Book Review: Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour

Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour

Marti Rulli, with Dennis Davern

390 pages

I knew next to nothing about Natalie Wood just a few weeks ago.  Just the fact that she was an actress and she drowned.  That’s it.  And then I saw that the case dealing with her death was being reopened by law enforcement and I had to know more.

Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour is the story of that night as told to the author by her longtime friend, Dennis Davern, who was also the captain of Natalie’s boat, Splendour.  Davern was extremely close with Natalie and her husband Robert Wagner and he was present the night Natalie died, along with Christopher Walken.  For years Davern kept his silence, out of allegiance to Wagner, but once Wagner cast him off, his guilt, along with his anger, encouraged him to come clean about what really happened that night Natalie died.

I will be honest; although I knew little about this case before picking up this book, I was already pretty convinced of Wagner’s guilt.  There’s just too many inconsistencies and it doesn’t make sense that someone would just fall off a large yacht and drown.  My viewpoint was only confounded as I read this book.  It just doesn’t make sense, and unfortunately

Wood and Wagner aboard Splendour

Wagner’s celebrity status at the time was enough for the investigators to brush everything under the rug and refuse to look into the matter at all.

I loved that this book was written with the help of an insider.  I believe Davern’s account wholeheartedly, because it makes sense and because it is corroborated by others.  However, I did have some issues with the book.  There were times when it was unbelievably slow.  For one, I have absolutely no interest in the author’s history or Davern’s history.  I’m sorry, but I just want to hear about Natalie and Wagner and that night and what really happened.  There’s absolutely no reason to add anyone else’s biographical account.  I also thought that parts of the book were redundant and that Rulli was attempting to drag it out longer than was necessary.  She would continuously replay the scene of that fateful night, each time adding one or two more tidbits of information, so by the end it had also become a bit anticlimactic.  In general, I felt that it was a poorly written book BUT I was more interested in the story being told, so I was able to overlook that.

If you’re interested in what really happened to Natalie Wood, you should consider Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour.  You’ll be heartsick for Natalie and angered at the way the case has been handled.

Other Reviews:

None that I could find.

I purchased this book from Amazon for my kindle.

Book Review: 101 Things You Thought You Knew About the Titanic . . . But Didn’t!

101 Things You Thought You Knew About the Titanic . . . But Didn’t!

Tim Maltin, with Eloise Aston


320 pages

I’ll admit, I have a morbid fascination with the Titanic.  The opulence and high society of that era are intriguing, then add to that the devastation and tragedy that occurred that night and it becomes extremely compelling.  So I was thrilled to find this title available on Netgalley.

The format of 101 Things is a chronological grouping of  facts.  Maltin starts off by exposing a common “fact” about the Titanic and then either affirms or discounts it.  He starts off with the building of the ship all the way through to the fateful collision with the iceberg and what happened afterward.  I thought I would share with everyone some of the most shocking and/or interesting tidbits that I discovered through this book.

-Third class passengers were not locked in steerage.  They had just as much of a chance of getting on a lifeboat as the first class passengers, as long as they were children and women of course!

-It probably would not have made much of a difference if there were more lifeboats.  The last lifeboat was released just before the ship was sinking, so it took an entire hour and a half to fill the lifeboats, even at half capacity.

-Bruce Ismay, the president of White Star Lines was vilified for living through the sinking.  However, he only escaped on the very last lifeboat.  Up until that point, he assisted with the evacuation efforts.  He was severely humbled by the tragedy and spent the majority of his life practically in hiding.

-Most of the deaths were actually a result of hypothermia, NOT drowning.  After 15 minutes in such cold water, you would become unconscious and death would usually occur within 45 minutes.

I found 101 Things completely engrossing. With the 100th anniversary of the sinking coming up, I am keeping my fingers grossed for some other great books about the Titanic.

Other Reviews:

None that I could find.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.

