Mswas’ CBR-III Review #15 – The Book of the Dead by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson


The Book of the Dead by John Lloyd and John Mitchinson is not about Egypt, nor is it a thriller. Look more closely at the book’s subtitle for a clue: “Lives of the Justly Famous and the Undeservedly Obscure.” This book is comprised of many mini-biographies, grouped into unique categories, such as “There’s Nothing Like a Bad Start in Life.” Mini-biographies in this category all had “a dead, absent, or impossible father.” Other categories include “The Monkey Keepers” and “Once You’re Dead, You’re Made for Life,” which cover people who owned monkeys  in life, and those who “at first had carried all before them but went to the grave unable to pay their own funeral,” respectively.

The people represented in the book cover such notable men as Casanova,  Rembrandt, Oliver Cromwell,  Santa Ana, Henry Ford, Howard Hughes, da Vinci, Freud, Newton. And women are fairly well represented in Princess Caraboo, Marie Bonaparte, Cora Pearl, Catherine the Great, and Tallulah Bankhead.

Tallulah took her clothes off in public so often that her friend Estelle Winwood asked, “Why do you do that, Tallulah? You have such pretty frocks.” She was notorious for not wearing underwear, and delighted in showing off the fact to as many people as possible. When the film crew complained of her regular exposures on the set of Lifeboat in 1944, Alfred Hitchcock’s laconic reply was: “I don’t know whether that’s a concern for wardrobe or hairdressing.”

These  brief biographies are intriguing and entertaining, though not thorough by any means. It’s a nice, light and funny compendium of many life stories.


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