This is a very comprehensive alphabetical listing of all the psychopaths involved in murder cases since the mid-19th century. Along with the Ripper an...moreThis is a very comprehensive alphabetical listing of all the psychopaths involved in murder cases since the mid-19th century. Along with the Ripper and Bundy and Manson, there are whackos you wish you never read about.
I have no idea how I managed to own a first edition of this first majour bio of The Beatles (yes, the "t" should be capped). Published in 1968, when t...moreI have no idea how I managed to own a first edition of this first majour bio of The Beatles (yes, the "t" should be capped). Published in 1968, when the group was still together and still producing hits, it was one of the first books to focus on rock stars. There are more than 30 pages of photos, many of which were taken just for the book itself, as this is the only authorized biography which was approved by all group members.
Too young to be familiar with the Fab Four, I nevertheless learned about them when a music teacher told me Paul McCartney had been in a previous group named like insects. Shook my world.
Brooke Astor's husband was the son of John Jacob Astor, who perished on the Titanic, so I was immediately hooked. The tales of money spent and money fought over were particularly sad, as Mrs. Astor lived until the great age of 105, which meant fragility for her and opportunity for others.
Book Season = Summer (never look in any horse's mouth)(less)
I blame Richard Burton for my interest in saint-o-logy. His performance in the screen version of Becket wakened me to the idea that hedonists could ev...moreI blame Richard Burton for my interest in saint-o-logy. His performance in the screen version of Becket wakened me to the idea that hedonists could eventually be recognized as Saints. Suddenly, a whole new world of history opened up which is why this book joined my collection. Listing specific saints and providing a brief biography for each one, the author keeps the reader involved, even though I was a bit disgusted by some of these historical figures.
The focus of the book is to look at how these Saints acted before they became sainted. It's rather like corporate life today. Each Saint is provided with a moniker, such as:
St. Matthew - Extortionist St. Christopher - Servant of the Devil St. Alipius - Obsessed with Blood Sports
This makes for a good lunchbreak read and also gives me hope that St. Peter will punch my ticket when I am called.
This comprehensive collection of Edward Hopper's artwork was published to accompany the Whitney Museum exhibition in 1980. There is quite a bit in her...moreThis comprehensive collection of Edward Hopper's artwork was published to accompany the Whitney Museum exhibition in 1980. There is quite a bit in here, including his famous window-shades and the lonely lighthouses. While I always associated Hopper with a 2 AM soul, I was pleasantly surprised to find his bright daytime paintings, before the realist pessimism seeped through.
He wasn't all lonely night owl cafes. He also did WWI posters,
This was one of the first books produced for mass consumption immediately following the death of Frank Sinatra in 1998. It is a basic Time-Life compil...moreThis was one of the first books produced for mass consumption immediately following the death of Frank Sinatra in 1998. It is a basic Time-Life compilation, with mucho photographs and many close-ups, both professional and candid. My favourites are the basic 1950s, with the white shirt, tie clasp, and Cavanaugh hat. The man had style.
I remember being in Beverly Hills on my way back to my car from a medical appointment and looking across the street to the chapel where the memorial services for Francis Albert had just ended and watching the long line of film and music stars stream outside. A week later, I was on my way to a meeting in Palm Springs, and wouldn't you know it, stuck at an intersection as the long line of funeral cars proceeded to the cemetery for his burial. In other words, I remember his death because of my appointments. Nicely planned, Frank, nicely planned.
In the early 1900s, the E.R. Du Mont company published a collection of Shakespeare books, including this starter volume on his life and writing method...moreIn the early 1900s, the E.R. Du Mont company published a collection of Shakespeare books, including this starter volume on his life and writing methods. It's a neat little package with a bio, commentary, notes, and critical comments.
The book is broken up into five sections:
I. LIFE OF SHAKESPEARE Israel Gollancz provides a date-filled review of the great dramatist's life, including etches of family gravestones and a copy of William Shakespeare's will.
II. SHAKESPEARE - THE MAN Walter Bagehot poetically describes the works of Shakespeare in an effort to ascertain the inner workings of the man himself. ...surely people do not keep a tame steam-engine to write their books.
III. SELF-REVELATION OF SHAKESPEARE Leslie Stephen writes a commentary on Shakespeare's characters and what they reveal or don't reveal.
Whether you're a James Cagney fan, a general movie fan, or just curious about the golden age of cinema, this book is a nice read. The little guy who s...moreWhether you're a James Cagney fan, a general movie fan, or just curious about the golden age of cinema, this book is a nice read. The little guy who symbolized the era of the 1930s, hard times and crime, Cagney's in-your-face screen persona made him one of the first talkie stars and a silver screen legend. Hollywood labelled him, 'The Professional Againster' and the American Film Institute ranks him as one of the Top Ten male film actors of all time. But the great Orson Welles went further and stated that Jimmy Cagney was, "maybe the greatest actor to ever appear in front of a camera".
Indeed. I've seen the Cagster in movie houses and on the telly, but regardless of presentation size, he always jumps off the screen. Although he was known for his tough guy persona, he excelled in comedy and dance, which this book brings to the forefront. Every picture he ever appeared in is included in this volume and the number of photographs are numerous, making this a fun read while downloading his many flicks.
