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Final Chapters: How Famous Authors Died by Jim Bernhard


This book is an interesting read that covers the deaths of over 100 famous authors from Aeschylus in 456 BC to Roger Ebert in AD 2013. Author Jim Bernhard provides a brief history of each author, their thoughts on death, and the circumstances surrounding their passing.

In a bizarre incident, a man lost his life after a bird dropped a turtle on his head from a great height. The area was known for birds that would grab turtles and drop them on rocks to break their shells. Unfortunately, in this instance, the bird mistook the man's bald head for a rock, causing fatal injuries to the man's skull. Although the man lost his life, the turtle's shell remained intact, leaving the predator disappointed.

Although there were a couple of mysterious deaths, most of these men and women died of some disease or other, often in their sixties or seventies. Sometimes, the sickness was brought on or complicated by a lifestyle of heavy drinking or immoral activities. Most had some sort of formal religious influence growing up, but few retained it during adulthood.

For example, Jack London, author of The Call Of The Wild and other books, was an alcoholic by the time he was fifteen. He worked at various jobs and went hunting for gold in the Klondike. Although he only found $4.50 worth of gold dust, he gained the knowledge and experience to put into his novels, which would make him the highest-paid author in America. In today's money, he was making $250,000 a month! He was a dedicated atheist and heavy drinker who was dead by the time he was 40 years old.

Edgar Allen Poe’s death is one of the mysterious ones. On September 27. 1849 went on a steamer to Baltimore, intending to take a train to New York. He disappeared but was found in Baltimore on October 3rd, wandering, dazed and confused. He was wearing ill-fitting clothes that were not his own. He was taken to a hospital but was never conscious enough to explain what had happened in his missing six days. Four days later, he died, and the exact cause of death is unknown.

I was a little disappointed that such famous authors as C.S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien were not included, but with so many men and women to choose from over 2,500 years or so many cannot be included.

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