandwiches, coffee, doughnuts, and cigarettes to servicemen.  The men were served by celebrities and crew members while listening to the latest hits conducted by the bandleaders who made them popular.  Despite the popularity it experienced during the three years it was running, there is not a lot of information or photos regarding the Canteen.  The reason for this could be a result of the lack of media attention from newspapers, newsreels, radio, and magazines.  Davis worked hard on her career and is remembered for her roles – not her charity work.  That is the way she would have wanted it.

Charity work is not a new “hipster” thing to do these days.  It has been done for as long as Hollywood has been around.  Celebrities were created to serve as an example to the audience, and the humble attitude classic stars had is one we and the media should emulate – not the ego-oriented agenda of people nowadays.

CONTEST: Win “The Trouble with Scarlett” by Martin Turnbull!

At long last, October has arrived!  Just as Dorothy’s eyes were bedazzled by the Emerald City, so too are we excited for the arrival of book two in Martin Turnbull’s “Garden of Allah” series. To promote his book, Martin is graciously giving The Scarlett Olive a copy of his book to give away to our followers – YOU!

In order to be eligible to win a copy of the second book of Martin’s Hollywood history epic, you have to “like” our Facebook page and answer the questions on specific Gone with the Wind photos we will post over the next five days.  The questions are easy: just identify the scene and tell us what the trouble with Scarlett is.

For example, what scene is this and what is her trouble here?

We will tally up the points by either whoever answers the most questions correctly, or if there is a tie, then we will go by whoever answered first – so be quick on your fingers! Click on the image below to read the first chapter of The Trouble with Scarlett!  While you’re at it, why not “like” The Garden of Allah’s Facebook page?

Good luck!