"Made it Ma! Top of the world!" (White Heat)
Book Season = Year Round (he was a man for all seasons)
The Stuarts. Stubborn to the point of losing realms and heads (literally), they made quite the impact on the Scottish and English thrones. Allan Massi...moreThe Stuarts. Stubborn to the point of losing realms and heads (literally), they made quite the impact on the Scottish and English thrones. Allan Massie always has fun with his subjects and he clearly enjoys writing about this house of royals who originated in Brittany and eventually ruled a united Britain.
Family feeling may easily be extinguished when power is the prize.
This is a chronological examination of each reigning Stuart personality from Robert II of Scotland to the Young Pretender. The family name changes from Steward to Stewart to Stuart as we pass by the 'mournful procession of the Jameses'. None of the first five Scottish kings named James survived past the age of 43, but they had quite a lively time of it.
Parliaments are like cats; they grow crabbit with age.
When we finally get past the high drama of Mary Queen of Scots, we get the rather strange James VI/I, with his strong will and love for pretty boys. This is the monarch who unofficially united the British isle, only to have his son Charles I, who acted more like a university don than king, lose control and his own head. Luckily, the swinging Charles II restored power to the Crown and can truly be remembered as the last dynamic King of England. Alas, brother James VII/II lost it again and there went the path toward the future Hanover dynasty.
Unlucky in weather and religion, the Stuarts were excellent when young but quickly deteriorated as they aged. Even Queen Victoria referred to them as that 'unhappy race'. Still, Massie makes an excellent point in that a family that ruled for more than three centuries should not be considered failures.
Fun to read and hard to put down, I think each reader will discover their own favourite Stuart royal by story end. These royals would make excellent bobbleheads.
Sir Richard Francis Burton was extraordinary, one of those polymath Victorians who explored the world while writing poetry and speaking multiple langu...moreSir Richard Francis Burton was extraordinary, one of those polymath Victorians who explored the world while writing poetry and speaking multiple languages. This is the best biography I have read about the great man and his travels. The author actually travelled to the sites of Burton's life, which gives the reader a closeup view of Burton's exotic nature.
Sir Richard crossed the Somali desert, was the first European to reach Lake Tanganyika, wrote a comprehensive book on swordsmanship, lived in a brothel while studying mysticism, translated the ARABIAN NIGHTS, and visited the forbidden city of Mecca (in disguise). A rather full life.
This is one of a multitude of books written about Cary Grant (after he died, of course). Originally published the year after he passed away, the stand...moreThis is one of a multitude of books written about Cary Grant (after he died, of course). Originally published the year after he passed away, the standard stories are here and quite frankly, not much new or noteworthy. My issue with this book is the alarming number of errors in spelling and grammar. This was a mass market book of the 1980s, so there is no excuse...in those days they had editors. But the constant mistakes just continued, as though no one ever looked at what was sent out to print.
I stopped counting after 13 misspellings. Horrendous.
When the rains start and the days darken, I love a good history volume, preferably one that doesn't require too much slogging (those are saved for lau...moreWhen the rains start and the days darken, I love a good history volume, preferably one that doesn't require too much slogging (those are saved for laundry days). This book hit the spot...with a cup of hot chocolate to keep me company, the adventures and politics of centuries of Pontiffs kept me very enthralled indeed. Each biographical account brings the Papacy to life, with historical illustrations and maps included.
The Papacy is the last connection to the Roman Empire, breathing history, so I am always fascinated. Saintly Popes, political Popes, Crusader Popes are all here, with extra pages provided for the most important Papal leaders. There are also sidebars on various historical events, such as the Counter-Reformation. Plus, I can say I own a book that was printed in Slovenia.
This is the printed accompaniment to the television series of the same name. I can be truly objective, as I've never seen the telly portion, so this i...moreThis is the printed accompaniment to the television series of the same name. I can be truly objective, as I've never seen the telly portion, so this is reviewed as a stand-alone book. Given the many biographies about Alexander the Great, I was looking for something which integrated the countries and cultures he overran, so this seemed a good fit. While the reader gets the historical overview of Alexander's life and the wars he produced, one also gets a present-day travelogue which actually makes a rather nice combination.
Every biographer seems to have their own perspective on their subject and Mr. Wood comes out on the Alexander-as-power-hungry side. He makes valid arguments and one walks away from this believing that Alexander was a bit of a corrupted maniac who, by the end of his short life, couldn't see the forest for the trees. The photographs and maps are appreciated, as I felt I was right there in the Hindu Kush or the Fortress of Hercules. For such a brief lifespan, I was struck by the lasting impact the young Macedonian made as he basically destroyed each nation he travelled through.
Since I'm not a Sherlock Holmes aficionado, I didn't realize that Adam Worth was the inspiration for the famous Moriarty until I picked up this book....moreSince I'm not a Sherlock Holmes aficionado, I didn't realize that Adam Worth was the inspiration for the famous Moriarty until I picked up this book. Worth was the most brazen thief of the Victorian Age, sort of like a Hitchcockian cat burglar of the 19th century. In this bio, we get to learn about the thief and his gang, plus the famous heists. I enjoyed the actual character of Adam Worth, as he kept to a stringent set of values that his enemies lacked.
