The idea that there was a “good old days” where the ills of the present day society were not present is perennially popular. It’s not really accurate, but it’s very popular. In terms of looking at the last 90 or so years, and reading about how salacious, intense, violent, and crazy things were in the 20s, it makes me think about when these so-called “good old days” (when things were supposedly so great) actually were!
Beyond all of that, though, these books are just fantastic. Mann writes about the seedy side of 1920s Hollywood, complete with murder, drugs and assorted craziness. It’s very easy to assume that 90-odd years ago Hollywood wasn’t a place where drug dealing, murder, gangs, and the intense ambition of stars (and stars concerned with becoming has-beens) ran amok. Mann’s engaging book sheds light on the reality that existed then.
Likewise, Bryson gives an absolutely fascinating snapshot of what was happening in one summer, the summer of 1927. Bryson’s style is approachable and interesting. It’s remarkable to reflect that so many of the things that happen in this book were going on concurrently. There are plenty of jaw-dropping moments in this book, too. From the off-the-field behavior of American sports icons, to gangsters, aviators, movie stars, and politicians, this book illustrates how complex the summer of 1927 was, and again brings up the question of the “good old days.”
Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood
By William J. Mann
Hollywood chronicler, whose works include “Hello Gorgeous” (DB 75700), reexamines the 1922 murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association. Discusses Tinseltown crimes and power struggles of that era, and the diverse cast that surrounded Taylor, including three ambitious actresses. Bestseller. 2014.
One Summer: America, 1927
By Bill Bryson
Chronicles the events of 1927 during Calvin Coolidge’s presidency. Highlights newsmakers Charles Lindbergh, Babe Ruth, and Al Capone; anarchists and flappers; the deadly Mississippi River flood; the first talking movies; and the actions that set the stage for the 1929 global economic crash. Bestseller. 2013.