‘I See Dead People’ As I Write This Post

Literature lovers are among the people who need cheering up in these troubled times, so today’s blog post is about…death. Oops.

It can’t be denied that many great and not-so-great novels have a mortality element, and some of those books are nearly 100% depressing. But others are also inspiring, therapeutic, cathartic, etc.

Death entered my mind as I recently read Fannie Flagg’s The Whole Town’s Talking, much of which features residents of the fictional Missouri town of Elmwood Springs talking with each other after they die. Yet the novel is mostly sunny and comforting, though not so sentimental that some real-life social issues (such as sexism) are ignored.

On the other hand, many death-permeated novels — such as Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment — are mostly downbeat. Yet they can be totally worth reading for their powerful writing, psychological insights, perspectives on religion, and so on.

“Death-permeated” doesn’t necessarily mean a lot of characters pass away in a particular book. Just two deaths are most central to Crime and Punishment, and there’s only one major demise in Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop. In mass-audience fiction, among the mortality-infused novels with just one key death is Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember.

Yet “death-permeated” can mean many lives snuffed out — especially in fictional works set during wartime (such as Erich Maria Remarque’s concentration-camp novel Spark of Life), during an attack on civilians (Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch), during resistance to a brutal dictatorship (Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies), during slavery (Octavia Butler’s Kindred), during a plague (Mary Shelley’s The Last Man), etc.

Then there are the five people who die when a bridge collapses in Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey. Nothing more than awful fate and horrible luck, of course, but a monk who witnesses the disaster tries to find a reason why that particular quintet lost their lives.

Early in Old Mortality, Sir Walter Scott focuses on a man who travels to various cemeteries to re-engrave the tombs of 17th-century men who died in battle. Then Scott moves the action back to 1679, and we see the deaths occur.

In “The Dead,” hearing a particular song causes a married woman to remember the passing away of a young former boyfriend. The effect on her and her husband (along with James Joyce’s evocative writing) gives the long short story its emotional wallop.

Other fictional works prominently featuring the no-longer-living? Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Chronicle of a Death Foretold (obviously), Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights (Catherine Earnshaw’s spectral presence), Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (brutal white guys massacring innocents in the 19th-century American West), and (Ms.) Lionel Shriver’s So Much for That (with its memorable conclusion that juggles life and death), to name just four.

What about Edgar Allan Poe? Agatha Christie? Sue Grafton? Walter Mosley? Louise Penny? Lee Child? Authors of certain genre fiction — horror stories, ghost tales, mysteries, detective novels, thrillers, etc. — of course often include in their books murdered or otherwise-deceased characters, but that’s for different blog posts to discuss. Several of which I already wrote, such as this one.  🙂

The death-permeated works of fiction you’ve found most memorable? (Feel free to also comment on mysteries and the other genres mentioned in the above paragraph!)

And, sort of on this topic, here’s a video of the Evanescence song “My Immortal.”

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com. The latest weekly piece, a dystopian fantasy about greedy developers paving over and building in parks, is here.

115 thoughts on “‘I See Dead People’ As I Write This Post

  1. ‘The dog it was that died,’ I found Maughan’s the Painted Veil quite a memorable ‘death’ story. He seemed to like the odd death in his books. But that one is one that comes to mind, once i remove the ones you speak of like Christie etc where obvi the body count was high. Another one that at first glance might not seem it is Tennyson Jesse’s Pin to See the Peepshow but actually it prob is, because it details very clearly the death of the world that the heroine sets out in as WW1 unfolds and then it is how the death of the father, the death of the young man who she didn’t actually love, leads her into making choices that are quite wrong and that ultimately lead to her own. It is also quite a depiction of capital punishment ultimately. Another great post.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, Shehanne!

        Glad you mentioned W. Somerset Maugham. I think he was a great novelist; I found his “The Painted Veil” (as well as “Of Human Bondage,” “The Razor’s Edge,” “The Moon and Sixpence,” and “Cakes and Ale”) very compelling. Most with strong death elements of a sort, as you alluded to.