Book Review: Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training

Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training

Tom Jokinen

Da Capo Press

288 pages

I’ll admit, I have a morbid curiosity, and death has always fascinated me.  Books like Stiff, by Mary Roach are right up my alley, and in my attempt to find something in that vein to read for RIP VI.  I stumbled across this one on Amazon and downloaded the sample.  Twenty minutes later, I knew I was paying for this bad boy, and I continued to read well into the night.

Tom Jokinen decides to spend almost an entire year immersing himself in the funeral industry.  Inspired by Jessica Mitford (sister of Nancy) who wrote The American Way of Death and, thirty years later, The American Way of Death Revisited (one of my favorite books), Jokinen sheds light on the affect Mitford has had on the funeral industry and the way the industry has evolved in the last few decades, with cremation becoming more and more popular.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the interesting tidbits I gleaned from Jokinen’s memoir.

•By 2025, 59% of decedents will be cremated

•Red lipstick may look good on you while you’re alive, but once you die, purple lipstick is where it’s at.

•Speaking of makeup, you can’t use regular makeup on dead people, being as makeup adheres due to the heat in your body.  Therefore, a corpse needs something more like shellac.

•In Europe, it is common to lease a grave for 15 years.  If, when the lease ends, you choose not to renew it, the bones will be removed.

•Death rates are expected to rise again in 2020, when the baby boomers start dying off.

•A typical cremation uses 16 gallons of gasoline.  Obviously not very eco friendly.

Curtains is filled with hundreds of little nuggets like these, which I love.  I was rapt and read the entire book in less than 48 hours.  If you know of any other books that are similar to this, definitely let me know.

If you are interested in this book, you may also like:










Other Reviews:

The Book Lady’s Blog

S Krishna’s Books

I purchased this book from Amazon for my kindle.

This book counts towards RIP VI.

Book Review: The Wordy Shipmates

The Wordy Shipmates

Sarah Vowell

Riverhead Trade

272 pages

The only thing more dangerous than an idea is a belief. And by dangerous I don’t mean thought-provoking.  I mean: might get people killed.

Promising opening, right? The Wordy Shipmates is a book about a group of colonists that traveled from England in 1630 to the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  The group was led by John Winthrop, who went on to be the governor of Massachusetts.

This book was mostly a diatribe on the religious beliefs of Winthrop and his people.  I don’t necessarily have an issue with reading the history of puritans and their religious beliefs but that was all. there. was.  For 272 pages.  For that reason, The Wordy Shipmates was a prime example of what happens when you go into a book with completely different expectations.  I anticipated a book that told more about the day to day living of the puritans and the hardships they faced.  I expected to hear more about the people that maybe didn’t make it into our history books. I got none of that.

The Wordy Shipmates seems to have overwhelmingly positive reviews, so don’t take my opinion as gospel.  In fact, I am excited to read more from Vowell and I did appreciate her acerbic wit.  I can see why she has such a following, and I fully intend to read more from her, starting with Assassination Vacation.

Other Reviews:

S Krishna’s Books

Fyrefly’s Book Blog

Vulpes Libris

Sasha & the Silverfish

Care’s Online Book Club

You’ve GOTTA Read This!

I purchased this book from Borders.

Book Review: The Poisoner’s Handbook

The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensics in Jazz Age New York

Deborah Blum


336 pages

As a teenager, I was always drawn to true crime.  It was pretty much the only genre I read, starting with Helter Skelter, which I read countless times, trickling down to the likes of Ann Rule and other fast paced, non fiction crime stories.  Although I have gotten sick of the typical true crime books, sometimes one comes along that intrigues me enough to pick it up.  The Poisoner’s Handbook is one such book.

The book focuses on New York City’s first medical examiner, Charles Norris.  Norris and his right hand man, Alexander Gettler, paved the way for forensic science during the jazz age and made many bold discoveries that were the result of extremely hard work and perseverance.

