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A Cast of Killers

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  740 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews
On February 1, 1922, the distinguished silent-film director William Desmond Taylor was shot to death in his Los Angeles bungalow by an unknown assailant. Reports of strange activities at the scene of the crime circulated soon after. When the police arrived, was the head of Paramount Studios burning a bundle of papers in the fireplace, and was a well-known actress searching ...more
Hardcover, Twentieth Anniversary Edition, 301 pages
Published June 30th 1986 by Dutton Books (first published 1986)
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Bobby Underwood
Nov 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing
King Vidor was a legendary film director largely forgotten by Hollywood at the time of his death. Sydney Kirkpatrick came to Vidor's home after his death to research a well deserved biography, but instead discovered a buried box full of virtual dynamite. In the box were notes for a planned project which was to be the director's comeback film. But the explosive nature of his findings had prompted Vidor to bury it - literally.

This book is based on what Kirkpatrick found in that box. It is full of
3.5 Stars

A Cast of Killers is nonfiction but it reads more like fiction and it took me a while to get use to. A Cast of Killers is about old Hollywood director King Vidors 20 year investigation into the 1922 murder of silent film director William Desmond Taylor. A lot of liberties were taken and I thought it was riddled with inaccuracies but Hey! so was the actual police investigation into the murder. If you've never heard of William Desmond Taylor please Google him... Now.. His murder was the
Nov 20, 2008 rated it really liked it
One of the best books written about Hollywood. A true "Sunset Boulevard" kind of story, which also reads like a thriller about Hollywood in the twenties. Kirkpatrick's own inquiry is extremely believable and it's hard not to think that he did actually find the solution to one of the most notorious mysteries of Tinseltown. The true characters of this delicious read are bigger than life and riveting. It's also a perfect painting of the true face of the Dream Factory in the silent era.
Oct 19, 2009 rated it liked it
Although there have been other and more solid theories out there about the motive and perpetrators of director William Desmond Taylor's murder in 1922, this one has an added level of interest because Kirkpatrick tells the story of a high-level sleuth. King Vidor, well-known director and contemporary of Taylor's, investigated the crime over the course of decades and this book is the result of that inquiry. As I said, the finale is not completely convincing (and may be a bit of a cop-out), but for ...more
Nov 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
A first rate whodunit about the murder if William Desmond Taylor. Aging director King Vidor searches for answers to the 50 year old mystery and what he finds is a studio cover up, a LAPD deliberate stonewall, love affairs, homosexuality and stars and starlets whose careers were destroyed . Kirkpatrick keeps us guessing and the ending is bittersweet but meanwhile we get a glimpse of Tinsel Town in the '20's-'60's and the power of the studio system. A must read!! 4 stars.

Thomas Amo
Jan 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: true-crime
I found this wonderful gem in pristine condition in a used bookstore. I absolutely hung on every word of how the story unfolded. For anyone who loves old hollywood and mystery "A Cast of Killers" is an absolute must read!!!! I had heard of the William Desmond Taylor murder when I was a boy and always wanted to learn more about it. This book is as close as I believe any one has ever come to learning much of what was kept hidden from the public.

Great book!
graveyardgremlin (formerly faeriemyst)
A CAST OF KILLERS is a compelling look back into the 1922 unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor. The author tells the story through the eyes of director King Vidor, using his actual research of the murder during the years sixty-six and sixty-seven.

Once I picked this up, I could not put it back down, or rather, I didn't want to put it down for a second. Sydney D. Kirkpatrick knows how to grab ahold of a reader and keep them locked into the book until the very end. To make sure nothing spoiled
Dec 30, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-awhile-ago
What a fun book trying to uncover the murder of a 1920's starlet. It's full of golden age movie stars, coverups and discoveries about people who'd never expect. A great, fun read.
Jul 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
For a reader who is a movie buff, WOW. A GREAT story and fascinating to watch it unfold. READ THIS
Samantha Glasser
A Cast of Killers is a fascinating account of the murder of William Desmond Taylor and a sleuthing director King Vidor on the trail of who murdered him. Vidor wants to make a film about the Hollywood scandal which turned up no results and left an open case for the police. Along with Colleen Moore, lover and business partner, Vidor researches a case filled with contradictions and cover-ups.

This book's print is rather large, and it makes the 300 pages go back rapidly with aid from the intriguing s
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Very interesting true crime novel about an early Hollywood scandal. In 1922 the director William Desmond Taylor was found murdered, with various Hollywood players implicated in his death. Despite much rumour and speculation the crime was never solved.

Forty years later, in the 1960's, the legendary director King Vidor decided to investigate what really happened to his friend. Written by Sidney Kirkpatrick, the novel recounts Vidor's investigation and involves many people from 1920's Hollywood, b
Tiffany Day
Dec 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
Although slow to start, once you get about 50-75 pages in, it really picks up and becomes darn near impossible to put down. It reads like an old noir mystery - and the author imagines it in a way that the reader can very much picture it as a movie in their mind. We follow King Vidor as he unearths the facts of the old 1922 William Desmond Taylor murder and we wind the paths of all the multiple leads: was it young actress Mary Miles Minter or possibly the other silent-era star whose career was lo ...more
Sep 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
On February 1st, 1922, noted American film director William Desmond Talor was murdered in his Hollywood home. The mystery was never solved. In the late 1960's, the great film director King Vidor decided to finally solve this murder. He did so, also discovering why the murder went unsolved.King Vidor never made a film of his findings, deciding to wait until those involved died. Vidor passed away without ever disclosing his findings. The author of this book, with permission of the Vidor family, ha ...more
Chip Lazenby
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Based on several true stories. King Vidor was a famous Hollywood movie director. He directed Gary Cooper in The Fountainhead. He also directed War and Peace with a large cast including Audrey Hepburn. Kirkpatrick sets out to write a posthumous biography of the director who appears to be a biographer's dream. He kept a detailed diary and calendar of his every day appointments and thoughts for years.
But Kirkpatrick discovers a surprising blank in the Vidor record. A period of about 18 months is co
Jul 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at the death of William Desmond Taylor, silent Hollywood film director, who was murdered one night by a mysterious assailant. The suspects included everyone from two silent film starlets, an overbearing stage mother, to drug dealers, studio heads and Taylor's own brother.

