Final Chapters – How Famous Authors Died.

Reviewed By  Janet Mawdesley       January 12, 2016


Author  Jim Bernhard

Distributor:      New South Books
ISBN:                 9781634502412
Publisher:         Skyhorse Publishing
Release Date:   January 2016  


To die is a forgone conclusion, a fact that is known from the moment of birth. How or why or what will cause that to occur is one of those things that you have little idea about until it occurs.

Jim Bernhard has taken a trip back though both history and time to collect a massive amount of fascinating information, beginning with the Classical Age, on how many of the famous authors have ‘left this mortal coil’.

The reading makes for a fascinating, intriguing and occasionally humorous look at how so many famous, or indeed in some cases infamous authors, poets and scholars met their end.

Aeschylus (525 – 431BC) writer of some of the most lurid works collectively known as Greek Tragedy’s was killed on the island of Sicily. He had been warned by an oracle that he would be killed by a house falling on him and therefor kept well away from buildings when out walking.  Sadly, while out walking a Lammergeier (bearded –eagle) mistook his bald head for a rock and dropped a turtle on him. Neither the turtle nor Aeschylus survived the incident.

Socrates (born 469BC) -choose to swallow poison, as he was tried on the charge of impiety against the state and of corrupting the minds of young people. When his friend Crito asked how he would like to be buried he replied, ‘Any way you like, but first you have to catch me!’

Christopher Marlow rose to early fame as a play-wright and member of the Admirals Men theatrical company. He was considered to have also worked as a spy, reporting on any he felt were being disloyal to Queen Elizabeth. He also earned a reputation for blasphemy and atheism, both considered as crimes in Elizabethan England. It is no real surprise that he met an ugly death, in a seedy tavern, over who would pay the bill or alternatively over a woman. Rumours abounded!

Oscar Wilde died as he lived, ‘beyond his means’ after living a notorious lifestyle, having been married, divorced, supported by his ex-wife, involved in homosexual liaisons and leaving behind a debt of two hundred pounds for his funeral which was never paid!

Oscar Hammerstein II rose to huge popularity on the stage and screen as the creator of some of the world’s best loved musicals. Hammerstein was diagnosed with cancer of the stomach only weeks before the immortal ‘Sound of Music’ was to open on Broadway. He died peacefully in is sleep on 23 August, 1960.

As the pages turn there is so much fascinating information on the men and women who still remain an influence on literature, so much so that it is difficult to put down, as you wish to see what happened to the next person in the book.

Commencing with the Classical Era and following through to the Modern Era, detailing the events that led up to the final demise of such as Samuel Beckett, Joe Orton, Nora Ephron and Graham Green, on the eternally fascinating subject of ‘how did they die’, will satisfy the curiosity of those who enjoy the small or not so small events of life and the finale that does eventually come to us all, one way or the other. A great read, despite what could be considered a morbid topic. Guess what, it’s not!