Each chapter was chronological through the first two and a half decades of the twentieth century and each chapter focused on a different poison.  Each chapter was part scientific, with the chemical breakdown of the poison and the diligent work on behalf of Norris and Gettler on determining the presence of said poison in a cadaver and the effects of the poison.  The other part focused on certain cases in which the poison was used to maim or kill someone.

Personally, I could have done without all the scientific information, which bogged down the book for me.  When I do read true crime, it is for the story, and in that respect The Poisoner’s Handbook did not let me down. The story of the working girl on her lunch break who died after eating a piece of pie at a local diner . . . the dangerous poisons that are found in household items, and so on and so forth.

Had the book included more crime stories and less chemistry, it would have hit the perfect note for me.  Instead, I found myself bored for some of the book.  Despite that, the good parts outweighed the bad.

Other Reviews:

You’ve GOTTA Read This!

Sophisticated Dorkiness

A Book a Week

I purchased this book from Borders.

Book Review: Wishing for Snow

Wishing for Snow

Minrose Gwin

Harper Perennial

240 pages

Minrose Gwin had quite the childhood.  Her father and mother divorced when she was very young, so she had no recollection of her father, and her mother remarried a man simply known as “The Salesman”.  Meanwhile, her mother, Erin Taylor Clayton Pitner, was what you might call a bit eccentric, which eventually developed into full fledged mental illness.  There was no point where it became obvious the Erin went from just a tad erratic to downright certifiable, although Gwin’s literary style may have made it disorienting, but more on that later.

The relationship between Gwin and her mother was very tragic.  There was a lot of contention between them later on, especially after Minrose had Erin committed later on, but even as a child, Erin did not appear to be a compassionate loving mother.  The bond between the two was weak, and maybe it had to do with the fact that Minrose’s father abandoned the two of them early on, annihilating Erin’s intentions to have a happy, cohesive family.  The man she chose to marry during Minrose’s childhood, “The Salesman”, did nothing to unify the family, and instead drove them further apart.  He was a complete jackass, and one scene towards the end of the book had me feeling sick to my stomach.  All I will say is that it involved a pony being dragged by a car.

The time period of the book added another layer to the narrative, with Erin being born in the 20s and Minrose being born in the 40s.  The climate in the South at that time was very traditional, and one example of the contention caused by the stigma at the time was when Minrose became pregnant with her daughter.  She married her daughter’s father early in the pregnancy, but when her daughter was born and it was obvious that she was not premature, and thus conceived prior to the marriage, Erin was shamed and irritated.

As for the writing style, which I hinted at earlier, it was very free flowing.  I liked the fact that Minrose chose to include portions of her mother’s childhood diary and her poems, although I thought she went overboard with the poetry.  Had she pared it down a little, I think I would have enjoyed it more.  However, the excessive poetry was somewhat cloying.  Poetry fans will like that aspect of the book though.  There was also no timeline as far as the narrative went.  Minrose jumped back and forth from one issue to another, from one decade to another and back again.  I thought it worked well for her, although there were a few instances where it became confusing.

Wishing for Snow, was, above all, a very thoughtful memoir.  One that I imagine took a lot of blood, sweat and tears.  Very worthy, although at times hard to read.

About Minrose Gwin

Minrose Gwin is the author of The Queen of Palmyra. She has written three scholarly books, coedited The Literature of the American South, and teaches contemporary fiction at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill.

Minrose’s Tour Stops

Thursday, July 7th: My Reading Room

Wednesday, July 13th: Reviews By Lola

Thursday, July 14th: Ted Lehmann’s Bluegrass, Books, and Brainstorms

Monday, July 18th: Knowing the Difference

Tuesday, July 19th: Lit Endeavors

Wednesday, July 20th: Cozy Little House

Tuesday, July 26th: Good Girl Gone Redneck

Wednesday, July 27th: Lisa’s Yarns

Thursday, July 28th: Natty Michelle

Thursday, August 4th: she reads and reads

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.