        From reading your comment and then googling the book, “A Pin to See the Peepshow” sounds grimly fascinating.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I love Maughan’s prose. It leanly says so much. I think the only one I have missed off that list is Cakes and Ale, must get to that one. I remember loving Theatre because he got right in the skin of the female heroine and I always admire any writer who can get right in the skin of the opposite sex. A Pin to see the Peepshow is a fav of mine. I often reread it actually. And yeah it is grimly fascinating nnd the central character is utterly compelling. .

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, Maugham was quite a writer, and did indeed portray various women really well. Might have helped that he was gay or bisexual.

            “Cakes and Ale” seemed weirdly titled to me, but I learned that the phrase comes from a Shakespeare line. Not Maugham’s best novel by any means, but very good.

            I put “Pin to See the Peepshow” on my to-read list!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Cakes and Ale. 12th Night. Need to read that story. Re Maugham and women? Abso but he was still not a woman at heart if you get me. (Hell these days you almost dare not say that. Indeed you might be crucified for that, which is why I am coming in under the radar and whispering it., the rub being, do women who like other women and/or are both, write men to perfection…) .Sure you will make that a brill post in terms of how crazy so much has become and actually how writers just write.)
              So glad re Pin and Peepshow. I was thinking earlier re that book and it is also a time capsule . It is a book that if I had to name 5 that influenced how I wanted to write would be up there. I mean up to then I just scribbled non stop in notebooks. But that book for me gave the social history of that entire time down to the minutiae of the meals, the weather, the tunes that were marched to, but never bored, and also–given how much I love history–how dreams come down through the ages. The heroine had this bedroom that was her escape from everything her life was kind of thing.. And that for me was timeless. It is also very, very well written.

              Liked by 1 person

  2. Its a treat for readers like me to go through your post. Not only you mentioned the great works of many authors but also mentioned my favorite singer Amy Lee for her album “Evanescence”. I will definitely use your blogs to get pointers for the reading shelf. By any chance are you on Goodreads?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A young soldier, underfed and tired, moves with his comrades as a forest fires roars behind them. He leans against a tree, just for a moment, and when he wakes, he is alone, and his fellows have moved on without him. He searches after them for a while, and comes upon a black pony, saddled, its master most likely dead, and mounts, setting off in the general direction of where he hopes he can rejoin his unit. As he rides, his pony collapses suddenly, shot dead. The shooter is riding a huge white horse, and comes straight for the young soldier, who fires at the his enemy, hitting him in the chest. The young soldier then stand over in the fallen rider in shock, and watches him die on the road. He mounts the white horse and rides to safety and eventually away from the The Russian White Counter-Revolution and Russia.

    Years later,in London, he, the narrator, reads a short story in English that describes the incident perfectly. Its author is a man named Alexander Wolf, who eventually proves to be the shooter on the white horse. The incident which had been the defining incident of the young man’s life, proves equally to be the defining incident for Wolf’s own.

    A death deferred has set Wolf apart from humanity, unscrupulous and driven, in ways and with people that the narrator only comes to know at the novel’s end, when fate brings them together in violence once more, and only one of them survives.

    Both psychologically and philosophically profound, with a tightly wound plot and a quickening pace,”The Spectre of Alexander Wolf” was written by Russian emigre and soldier in the White Army Gaito Gazdanov.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Following on from your story, I hope you don’t think I am morbid. I was traveling through a village on my way home and having read your story this came to me.

    As I drove through the village,
    I did surmise,
    Thousands of people have lived and died,
    I looked at the changes which had arrived
    from the new modern buildings and Victorian alike!
    If only these magnificent buildings could speak,
    What a tale of history they could repeat,
    The loves, the lost, the good and the bad?
    Oh, what a tale could be had.
    So many life stories, year upon year,
    As we live, grow and die and disappear.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Here in Nashville, among little treasures unearthed at the house is a teensy green cloth-covered book of poems, “Bits of Sea and Sky” by my maternal grandfather, Joseph Wooling Stone ,and his sister, Ann Stone Stewart, published in 1925 by a teensy press in Lynchburg Va, JP Bell Company. Among other titles produced by JP Bell is “Memoir of A Confederate Cannnoneer”. Mostly, JP Bell printed postcards.

