Mysteries, scandals, and murders of Hollywood, particularly the Golden Age ones, are always interesting, but they can easily be turned into embarrassiMysteries, scandals, and murders of Hollywood, particularly the Golden Age ones, are always interesting, but they can easily be turned into embarrassingly smutty books. All the warning bells should be ringing when an author has added Wikipedia articles, TMZ stories, and E! programs to the bibliography section. Di Mambro's decided to dig herself into a hole by also having a minimum amount of criticism about the statements of her sources. It's commendable that she's managed to made the effort to interview some of the people involved (and it shows that she's wanted to try something different than Kenneth Anger with his Hollywood Babylon ), but there's no sign that she doesn't take their stories at anything but face value.
The description "[a] tantalizing mixture of classic Hollywood nostalgia and true crime" is spot on. Di Mambro presents the basic facts of each case and doesn't take sides, which might seem like her purpose of letting the reader to make conclusions about the events has been successful, but in reality it takes more to make a good work of true crime. "Tantalizing" is not the way to go, especially if it means the chapters begin with "the sun glistening off the Pacific Ocean, which sparkled like limitless diamonds" or some equally awkward statement about the weather that in the middle of neutral text feels like a splinter in the eye. Add to that several cases of repetition and you start to miss a good editor.
True Hollywood Noir isn't entirely without its merits, though. In a few instances Di Mambro manages to correct a few rumours and is overall respectful towards the people. The corruption of the police force and how the studio executives were involved with tampering evidence are discussed very candidly. Protecting actors and actresses was important to the studios, but there's no question that protecting the studios' image the big bosses wanted to maintain in the eyes of the public to get more money was also a good motivator.
It's just unfortunate that the impression I got from the book overall wasn't polished or professional, even though Di Mambro avoids a voyeuristic and sleazy voice. Furthermore, I'd be curious to know where she found the information that Joan Bennett claimed to have begun the affair with Jennings Lang when she was ill, despite the fact that she has always denied having an affair with him.
Other illogicalities and choices that Di Mambro doesn't explain occur throughout, like referencing Bill Wellman's It's Made to Sell - Not to Drink (2006) (there's no reason to presume that Wellman is telling the truth, especially this day and age when there are plenty of people who'd like to cash in on celebrities), saying that shooting Lang helped Wanger's career despite stating earlier that his life was never the same again, and claiming that the reader supposely has never heard the story that Lana Turner was the real killer of Johnny Stompanato when in fact it's been speculated for years and is a well-known theory.
On another level of feeling uncomfortable was the stench of admiration that emanated from the Mickey Cohen chapter. He may have known movie stars and other celebrities, but there's no valid reason for an overly long chapter about him, and certainly no reason why Cohen's associate Jim Smith would deserve so much space, especially because all he does is explain away Cohen's crimes and make him seem like some charismatic gentleman who just happened to kill people for a living. Doesn't matter if the people deserved their fate in the world of organized crime, it's still murder.
Di Mambro seems to be supporting Smith, though, and even calls Smith's voice as "smooth, baritone [and] suitable for broadcasting". I'm not even going to begin talking about the picture of Smith's son holding a toy machine gun, and him having it framed in his house and showing it proudly to mobsters. There's just a whole lot of irrelevancy going on in the Cohen chapter, and it was the last straw.
All in all, short and quick to breeze through, but I wouldn't expect anything revelationary, nor the film noir theme being tied into the cases in any relevant way....more
The purpose of a short overview of only twelve serial killers escapes me, because I presume there are tomes referencing every single American serial kThe purpose of a short overview of only twelve serial killers escapes me, because I presume there are tomes referencing every single American serial killer (or at least most of them) and acting as introductions. I was testing Kindle in my phone the other day, and this was available for free in Amazon's Kindle books, so I figured I wouldn't be losing anything by at least trying this out.
Well, I did finish this, since I was morbidly curious about how much the level of craziness would grow, but otherwise I have to say I wasn't particularly impressed.
Obviously, there are interesting details here. John Gacy performed as a clown, and was known as an outgoing and succesful businessman. One of Jeffrey Dahmer's drugged victims escaped and the police believed he was his lover, because Dahmer (who worked at a chocolate factory at one point) was so well-spoken and calm, but if they had checked his apartment when they escorted them back there, they would've found the decomposing body of one of his latest victims on the bedroom floor. Well, later this happened: "There's a goddamn head in the refrigerator!". Ted Bundy worked at Seattle's Suicide Hotline crisis center, and earned a commendation from the police for saving a toddler. David Berkowitz had no success with women, so he decided to off them instead.
All these, however, I'd rather read from a proper and coherent reference book, or from an individual biography of one of the killers. Keller's approach is much too simplistic and, as he admits, subjective. A bit more polishing would have been great, too, since there's repetition in the parts where the victims are listed. It's all and well to note every single victim and treat them with respect, but at least a bit of variation sentence-wise would have been nice. I found no reason why one should read this instead of a Wikipedia article....more
I could have managed without the short and superficial chapters about other crime organizations and Mafia films (I'm sure there's not much new informaI could have managed without the short and superficial chapters about other crime organizations and Mafia films (I'm sure there's not much new information in the latter, if you've seen even just a few gangster films), but the part about Mafia's women was much too short (especially because in Calabria women are still murdered today if they remarry, or do something else that the organization feels breaks the patriarchal order of the society).
Gasparini succeeds in peeling the glossy surface from the Mafia, but he could have taken a firmer stance on the issue of films and other media glamorizing its position in the society. It's worrying that some (or all?) who belong to these organizations feel like they're not murdering anyone per se, but instead handing out justified punishments that in their world are alright and needed to sustain the hierarchy. I wonder if the Mafia is much too rooted to get rid of it completely. Only time will tell.
An ok introduction overall, despite some problems construction-wise and with repetitiveness. For those in need of an in-depth history I would suggest turning elsewhere. There's also a slight mistake in the film section: films about organized crime did exist before the 1930s (Underworld , The Racket  etc.), but the exploits of real life criminals gradually made them more popular, making the 1930s the Golden era of gangster films....more
I was strolling around the library one day, searching for something that would serve as occasional distraction from uni work (because, you know, I donI was strolling around the library one day, searching for something that would serve as occasional distraction from uni work (because, you know, I don't have any books in my shelf...), and came across Thompson. Now, I know that this is probably not the style he came to be known for but it was still entertaining. Occasionally I laughed aloud at all the crazy stuff.
I think what shows also how much I liked this, was that I have no interest in motorcycles or motorcycle gangs, but Thompson somehow made it interesting. This was my first introduction to gonzo journalism and will definitely check out more of Thompson's work, since this area of journalism really hit me. The sarcasm, humour and overall attitude of putting yourself out there were the biggest factors for me. ...more