Summer, 1936: Gone with the Wind is released by first-time author Margaret Mitchell and becomes an international sensation. Everyone in Hollywood knows that Civil War pictures don’t make a dime, but renegade movie producer David O. Selznick snaps up the movie rights and suddenly the talk around dinner tables and cocktail parties across the country is fixated on just one question: Who will win the role of Scarlett O’Hara?
When aspiring actress Gwendolyn Brick finally gets her hands on the book, it’s like the clouds have parted and the angels are singing the Hallelujah Chorus. Only a genuine southern belle can play Scarlett and didn’t she spend her childhood listening to Mama’s stories of Sherman’s march and all those damned Yankees? After years of slinging cigarettes at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, Gwendolyn finds a new purpose in life: to become the silver screen’s Scarlett O’Hara. But isn’t that the ambition of every other pretty Hollywood gal with a deep-fried accent? She knows she’s going to have to stand out bigger than a hoop skirt at a Twelve Oaks barbecue.
Marcus Adler finds himself the golden boy of Cosmopolitan Pictures, the vanity production company set up by William Randolph Hearst for his movie star mistress, Marion Davies. He’s written Return to Sender, Davies’ first-ever genuine smash hit and wins a coveted invitation to spend the weekend at Hearst Castle. The kid who got kicked out of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, is now the guest of the richest man in America, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Myrna Loy, Winston Churchill, and Katharine Hepburn. But the trouble with flying high is that you have such a very long way to fall. When Marcus’ Hearst weekend turns into an unmitigated fiasco, Marcus finds himself sinking fast. He realizes he needs a new idea to impress the studios—real big and real soon—when the Garden of Allah hotel gains a new resident. F. Scott Fitzgerald arrives in Hollywood with a $1000-a-week contract at MGM but no idea how to write a screenplay. “Pleased to meetcha,” Marcus tells him. “We need to talk.”
When Selznick gives the nod to MGM’s George Cukor to direct Gone with the Wind, it’s the scoop of the year and falls into the lap of Kathryn Massey, the Hollywood Reporter’s newest columnist. But dare she publish it? All scoops are the exclusive domain of the Hearst papers’ all-powerful, all-knowing, all-bitchy Louella Parsons. Nobody in Hollywood has dared to outscoop Louella before, but isn’t it about time someone did? When Kathryn plunges ahead with her story, Louella retaliates low and dirty. Kathryn’s boss loses his nerve and leaves her dangling like a limp scarecrow in a summer storm. Then the telephone rings. It’s Ida Koverman, Louis B. Mayer’s personal secretary, and she has a proposition she’d like to make.
—Synopsis courtesy of author’s website.
“The Trouble with Scarlett” by Martin Turnbull
Decadent. Delicious. Divine.
That sums up my thoughts my thoughts on Martin Turnbull’s scintillating sequel to The Garden on Sunset. Full of wit, drama, humor and heart, readers fall in love with the characters in a dance through the Golden Age of Hollywood, specifically in the months and years leading up to the biggest film of the decade, Gone with the Wind.
Turnbull’s three main characters easily tell the story of this dramatic moment in motion picture history, gracefully dealing with issues like humiliation, rejection, and unrequited love that strike a chord with modern audiences.
The characters are funny and endearing, particularly Marcus himself. I personally enjoyed the screen test of Gwendolyn Brick the best, along with the antics that ensued during her pursuit of the role of Scarlett O’Hara herself.
What has won me over with this series is the insight into the film industry’s glory days, and the reimagining of famous legends (i.e. Vivien Leigh’s unexpected on-set appearance during the burning of Atlanta, the termination of George Cukor as director, etc.)
The novel daringly names names, and delves deeply into the private lives of our favorite stars on the silver screen.
The sexual content of The Trouble with Scarlett was toned down considerably compared to its predecessor, and lets the reader focus more on individual character development instead.
The dramatic jumps that occur from the end of one chapter to the beginning of the next one can be a bit confusing when a cliffhanger scene is sometimes ended too soon, and it takes a while to find out what happened after the end of a particular scene. This is sometimes the case when dealing with multiple narrators in alternating chapters, but like in my review of The Garden on Sunset, I still believe a chapter preface of the month/year (i.e. June 1939) would help the reader with following the timeline.
Martin Turnbull is a delightful author to read, and I feel his voice is genuinely captured in the prose of his Garden of Allah novels. His writing contains a precious commodity: in the commercial publishing market where an author’s individual voice is lost in the muddle of multi-million-dollar book deals, (Ahem, I’m talking to you, James Patterson!) Turnbull’s voice rings clear and true.
The Trouble with Scarlett is a gem, and a wonderful, rich tale of the bygone days of Tinseltown. Readers will certainly have no “trouble” reaching for the next book in the series, Citizen Hollywood.
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