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THIS MONTH
In This Issue:

» The Day the Music Died

» Famous Last Words

» To Athletes Dying Young

» Others Missed

» Shelf Talk: The Young Can't Appreciate Youth

» September's Most Expensive Books Sold

» Contests

When Jimi Hendrix asphyxiated in 1970, how much music did the world lose? John Lennon, Karen Carpenter, Ritchie Valens and too many more died young. And musicians certainly haven't cornered the market on untimely demise. What about Terry Fox, Sylvia Plath, Wilfrid Owen? Whether nature or nurture, some people are so brilliantly talented that their legacy survives in literature, music, ideas, and the hearts of the living. They'll never grow old, never burn out, and they leave us wanting more. This issue of the Avid Reader is dedicated to books by and about some of those who were taken too soon, and the stories they left behind.


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THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
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The Beatles' Shadow by Pauline Sutcliffe

Stuart Sutcliffe - original bassist of The Beatles. Died in 1962 at age 21 of a brain hemorrhage.

Stuart Sutcliffe was one of the founding members of The Beatles, and credited with coming up with the band's name, along with John Lennon. However, he was also an artist whose paintings showed real talent, for which he was beginning to receive notice. In The Beatles' Shadow: Stuart Sutcliffe and His Lonely Hearts Club, Sutcliffe's sister Pauline, an established psychologist, openly examines her brother's life, his death, his musical and artistic talents, and his place in one of history's most groundbreaking musical groups.


 

 

Otis! The Otis Redding Story by Scott Freeman

Otis Redding - soul, gospel, blues and R&B singer/songwriter. Died in 1967 at age 26 in a plane accident.

Born in the southern U.S. in Georgia, Otis Redding sang in his Baptist church choir and won numerous talent shows in his adolescence. However, he was only active in the professional music scene for seven years before his death, when his chartered plane crashed into a lake in Wisconsin, killing him, his manager, the pilot of the plane, and four members of Redding's band, the Bar-Kays. The cause was never determined. Redding had been famous for his tender, sexy soul ballads, including his first noteworthy hit, “These Arms of Mine” which he wrote in 1962. His most well-known song is likely “Sittin' On The Dock of the Bay”, which was recorded only three days prior to his death. Journalist Scott Freeman, whose writing has earned him numerous awards and two Pulitzer nominations, tells us all about the king of soul in Otis! The Otis Redding Story.


Love, Janis by Laura Joplin

Janis Joplin - rock 'n roll singer/songwriter. Died in 1970 at age 27 of a heroin overdose.

Janis Joplin was famous for her throaty, occasionally gravelly, heart-rending voice. She has been called rock and roll's first female superstar, and while she collaborated and toured with many groups (Big Brother & the Holding Company, the Kozmic Blues Band and the Full Tilt Boogie Band) she was often a solo artist, and a driving creative force behind everything she did. Love, Janis is a loving tribute to Joplin by her younger sister Laura, inspired by a collection of letters written by the singer.


Other musicians who died too young:

Hank Williams Sr. - died at age 29 from a morphine overdose.

Eddie Cochran - killed in a traffic accident at age 21.

Jimi Hendrix - age 27 - asphyxiated on his vomit, from combining alcohol with sleeping pills.

Kurt Cobain - suicide by shotgun at age 27.

Brian Jones - died in swimming pool, age 27 - some speculate suicide or overdose.

Buddy Holly - died in plane crash, age 22, along with Ritchie Valens (age 17) and The Big Bopper (age 29).

Ian Curtis (of Joy Division) - suicide by hanging, age 23.

Jim Morrison - accidental heroin overdose, age 27.

Marc Bolan - killed in a traffic accident at age 29.

Nick Drake - age 26, depression, possible suicide.

FAMOUS LAST WORDS
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Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë - Novelist and poet, died in 1848, age 30, of tuberculosis.

Born in Yorkshire in 1818, Emily Brontë had four sisters, Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, and Anne, and one brother, Branwell Patrick, all of whom died of tuberculosis. Charlotte fared best, making it to the ripe old age of 38 before succumbing in 1855. Emily herself died in 1848 after catching a cold at her brother's funeral. Brontë published much of her poetry, both on her own and in conjunction with her sisters. However, she is best known for her solitary novel, Wuthering Heights, which tells of a thwarted love in a bleak, harsh climate much like Brontë's own Yorkshire.


The Collected Poems of Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen - soldier and war poet, killed in action at the Battle of the Sambre, 1918, age 25.

Wilfred Owen is best known for his stark, realistic depictions of life in the trenches through his poetry, and is widely acknowledged as one of the foremost WWI poets. In a time when many war poets focused heavily on inspiration, positivity and duty to one's country, Owen pulled few punches, describing the futility, fear, desolation and loss in war. Owen himself was killed on the front, after returning voluntarily to service. At the time of his death, only five of his poems had been published.


The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath - novelist, poet, short story writer, died in 1963 at age 30, suicide by gas

While she was primarily regarded for her poetry, Sylvia Plath also wrote one novel, The Bell Jar, under the pen name Victoria Lucas. The use of a pseudonym, as well as the story of The Bell Jar, which details a young woman's struggle with depression, disillusionment and mental illness, has led to the widely accepted assumption the book is at least partially autobiographical. The story is a rollercoaster, with the reader being lifted into happy, positive times and dropped into misery and hopelessness along with the main character, and presumably, the author. The story ends on an unfinished note, with the reader uncertain as to the outcome. Sylvia Plath killed herself a month after its publication.


Other literary figures who died too young:

Rupert Brooke - poet, died in 1915 at age 27 from an infected mosquito bite.

Stephen Crane - novelist, author of The Red Badge of Courage, died of tuberculosis at age 28 in 1900.

Anne Frank - German Jewish diarist, died of Typhus in Berger-Belsen concentration camp at age 15.

Percy Bysshe Shelley - influential Romantic poet, drowned accidentally at age 29 in 1822.

Thomas Chatterton - 18th century poet. Died of suicide by arsenic poisoning (chosen over starving to death) at age 17.

John Keats - poet, died in 1821 at age 25 from Tuberculosis.

Georg Heym - German expressionist writer; died at age 25 in 1912 when he fell through the ice on a frozen river.

TO ATHLETES DYING YOUNG
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The Lost Babes by Jeff Conners

Duncan Edwards - Soccer player. Died at 21 in 1958 in the Munich air disaster.

Signed to Manchester United when he was just a teenager, Duncan Edwards became England's youngest player since WWII. He had played all through his school years, and been captain of his team for two years running, before attracting the attention of a scout. Edwards played for less than five years professionally before his death, but helped Manchester United win two League Championships, and reach the semi-finals for the European Cup. He survived the aircrash, but died from his injuries 15 days later. Seven of his teammates were killed in the disaster as well. Their story and Edwards' is told in The Lost Babes: Manchester United Forgotten Victims of Munich.


The Killings of Stanley Ketchel by James Blake

Stanley Ketchel - Polish-American boxing middleweight champ. Murdered in 1910 at age 24.

Born Stanislaw Kiecal, the fighter eventually called Stanley Ketchel was well-known and beloved in the boxing community. He was nicknamed the 'Michigan Assassin', and was famous for taking on boxers who greatly outweighed him. He became obsessed with Jack Johnson, who was the first black heavyweight champion of the world, and challenged him for the heavyweight crown. While Johnson prevailed, many were astounded at how good a fight Ketchel put up. Ketchel was robbed and shot to death on a friend's ranch, where he was staying. His killers were sentenced to life in prison.


Terry Fox: His Story by Leslie Scrivener

Terry Fox - Canadian athlete and cancer activist. Died at 22 of complications of Osteosarcoma.

From an early age, Terry Fox loved sports, playing and training hard, and winning medals in diving and swimming. His dream was to become a Physical Education teacher, and he studied kinesiology at university. At age 18, he developed a form of cancer in his right knee, and had to have his leg amputated above the knee. Three years later, Fox decided to run from one coast of Canada to the other, a length of a marathon every day, raising money for cancer awareness along the way. Sadly, his cancer had metastasized to his lungs, and he was forced to abort his Marathon of Hope after 143 days He had run 5,373 km or 3,339 miles. Fox died nine months later, one month before he would have turned 23.


Other athletes who died too young:

Brian Piccolo - football player who died at age 26 from embryonal cell carcinoma.

Steve Prefontaine - talented distance runner. Died at age 24 in a car accident.

Tom Simpson - road racing cyclist who died at 29 of exhaustion during the 1967 Tour de France.

Pat Tillman - star football player who left the NFL after September 11th to join the U.S. army. He was killed in a friendly fire incident at age 27 in 2004.

Hobey Baker - Amateur hockey player killed in a plane crash at 26 in 1918. (F Scott Fitzgerald, who went to Princeton a few years after Baker, memorialized him by naming the main character in This Side of Paradise 'Amory Blaine' in reference to Baker's full name.)

Ray Chapman - baseball player who died of a pitch to the head at age 29 in 1920, resulting in the adoption of protective helmets for batters.

Jem Belcher - 18th and 19th century bare-knuckle boxer who died at 30 of an ulcerated liver and pneumonia.

OTHERS MISSED
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Live Fast, Die Young by Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel

James Dean - legendary movie star. Died at age 24 in a car accident.

James Dean was born in a small town in Indiana, in 1931, and raised Quaker. He was close to his pastor, and played high school baseball and basketball, before majoring in pre-law at college, and then switching to drama. Dean was gorgeous, the all-American boy, and had a bright future. He landed roles in three major films: Giant, East of Eden, and Rebel Without a Cause for which he is best remembered. Dean was driving his Porsche with a friend along when he crashed head-on with an oncoming car. He was pronounced dead at the hospital, and later became the first actor to receive a posthumous Oscar nomination. Live Fast, Die Young tells of the making of Rebel Without a Cause.


Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art by Phoebe Hoban

Jean-Michel Basquiat - groundbreaking New York artist. Died of mixed-drug toxicity at age 27.

When the art of Jean-Michel Basquiat was discovered, he was living well below the poverty line, couch-surfing, and selling his one-off postcards on the street. Beginning as a subversive graffiti artist, Basquiat eventually began showing his work with the help of various benefactors. He became part of the Neo-Expressionists in New York in the early 80s, befriending Andy Warhol in the process. Unfortunately, Basquiat had experimented with drugs long term, and developed a serious heroin habit. In 1988 he died of an overdose of cocaine mixed with heroin. Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art details the artist's journey from his childhood to his death.


Bombshell by David Stenn

Jean Harlow - iconic film actress and famed sex symbol of the 1930s. Died at 26 from kidney failure.

Born Harlean Harlow Carpenter, the original blonde bombshell signed into her first casting call using her mother's name, Jean Harlow, and the name stuck. Harlow wowed audiences with her charm, her lovability and certainly her figure. Critics disagreed and condemned Harlow's acting ability, but the audiences would not be swayed, and Harlow was beloved and packed theaters anywhere she went, even inspiring young women everywhere to dye their hair platinum blonde, like hers. By the mid 1930s, she was one of the biggest screen stars in America. In 1937, Harlow died from kidney failure, possibly attributable to a bout of scarlet fever in her childhood.


Others missed:

Chris McCandless - young man who hiked into the Alaskan wilderness on his own. Died of starvation, age 24.

Isabella Beeton - “Mrs. Beeton” was a famous cookbook writer who died of puerperal fever at age 28 in 1865.

Ryan White - young man made famous for contracting HIV through a blood transfusion, and consequently being expelled from school. His case did much to promote awareness of HIV. He died as a result of his infection in 1990, at age 18.

River Phoenix - promising young actor who died in 1993 of a drug overdose at age 23.

Robert Wadlow - the world's tallest man, Wadlow was really little more than a boy when he died at age 22 from an infected ankle, in 1940. He was 8'11".

Sharon Tate - Actress and wife of Roman Polanski. Killed at age 26 by Charles Manson followers in 1969.

Edie Sedgwick - American socialite, known primarily for her connection to Andy Warhol. Died at age 38 from barbiturate intoxication.

Manfred von Richthofen - The “Red Baron”. Legendary WWI German fighter pilot who was shot down and killed in his plane at age 25 in 1918.

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Shelf Talk: The Young Can't Appreciate Youth
by Richard Davies - PR Manager; Resident Brit.

My high school English literature teacher introduced me and the rest of the class to Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. My God, it must have been a thankless task and I'm thankful I never became a teacher. It was 1983 and here was a group of witless teenagers with acne and bad hair sitting in a mundane classroom.

My teacher, who was called Mr Cave, made a valiant effort to describe the short, bright existence of Plath, and why her writing mattered. It made no impact whatsoever. I remember he read aloud some of Plath's poetry but nothing stirred within me. Then he read some of Hughes' poetry from Crow and that was a huge mistake. I listened to the bleak, threatening words and wondered how anyone would write anything so dark and depressing. I had no comprehension about how loss can affect people. I was more likely to read the graffiti on my school desk than pick up a Plath book.

Plath killed herself in 1963. Mr Cave probably remembered what he was doing when he heard she had died. Plath's death clearly left a lasting impression on Mr Cave and I wish I had been more understanding in his class rather than a just a gormless teenager. I understand it now and understand why Plath's work is still referenced today. Mr Cave wasn't just inspired by Plath's work, he was pained by the loss of a bright star from his generation. Sadly, people die in their twenties and thirties every day. The obituary pages in North American newspapers can be extraordinarily painful when you see a young face staring out at you. But actors, writers, singers, and athletes are somewhat different to ordinary folks because they have a following as well as a family. I began to better understand Mr Cave's sentiments about Plath and Hughes when people who influenced my life started to too die.

Of course, the question that is always asked is 'what if they'd lived on?' Brian Jones never grows old and wrinkled, and will always be associated with the swinging 1960s. Meanwhile the Rolling Stones keep touring with the Mick, Keith and Co. in their 60s. When someone dies young, you are left with a very concise and untarnished record of their achievements - no wonder so many books are written about these icons that never age. They left you wanting more. I should track down Mr Cave and ask him to teach that English literature class again. I think I'd appreciate it now.

Think we missed someone? Is there a book that exemplifies the loss of a young person, to you? Write and let us know, and your words could be featured on AbeBooks.
 
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ON THE SITE

Read the Booker Winner and Runners-Up

The White Tiger by Aravind AdigaAt long last, the winner of the 2008 Man Booker Prize has been announced. Congratulations to Indian author Aravind Adiga, whose debut novel The White Tiger takes the prize this year.

Read about the winner and the finalists.



Inheritance Trilogy Complete

Brisingr by Christopher PaoliniChristopher Paolini's much celebrated Inheritance trilogy is now complete, with the release of the third book, Brisingr.

Find Signed Copies of Brisingr



Interesting Inscriptions

Interesting InscriptionsWhile many inscriptions are bland and generic, some authors add humor and personality when signing a book. We have compiled a collection of funny and inspiring inscriptions, from Ernest Hemingway to Stephen King.

Check Out the Inscriptions

Signed Bestsellers in September
  1. Indignation
    Philip Roth
  2. Girl With Curious Hair
    David Foster Wallace
  3. A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
    David Foster Wallace
  4. Gargoyle
    Andrew Davidson
  5. Home
    Marilynne Robinson
See the whole list

Most Expensive Books Sold in September
  1. Administration des Haras
    Eugène Gayot - $7,000
  2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
    J.K. Rowling - $6,958
  3. Tibullus cum commentariis Cyllænii Veronensis
    Tibullus, Catullus and Propertius - $6,527
  4. The Catalogue of the George Eumorfopoulos Collection
    R.L. Hobson - $6,555
  5. Lo Purgatorio di Dante Alighieri Fiorentino
    Dante - $5,000
See the whole list
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Notes from Avid Readers

As always, thank you for writing about our last Avid Reader. Politics are certainly a hot topic, and many of you had much to say on the subject! We love to hear from book lovers and passionate people, so keep your contributions coming.
"A favourite political book of mine oddly ties in your theme with an author mentioned elsewhere in the same issue of Avid Reader: Hunter Thompson's Fear And Loathing On The Campaign Trail - Gonzo journalism meets Richard Nixon."
- Michael from: Manchester, UK

"Alex Hutchinson's recent fiction/political book, PURPLE STATE, There will Be No Recount, is quite provocative, well written and well researched. Although the book is fictitious, it takes little imagination to hear the truth behind the curtain of Oz. Once you begin reading this book you can't put it down. Hutchinson is a young writer who deserves some attention and acclaim.

Fidel Castro, My Life written by Castro and Ignacio Ramonet is superb. Although it seems a daunting book with its 626 pages, it moves quickly, written as a journalistic interview, which keeps the pace moving forward.

As to Profiles in Courage, this is a great political book that deserves its reputation for excellence, but the truth is Jack Kennedy did not do the actual writing of this book. It is a fairly well kept secret that Ted Sorenson, one of Kennedy's foremost speech writers, did the actual writing - all of it. At the time this book was written Kennedy had not yet faced such things as the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Those events brought some sobriety into his character, making him more President than Playboy.

But, at the time Profiles in Courage was written, Kennedy was still juvenile, distracted and unseasoned as a political leader. He claims to have written the book while recuperating from serious back surgery. Yes, the book was written during that time period, and perhaps Kennedy spent some time sitting on the beach with pad and pencil, but he must have been doodling because Sorenson wrote the book.

I can say that and still say that Kennedy was a brilliant young man, one of the most brilliant politicians our society has ever seen. I have the greatest respect for John F. Kennedy."
- Pete, from Ruffsdale

"One of my favorite political books is All's Fair: Love, War and Running for President by James Carville and Mary Matalin. It lets the reader peek into the world of spin doctoring and running a campaign from competing points of view. Sometimes we assume that folks running Presidential campaigns "know what they're doing." This book reveals that emotion, intuition and bias enter into strategy almost as much as the costly research conducted by campaigns. It also reveals rationalization as a common defense for questionable ethics from both sides."
- Michael from West Nanticoke, PA

"Tip O'Neill's autobiograpy, Robert Caro's books about Lyndon Johnson, anything written by or about Winston Churchill and the same for Teddy Roosevelt."
- Keith

"The best? Alan Clark's diaries, especially the first volume."
- John

"I loved the book Because They Hate by Brigitte Gabriel. She tells about her life as a Christian girl in Lebanon."
- Orit
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