A Treasury of XXth Century Murder: Famous Players - The Mysterious Death of William Desmond Taylor


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A Treasury of XXth Century Murder: Famous Players - The Mysterious Death of William Desmond Taylor


  • Words: Rick Geary
  • Art: Rick Geary
  • Publisher: NBM Publishing
  • Price: $15.95
  • Release Date: Aug 25, 2009

The follow up to Geary’s well received The Lindbergh Child, Famous Players is the 11th volume of his true crime series and the 2nd in the A Treasury of XXth Century Murder.

Geary takes the reader from the founding of Hollywood to its first major death, a scandal that would change the perception of the film Mecca of the world. On the morning of February 2, 1922, a servant finds one William Desmond Taylor dead on the floor of his home. The investigation into the murder would become a media circus that opened the public’s eyes to the secrets of the film industry.

The roaring Twenties sets the back drop for the author’s tale. Hollywood has become big business and the major studios that survive to this day are in their formative years. As in the movies, it is a place of dreams. Where else can a no one become someone, not only in the town but all over the world.

Hollywood is also a place of drugs, sexual perversion, and many, many lies. Taylor’s death comes on the heels of another scandal, but as the sordid past and questionable lifestyle of the successful director comes to light, the sheen over the small part of Los Angeles is diminished. This is the secret origin of casting couches. The legendary drug parties are seeded in the very founding of the community. After all, this was an industry that started by breaking the patent rights of Mr. Edison. The immediacy of the Mexican border made for a quick get away should the feds come a-knocking. No wonder that star relationships don’t last long in the present, they are merely a reflection of the beginning.

A Geary graphic novel is dripping in extensive research. This is quite easy to see, what with a bibliography and detailed maps. With this prep work and his cold journalistic prose, the writer sets the milieu masterfully. On the page of this comic, James Ellroy’s city of dubious angels comes to life. The story of servant Peavy is an eerie predecessor to the treatment of people of color found in the pages of L.A. Confidential.

If there is any doubt caused by the sensational nature of the story, that calculated prose squashes it. The methodical reporting of the narrative gives the book such a documentary feel that it is easy to hear the voice of John Walsh speaking over Geary’s deliberate art.

That art is between caricature and photo realistic. The stars that are strewn throughout the book bear striking resemblances to their real life counterparts. However, the exaggerated expressions give the book a larger sense of motion than was present in The Lindbergh Child. It as if the artist wants to recall not just the era, which is done skillfully, but is also trying to give the story a film-like quality. The panels are wide and varied, almost giving the reader the feel of a creative fade (like those present in silent era films. For younger audiences, think of the fades in Star Wars or Indiana Jones). It is an accomplishment of allegory that is not easily accomplished.

It seems silly to call the author a rising star. He has an exhaustive catalog and has been on the scene for thirty years, but his work is far from the mainstream and with print runs just now climbing above the 10,000 mark, he is getting a wider audience. He is bravely filling a niche in a niche medium and is prolific enough to put most of his contemporaries in the autuer category to shame. If you are a fan of Ellroy or Capote, you would be well served to pick up any of the volumes of this series.




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