    I had previously contacted a professional book searcher so as to have a copy of BOSAS my own, but there were none to had. My grandfather reads very much like a man of his time– Noyes, Houseman, Galsworthy are likely models, but there’s a little something all his own in here, and he would, in his own life, have valued overmuch that endless glass of Krzhizhanovsky’s…

    Though the theme of this week’s blogposting is ‘death-permeated fiction”, I hope you won’t mind if I type out a short poem of my grandfather’s that, despite its title, “Life’, is so permeated:

    To Life

    Let me drink deep of the aged mellow wine–
    And hold close for one wild hour the sparkling glass
    That touched the thirsting lips of dreamers long ago–
    But a moment drink– and return to nothingness beneath the grass.

    Let me find crimsoned sunsets in the hills
    And sobbing winds tortured with the hurt of Time
    Burn and sear me deep with the hungering fires of Fate—
    In some strange night let all the yearnings of the gods be mine.

    And rend aside for one brief moment every shred
    That veils the Certainty of the Now from the Doubt of Then.
    Let my eyes find but a lurid flame of Truth
    And fail– my lips one draught– and pale. Amen.

    –Joseph Wooling Stone

    Liked by 2 people

    • Perhaps it does indeed sound a bit old-fashioned, but that’s a vivid, powerful, melancholy poem by your grandfather, jhNY. A very talented writer, as I’m sure your great-aunt was as well. What a treasure that book must be for your family; sorry you couldn’t locate another copy for yourself.


      • I’m sorry too, most of all because I had my own copy, 40-some years ago. Joseph Stone was a graduate of the University of Virginia and spent a post-graduate summer term at Queens College, Oxford,and so far as I know, never published again. He spent his life as a high school teacher and administrator in public schools, and later, in private military academies.

        His sister Ann was not so prolific as he, at least by the time of BOSAS’ publication, and taught piano, a charming, lively and warm woman who, alone among all her kin, found a little place in her heart for Elvis, though she was well past the demographic age at whom he was aimed. She married a Scotsman, owned a fine collie dog named Laddie and raised two girls. Here’s my favorite of her poems in the book:

        Children and trees are poets,
        And mothers with babes at their breasts.
        You and i, brother, but harps in the wind,
        Swept by a vague unrest.

        –Ann Stone Stewart

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, being a teacher is as honorable and admirable — if not more so — as being a published author. And that’s an impressive short poem by Ann Stone Stewart. A bit of an Emily Dickinson feel to it.

          Your mention of your great-aunt’s regard for Elvis Presley’s music reminds me of another surprisingly “undemographic” Elvis fan: my 9-year-old adopted daughter, who loves many Elvis songs despite my wife and I never having played his music. (She also likes contemporary pop: Taylor Swift, Meghan Trainor, etc.)


              • Also: bacon, peanut butter, and blueberry preserves .

                I must have told you before, my brush with greatness involving The King. From RCA studios, where Elvis was recording, circa 1970,we at the House Restaurant, where I was working at the time, received a takeout order for 50 of one kind of hamburger, and 2 of another. Looking back, I realize there’s a good chance that the 2 were for Priscilla. I wonder what everybody else ate?

                Liked by 1 person

                  • Dave finally I am slowly getting back to my life !
                    Reading The Windfall, I am loving the book and I think you would love it. The story telling by Diksha Basu is amazing and there is no dull moment.
                    Look for it..you will sense a different world and two world together which you know a lot of these days.
                    Another 100 pages left and i`ll let you know once I am done and hope I could renue it.

                    Liked by 1 person

                  • Back around 1968 when Elvis really was yet The King to zillions, he had gone uninterviewed for several years before he finally agreed to sit down with a reporter from “Esquire”. At the appointed hour, the reporter was admitted to Graceland, where he sat and waited for Elvis to arrive. On the wall, was a large Pepsi sign, which impressed him mightily, as it indicated to him that The King might be a more with-it and contemporary hipster than he’d assumed. When he regally descended the long staircase, the reporter exclaimed “I had no idea you were a pop art fan!” To which Elvis replied. “Pop art? Man, I just like Pepsi!”

                    Liked by 1 person

  6. “Death-permeated” could easily be applied to so many Ray Bradbury books. But so could almost any other phrase, he was so prolific and poetic.

    However, your topic brought to mind his Martian Chronicles, which recounts stories of the ancient death of one world and the recent death of another.

    Particularly death-permeated is the chapter/short story, There Will Come Soft Rains. No living nor dead characters appear, just a lonely smart house in a world bereft of life.

    Boy, I miss that Bradbury! Thanks for poking those embers, Dave. His work is worth remembering.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the eloquent comment, Dave!

      I agree — Ray Bradbury was a magnificent author, adept at not only sci-fi but also other kinds of writing. And, yes, death (whether of people or worlds) was often a presence in his stories and novels — including “Fahrenheit 451,” to name another fictional work of his.

      There are definitely Bradbury fans among the commenters here. 🙂


  7. “The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes”, a Rathbone flick, features a recurrent dirgy flute melody about which Holmes remarks: “There”s death in every note of it.” I’d say it very much pertains to topic, as there would, in the circumstances, a note being but a small thing, very nearly no room for anything else..

    The movie is based on a William Gillette stage play, and is a sort of composite and then some, of several Doyle stories. Family legend has it that Gillette is a distant relation to my beloved Mandy… he was, in the first years of the last century, the most successful and famous of all actors portraying the great detective, and Doyle’s favorite. He was, interestingly, also the most famous portrayer of Count Dracula.

    With the proceeds of his career, he built himself a castle in Connecticut, made to look like a stage set for “Macbeth”, which is now a state park near Chester.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “There’s death in every note of it” — that’s a VERY evocative quote about evocative/depressing music.

      William Gillette sounds like he had quite a life, and it would be nice if he were (distantly) related to your wife!


  8. Ran out of the books I brought with me on my visit, so I hunted in my father’s old room, and found Doctorow’s “Welcome to Hard Times”. I had managed never to read Doctorow before (so many books, so little etc.), but I must say, now that we’ve met, I am mighty impressed with this short debut novel 71 pages in.

    The Bad Man From Bodie, who shows up page 1 out of nowhere and makes the town like the place he came from, is an embodiment of relentless evil violence and murder, and a huge one– more or less a Reacher antithesis, and just as able and fast on his feet (and horse– his or other peoples’), and he means absolutely nobody, man, woman or child, young or old, even his own horse, no good whatsoever.

    Qualifies “Welcome To Hard Times” for the week’s blog topic, I think, as do other aspects and incidents in this well-crafted, beautifully paced, and sordid work of fiction.

    (ps Loved Devil In a Blue Dress– I think it’s the best in the Rollins series I’ve read to date– this being my third. I’d bet he worked over this first one for quite a while and with great care, as it is also his his debut novel. Given all the corpses and the mortal danger, it too qualifies for inclusion.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not a huge fan of E.L. Doctorow, but did like the three novels of his I read: “Ragtime,” “The Book of Daniel,” and “World’s Fair.” I definitely like the politics in some of Doctorow’s work, but somehow his fiction usually doesn’t give me enough of an emotional wallop. “Welcome To Hard Times” does sound like a very good debut novel. Great summary by you!

      Mosley’s debut novel IS excellent! I also read his second Rawlins mystery, “A Red Death,” which was quite good but didn’t match “Devil.”


      • Don’t know whether or not you’d find this blurb persuasive (I didn’t notice it till today) but Norman Mailer called it “a superb novel”. I always thought Mailer was more of a competitor than a promoter or supporter of people in his trade, so maybe he really means what he says. So far, I agree with Mailer. And there is much walloping of readerly emotion to be had….

        Debut novels can be a tentative starting out of writers who get better over time in harness and over a few books, but I’ve noticed, sometimes, that the first can also be the best, especially of series that don’t know they’re series till after the first.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, jhNY! Well, I like Doctorow’s writing more than Mailer’s. 🙂

          But, given Mailer’s abrasive personality, it’s nice he supported other authors’ work — whether rarely or not so rarely.


