L.A. SLEEPERS Locations: The Margaret Herrick Library (Beverly Hills, CA)

L.A. SLEEPERS Locations: The Margaret Herrick Library (Beverly Hills, CA)
by Dakota Donovan

herrick library

The Margaret Herrick Library, called “the world’s preeminent cinema research facility.”

A substantial portion of Chapters 6 and 7 of my novel L.A. SLEEPERS: A Hollywood Ghostwriter Mystery takes place at the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills — a beautiful facility and heaven on earth for most researchers. The rules are strict — but it’s free and it’s worth it! Here’s an abridged excerpt from the novel to show how the location figures into the story. (Remember, this is fiction — so I’ve taken liberties when depicting  the librarian in the portion included below.)

Abridged excerpt from Chapter 6 of L.A. SLEEPERS: A Hollywood Ghostwriter 

I wake up with a wonderful idea—to spend the day in the royal atmosphere of the Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, a research branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences named for the library’s executive director from 1946-1971.

If so much of Milton’s story involves Duke Galveston, why not visit the Margaret Herrick and dive into the facility’s extensive material about this seminal figure in movie history?


I park in a metered spot behind the palatial red-roofed library—built in 1928 as the Beverly Hills waterworks and transformed into its current use in the 1970s—and feel myself becoming giddy at the thought of entering the facility. I love libraries, I love research—and this is the best library with the best staff in the most luxurious surroundings.

I need to get away from the daily grind and let my mind sink into my subject: Duke Galveston, the mystery man among mystery men.

As I’m feeding sixteen quarters into the meter—enough to buy four hours of parking—I hear someone yelling, but can’t make out what the woman is saying. The yelling gets louder, as if the person is getting closer.


With a slow turn of my head, I see Joyce, a homeless artist from my neighborhood, stumbling toward me in shocking pink patent leather stilettos. The middle-aged woman’s long champagne-colored hair flies across her face as she lurches along.

She grabs a yellow pack of American Spirit cigarettes from the pocket of her yellow shift dress, taps out a smoke, sticks it between her coral pink lips, reaches into her other pocket and pulls out an orange Bic lighter, fires it up, dips the cigarette to the flame, and treats herself to a greedy draw—making me long for just one puff. I have to remind myself that I’ve quit.

“How come I haven’t seen you around the neighborhood?” she asks.

“I’ve been busy, Joyce,” I say walking toward the library entrance.

“You promised to let me draw your portrait,” she says, referring to her main source of income—street portraits and cartoons.

“I will,” I say. “Soon.”

“They won’t let me in this place,” Joyce says, nodding toward the library, “because I don’t have a driver’s license. And I need something from in there.”

Joyce’s requests are usually complex, so I brace myself and keep walking. “What’s that?” I ask.

“I want you to get a picture from the Marilyn Monroe file,” Joyce says. “I need a copy of that photo where the breeze is blowing up her white dress. People tell me I can make a lot of money if I start selling drawings like that on the Walk of Fame.”


The Cecil B. DeMille Reading Room of the Margaret Herrick Library.

The Cecil B. DeMille Reading Room of the Margaret Herrick Library.

I’ve been to the Margaret Herrick Library a few times and am familiar with the institution’s requirements and procedures. But on my first visit, the protocol came as a shock.

In effect, you leave your life at the door. After showing your driver’s license or passport and signing in, the clerk gives you a key and directs you to a small room filled with lockers for your belongings. If you’re a woman, that means your purse, jacket, computer case, pens, pencils. The library allows you to retain two items: your laptop and I.D.

You climb a staircase to a second floor where the library is located. There, you sign in again with an official librarian. In exchange for your driver’s license, you receive a daily pass. The idea is that if you try to run off with anything, you’ll have to take the bus home, where the cops will be waiting for you.

The librarian checks your laptop to make sure nothing is hidden in it. Then you receive a short pencil and scraps of paper about the size of a cigarette pack—yes, I now have cigarettes on the brain. The library allows you to use your laptop to take notes—for the institution, it’s safer than pencils, which could slip and deface its precious materials.

I decide to get Joyce off of my mind by taking care of her request before starting to research Duke Galveston. I sit at one of the computer terminals and look up the Marilyn Monroe flick The Seven Year Itch, learn it came out in 1955—then go up to the research desk and fill out a request for the file.

Ten minutes later, a man’s voice calls out my name.

I make my way to a desk, where a pudgy man with a blond crew cut holds out a sheet of paper—the photocopy of the Marilyn Monroe photo by Sam Shaw.

Before handing it to me, he asks, “What do you intend to do with this photo?”


“What are your plans for the photo?”

“I’m a researcher,” I say, giving one of my standard noncommittal answers.

“That’s not what I asked.”

“Well . . .” I look at the man’s shirt pocket to see if he’s wearing a name badge. But, of course, this isn’t a Jiffy Lube—it’s the Margaret Herrick Library.

“ . . . Wilson,” he says.

“Well, Wilson, I’m not sure about my plans for the photo. Why do you ask?”

“If you intend to draw or paint a reproduction of this image, you will be guilty of copyright infringement.”

“I don’t draw.”

“If this copy is used by anyone to infringe on the photographer’s copyright, you will be held responsible.”

My vision starts to blur, and I feel a migraine, a big one, coming on.

“A homeless woman in my neighborhood asked me to get her a copy of the photo. I ran into her outside. She doesn’t have access to the Internet and can’t get in here because she doesn’t have a driver’s license.”

“And why does she want the photo?”

“She loves Marilyn Monroe. She’s a big fan. I think she plans to keep the photo as a good luck charm.”

Wilson’s pupils widen as if his eyes are camera lenses trying to get me in focus. I know he’s deciding whether he buys my story. God, all this time wasted, I think, and I haven’t even started the Duke Galveston research.

Before Wilson can mete out his judgment, I ask, “Do you have any Excedrin?”

End of Excerpt

Find L.A. SLEEPERS at Amazon.com

1 Comment

  1. Marcia says:

    Love this, Dakota! Great excerpts you’re sharing!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: