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They Went That-a-way

July 2024
1min read

By Malcolm Forbes with Jeff Bloch; Simon and Schuster; 336 pages.

At first glance Glenn Miller, Thomas Jefferson, Buddy Holly, Sigmund Freud, Aeschylus, and Sid Vicious might not seem to have a great deal in common. But they all are fellow members in the vast fraternity of death. This book tells how they joined.

Malcolm Forbes has selected 150 men and women from the past three thousand years and described how each of them died. Actually, there’s more to it than that: They Went That-a-way isn’t simply an amalgam of forensic data but rather a series of short biographies. The weight of these is canted toward the subject’s passing, and the deaths tend to illuminate sharply and succinctly the lives that preceded them. Ulysses Grant goes out with the same resolve he showed at Fort Donelson twenty-three years earlier, struggling against the mounting pain of his cancer to finish the memoirs that will salvage his family’s fortune; Montgomery Clift drifts into the thirteen-year slide that one friend called “the slowest suicide in show business”; Stephen Foster writes “Beautiful Dreamer” in the few days left to him; the much decorated Audie Murphy, asked how people survive a war, replies, “I don’t think they ever do”; George Eastman, before putting a pistol to his chest, writes a note: “To my friends: My work is done. Why wait? G.E.”

Among its other pleasures, this lively compendium is almost certain to be the only reference work you’ll ever own in which the entry on Jimi Hendrix is followed directly by the one on Wild Bill Hickok.

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