          • I remember thinking “The Naked and the Dead” was a good war novel when I read it 40 years ago. I also liked “The Deer Park” and “Why Are We in Vietnam?”, a wild and wooley homage to the prose stylings of William Burroughs. He did some good reporting when covered an Ali fight in Esquire magazine years ago as well. As for the person Mailer, I always liked reading him in interviews much more than I liked seeing him on teevee. Bet he did too, especially if he was confronted by others, or confrontational. Writing, I’m pretty sure, was the best thing about him. Again, bet he’d agree. The wonderful thing about art sometimes, given the limit of you personal affect is that you can make a better impression with it than you ever could without.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Again with the non-responsive text window, as you might have guessed by my mistyping of the first title of Mailer’s I mentioned. ‘Dead’ should replace ‘Deal’, naked deserves an N, ‘and wild and wooley’ should be ‘a’. And it should read ‘given the limit of your personal affect,’

              Other than that, everything worked swell.

              But you know, “The Naked and the Deal” might do well as a title were the topic Trump, especially given the Russian dossier.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Sorry about that text-window problem again. 😦 Will fix your first comment as soon as I post this. “The Naked and the Deal” re Trump — hilarious!

                I’ve read a decent amount of Mailer’s writing (including “Miami and the Siege of Chicago”) and he was obviously a talented author. Just not one of my favorites. You described him, his work, and his personality well.


  9. Howdy, Dave!

    — The death-permeated works of fiction you’ve found most memorable? —

    Because that which we die for lives as wholly as that which we live for dies,* every creator worth his or her salt — within our own species, at least — appears to channel Hieronymus Bosch to a certain degree, but the piece I flashed upon first after reading your blog post was Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” which famously features a fateful encounter between the quick (Ebenezer Scrooge) and the dead (Jacob Marley). Humbug! Or not.

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    *Apologies to E.E. Cummings!

    Liked by 1 person

    • J.J., that’s an incredible E.E. Cummings line, which somehow I’ve never seen before. Thank you!

      “A Christmas Carol” is a terrific example of literature featuring death. Of course, a number of other Dickens novels could also be cited; “A Tale of Two Cities” and its iconic ending is one that comes to mind.

      Your “The Quick and the Dead” reference — ha! Very nicely done!


      • — [T]hat’s an incredible E.E. Cummings line, which somehow I’ve never seen before. —

        Due to the Exasperatingly Eccentric capitalization,
        the Extraordinarily Egregious lining
        and the Extremely Experimental punctuation,
        the goings-on in Cummings’ work are Easily Evaded.

        (Until I hear them, I do not
        see half the lines I read.)

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Then there’s “Shepherd Lee”, by Robert Montgomery Bird, the fanntastical tale of a man who,learns upon the occasion of his own death, that he somehow has the power of entering and occupying another body after death, so long as it is close by. From being a gentleman farmer who ruins his farm and his status as gentleman through trusting a financial adviser and general laziness and folly, he moves on ectoplasmically to occupy a henpecked businessman, then upon his next death, a dandy scheming to marry money, a miser, a Quaker philanthropist, a slave, and finally, his own original body, preserved by a quack for display purposes during scientificish public lectures. This novel was written

    Liked by 1 person

    • in the 1840’s, and wryly considers many topics of the day, such as slavery, stock speculation, family relations, politics, etc., though in ways that might occasionally rankle the sensibilities of modern readers. No question though, death pervades “Shepherd Lee” from cover to cover.

      (for some reason, I was cut off before I could finish my comment above, so I place the remainder here…)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry you got cut off again, jhNY. I don’t know what’s going on with this blog… 😦

        I remember you talking about “Shepherd Lee,” which sounds absolutely intriguing. I looked for it in my local library a couple of months ago — not there, but I hope to get to it eventually.

        In the meantime, I’m reading and am VERY impressed by Isak Dinesen’s “Seven Gothic Tales” (which you highly recommended) and will mention it in my next post this Sunday evening.


        • I think the first story, The Deluge At Nordeney, in the collection very much qualifies for place, given our current topic, but I didn’t want to mention it until I knew you’d finished it.

          Then again, as I got to thinking about it, so does “The Old Cavalier”, “The Roads Around Pisa”, and “The Poet”. There are but three left, and another may be hiding among them, but I’m away from my copy (still visiting Nashville), and can’t check anything but my memory….