This is a decent good read, perfect for a fire and a cuppa.
Ahhh, Oliver Reed. The only pure film star (no stage experience) produced by Great Britain. Unlike Caine and Connery, he refused to abandon the Britis...moreAhhh, Oliver Reed. The only pure film star (no stage experience) produced by Great Britain. Unlike Caine and Connery, he refused to abandon the British film industry to pile up the millions. He turned down JAWS and THE STING because he didn't want to live in Los Angeles. "I'm a Brit". True Blue and as David Bowie's son has noted, England's alpha male.
After a blistering start in the 1960s and 1970s, Reed's film career ebbed away, as he became the Ultimate Lad and let alcohol destroy his image. Oliver became Ollie. As Robert Sellers explains in this bio, he was a binge drinker who drank to build his confidence due to his devastating shyness, apparently resulting from a difficult childhood. The lucid, magnetic Jekyll would then become the frightening, out-of-control Hyde when he went too far.
Sellers has written several books on celebrities, but this is his most enjoyable. He has interviewed Reed's family and ex-wives/girlfriends to get behind the image he produced for the public. The stories had me laughing and cringing, sometimes together. Whether he was stopping in the middle of an Irish rural road to pick up a stray dog, diving into a Madrid fishtank to munch on carrots carved like goldfish, or buying homes for homeless people, Oliver Reed was unique. He really did make the air move.
Book Season = Summer (with some strawberries and cream)(less)
The life of Charlie Chaplin is given the once-over here by a psychoanalyst, which brings a new perspective to the usual celebrity bio. He is responsib...moreThe life of Charlie Chaplin is given the once-over here by a psychoanalyst, which brings a new perspective to the usual celebrity bio. He is responsible for unearthing the possibility that Chaplin's mother had syphilis and this is why she was interred in a mental institution in the early 1900s.
While I can confirm this book was a page-turner, it isn't really a full life biography of Chaplin. The majority of the book focuses on the silent film star's childhood and parents. It then quickly dispenses with his flicks and ends with his success as a global media sensation. If you want to read more about his later life, you will have to find another bio, so I'm not sure why this book's title implies otherwise. I did appreciate the author's conjecturing to the clues of the evolution of The Tramp, but it feels as though the end of the book is a sudden cutoff...perhaps a second volume was intended?
Chaplin was a fascinating character. It's interesting that, arguably, the greatest film star of the Silent Era (Chaplin) and the greatest film star of the talkie era (Cary Grant) both had mothers who were admitted to psych wards, both were poor, both were English, both were abandoned, both had alcoholic fathers, both ended up in America, and both re-invented themselves to become legends. A different formula for success.
After years of being in the shadow of Joe Montana, lefty Steve Young took over the quarterback duties of the San Francisco 49ers football team and led...moreAfter years of being in the shadow of Joe Montana, lefty Steve Young took over the quarterback duties of the San Francisco 49ers football team and led them to glory with an overwhelming Super Bowl victory. It would turn out to be the last championship won by the Niners, leaving Young as a hard act to follow. This book was one two biographies (the other being The Steve Young Story) quickly published after Young's victory, and I did enjoy it. The author does a quite decent job of relaying Young's childhood and his travails in rising to the top. It's a quick read and would certainly fit on the shelf of any gridiron fan.
Patience is indeed a bitter plant that produces sweet fruit.
Book Season = Autumn (when Candlestick actually looks okay) (less)
This was a book I was definitely looking forward to reading, as it brought back memories of working in the film industry in the 1990s, when the SKG bo...moreThis was a book I was definitely looking forward to reading, as it brought back memories of working in the film industry in the 1990s, when the SKG boys (Spielberg, Katzenberg, Geffen) had everyone in a spin. The town was a'twitter with constant gossip about their quest to become an old-time studio, one which treasured the talent and the customer.
While Dreamworks never ended up being more than just a major production company, it caused enough storm and stress to be the headline in any conversation one might have had while standing in line for groceries (in Los Angeles of course). Nicole LaPorte, who used to report for the industry bible, Variety, has done some extensive research to provide the full story of why the three filmdom titans decided to get together to turn Hollywood upside down.
Spielberg is presented as the Boy Wonder, even with his greying hair and billion dollar fortune. David Geffen is the wizard behind the curtain, another Boy Wonder who was one of the richest men in the world and loved to brag about his money. But the reason for Dreamworks was Jeffrey Katzenberg, the onetime protege of Michael Eisner. K-Berg (as we lovingly called him) was the maestro who gave his heart and soul to the revival of the Disney animated empire, only to be kicked out when Eisner went to the dark side.
Spielberg brought the artistic touch, Geffen the business knowledge, and K-Berg...well, he devoted himself to making Dreamworks the next Disney. Long story short, SKG spent money like crazy, made promises they couldn't keep, and eventually were sold. Reading this book is a good exercise in reminding oneself of how hubris can overwhelm any goal, but it also provides an intimate look at the inner workings of C-Level Tinseltown.