Looking to build on his success in researching the details of sensational period-era murders, NBM will release Famous Players: The Mysterious Death of William Desmond Taylor, Rick Geary’s latest investigation into a historical murder mystery, in September. The eighty-page hardcover volume will have an initial print run of 10,000 and is Geary’s second contribution to the Treasury of XXth Century Murder. BothGeary and NBM publisher Terry Nantier hope the book will build on the success of Geary’s Eisner-nominated The Lindbergh Child, the first volume in the series.
William Desmond Taylor, an early movie director, was found dead in his home in February 1922. The murder, cast against a background of Hollywood glamour and including starlets as suspects, captivated the country at the time. The public became even more mesmerized as Taylor’s seedy personal secrets spilled out, but the case was never solved. Geary read several accounts of the events, which he lists in a bibliography, and studied images of the time. His detailed, charming black and white drawings bring the twists and turns of the investigation to life, as well as the moment Hollywood was transforming from a small farm town into the heart of the motion picture industry.
Taylor’s murder has long interested Geary. The author explained, “I recently found an early version of a book I started about this case in the early 1980s that I was going to publish myself because I was so fascinated.” Noting the Hollywood connection made it attractive to his publisher, he added that he is particularly drawn to crimes that have never been solved. “I like the lingering mystery and I get the chance to lay out the facts and theories and let the reader come to his or her own conclusions.”
Before The Lindbergh Child, Geary had previously produced nine volumes of The Treasury of Victory Murder. He said he had covered most of the major earlier cases “that interested me or had enough detail for an 80 page graphic novel” and decided to move forward in time because the twentieth century “had so many juicy ones.” And besides, He added that he “got a little a weary of reproducing the look of the nineteenth century—the costumes and horses and carriages.”
Nantier noted that Famous Players has “been getting tremendous word of mouth.” NBM plans to build on that early buzz by sending out copies to press and advertising in publications such Library Journal. Librarians and teachers have been strong supporters of Geary’s work in the past, and the Junior Library Guild has already placed Famous Players on its book list. Geary contributes to NBM’s author blog, where he has posted a preview of the volume. He will man his own table at San Diego Comic Con later this month and NBM will be there as well. NBM handles its own distribution, with twenty-five representatives across the country.
Geary is currently working on The Terrible Axe-Man of New Orleans, a new work about a serial killer who terrorized the city in 1918 and 1919. It will be the first book about the murders; preliminary sketches are available on the NBM blog. In addition Geary’s biography of Leon Trotsky will be published by Hill and Wang in the fall.
Although Geary has been working for over thirty years, Nanter said his reputation continues to grow. Nantier explained, “Rick Geary’s fame has been slowly but surely going upwards. His momentum has been increasing, his sales are up, and people are beginning to appreciate his quirky style.” Regarding his two Eisner nominations for The Lindbergh Child, Geary himself noted only that he was “very surprised and pleased.”