Making it even more fascinating is that King Vidor, a great director in his own right, undertook his own investigation of the case in his twilight years, laying bare just how corrupt and strange the Los Angele
Aug 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As many have said, this is as good a thriller/ whodunit as you'll read anywhere....but it's true! In what would make a great film, legendary filmmaker King Vidor tried to solve the murder of William Desmond Taylor, one of the top filmmakers in early Hollywood. We see the evidence through Vidor's eyes as he tracks down leads and clues, and by books end we know who the killer is. I won't spoil it, but having read other books on the subject who reached different conclusions, I would say Vidor got i ...more
Jim McIntosh
Apr 20, 2015 rated it liked it
At first, I thought that this was a "Dan Brown-ish" made up thriller. After reading the end notes, I am not sure. Instead of just presenting the murder and clues, we are instead lead through the murder investigation by a long-dead movie director - - including what this director, King Vidor, was thinking. And, if these were indeed his thoughts, what a pedestrian man he was! It's hard to believe that a man who directed such great movies was such a dolt. In short, a twisted and plodding retelling ( ...more
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
As a fan of old movies and Hollywood in its heyday, this is a fascinating look at the seamier side of Tinseltown in its infancy. A true unsolved murder mystery, with many of the important celebrities of the time involved or linked in some way. Don't know if you would call it a 'fun read', but it was definitely as good, or better, than fiction.
Krista the Krazy Kataloguer
True Hollywood crime--very intriguing.
Oct 17, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I normally love historic true crime, but it was a slog to get through what should have been a fascinating whodunnit. Kirkpatrick's writing style isn't to my taste.
Brannon Boswell
Sep 16, 2016 rated it did not like it
too boring to finish
Tim Evanson
Sep 21, 2013 rated it liked it
William Desmond Taylor was an A-list Hollywood film director of the silent era. On February 1, 1922, the dapper Irish-American was found shot in the back in his bungalow in the Westlake Park area of downtown Los Angeles. He was 49 years old. There was no sign of a struggle.

When the police arrived 30 minutes later, the house was already swarming with movie studio people. At first, police believed Taylor suffered a perforated ulcer and died from interior bleeding. But when the body was moved, it w
I’m not a great reader of true-crime books; I find them depressing since, so often, innocents die and villains get away with it. This book attracted me because the protagonist and the victim were renowned Hollywood directors; and the solving of a long unresolved murder was intriguing. This is actually less a true-crime novel than a police procedural, with the lead investigator a friend of both victim and villain.

A Cast of Killers was published in 1986, 4 years after the death of director King Vi
Magnus Stanke
May 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed it, but I know I was exactly the kind of person it was written for. It's not going to be for everyone.
An avid interest in Silent Movies is required, and if you particularly enjoy King Vidor's work it's another plus.
Then there is a real-life crime investigation so interest in the field will also make this more enjoyable.
However, if you like only one of the above you might find it wanting.

What's it about: retired (involuntarily) film director sets about to solve the murder myste
Jul 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I listened to an audio version of this book a long time ago and it's never left me. I have always loved silent films, and had a great interest in this particular story, though I don't think it's necessary to have that interest to enjoy or understand the story. It's a true crime mystery that is compellingly told, full of human complexity and emotion. It left me a feeling like a wrung out rag by the end.
Michael Kocher
Mar 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know what I expected going into this. It is not of the true crime genre. It is best viewed as a novel. Is it entertaining? It starts off with a very brisk pace but it eventually embraces cliche. I would be very interested in reading a more polished non fiction account of the Taylor case.
K.H. Leigh
Jun 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Mellanie C
Sep 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an account of the murder of actor William Desmond Taylor in 1922. It was completely fascinating.
Alan M
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Fabulous read, exciting, different, page turner. Everything I want in a book. And, a look inside the silent movies.
Sep 15, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Purporting to solve the 1922 murder of Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor, this book came out with much fanfare, but it is an almost total failure. Sloppily researched, with many of the photos misidentified (the photo captioned as being Faith MacLean is actually Kathlyn Williams, for example; the photo captioned as being Taylor in his Canadian army uniform standing with Mary Pickford is not Taylor; the photo captioned as being Mary Miles Minter in "Faith" is neither MMM nor from "Faith," ...more
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Books and book publishing have long been an important part of life in the Kirkpatrick family. My grandfather and namesake was a senior editor at McGraw-Hill for thirty-five years. My mother, Audrey Kirkpatrick, was a short story writer, and studied under Vladimir Nabokov at Cornell University. Katherine Kirkpatrick, my younger sister, is a former book editor at Macmillan and the author of five his ...more
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