          Liked by 1 person

  11. If i understand this category (and I’m not sure i entirely do), I will present a moving and memorable piece of fiction, with, again, if I understand the category, a perfect title: “The Autobiography of a Corpse” by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, published, not paradoxically, many years after its author’s death– the manuscript undisturbed and unknown under blankets in the chest of a friend, until it came into the hands of the scholar Vadim Perelmuter, during a ‘thaw’ in USSR government repression in the 1970’s.

    from the goodreads biographical notes on the author:
    “One of his last novellas, “Dymchaty bokal” (The smoky beaker, 1939), tells the story of a goblet miraculously never running out of wine, sometimes interpreted as a wry allusion to the author’s fondness for alcohol. He died in Moscow, but the place where he was buried is not known.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • “The Autobiography of a Corpse” is the first piece in a fiction collection that is experimental, philosophical and fantastic, itself concerning an author, new to Moscow who finds an apartment and in it, words left behind by its former occupant, now dead.

      from goodreads: ” Judging from his works, Robert Louis Stevenson, G. K. Chesterton, Edgar Allan Poe, Nikolai Gogol, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and H. G. Wells were major influences on his style.”

      ( I was cut off before I finished my comment; in other words, the window became unresponsive and would accept no more typing– clicking and waiting on my part notwithstanding)– so I conclude here.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Not sure I totally understand this category, either, jhNY. 🙂 Given my time constraints many weeks, I often write posts quickly and don’t always rewrite and polish as many times as I’d like. 🙂

      “The Autobiography of a Corpse” published posthumously? That IS a striking/memorable thing.

      “…the story of a goblet miraculously never running out of wine, sometimes interpreted as a wry allusion to the author’s fondness for alcohol” — a striking/memorable line.

      Thank you for the comment!


  12. “…need cheering up in these troubled times, so today’s blog post is about…death” – Thanks, Dave. It’s good to know we can count on you to be cheery!

    “Yet “death-permeated” can mean many lives snuffed out” – this definitely made me think of Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire”. As Almost Iowa said, all men must die. And just because someone’s a hero, doesn’t mean they get a heroic death.

    Another ‘many lives snuffed out’ book was Stephen King’s “Under the Dome”. There were a couple of short pages where he killed off dozens of people. Oh, how could I almost forget about “The Stand” where almost everybody dies?!

    “…the five people who die” – this made me think of Albom’s “The Five People you meet in Heaven”. I haven’t read “Tuesday’s with Morrie”, but I can understand why people might think him oversentimental. Although when I read “Five People”, it was in one sitting and it stayed with me for a really long time. I hope Ellen enjoys it as much as I did.

    I’ve not yet read “So Much for That” but Shriver’s “We Need to Talk about Kevin” also has some pretty memorable deaths. Also crammed into a few short pages.

    I recently read the Australian epic “The Fortunes of Richard Mahony” which had some interesting thoughts about mortality. Set in the 1850s, it was very tied in to Christianity and spiritualism. The main characters spend a lot of time thinking about their own place in the world, but unfortunately, they didn’t do too much else. At 941 pages, I think it was at least 850 pages too long.

    I love that Evanescence song. I loved that whole album 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Sue! I not only do “cheery” but also like the “Chairy” character from “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.” 🙂

      Yes, George R.R. Martin (from what I’ve heard about) and Stephen King (from reading many of his books) DO have high casualty counts. Those authors’ characters probably wish they could be reassigned to romance novels…

      I want, want, want to read “We Need to Talk about Kevin,” but haven’t nabbed it yet at my local library. Always checked out. Of course I could reserve it, but then there’s no fun hoping I visit the library the few seconds each month that book is on the shelves. 🙂

      “At 941 pages, I think it was at least 850 pages too long” — hilarious line!

      Thanks for the great comment, and for the references to other comments here! And glad to hear you’re also an Evanescence fan! Amy Lee is amazing.


    • Bill, thanks for the link to your excellent blog, and to your excellent discussion of what sounds like a very interesting book. I was impressed with the post when I read it. Obviously, that author is on “the front lines” of death and the way people react to it.


  13. Yes, I was glad to see that Oko was finally given co-writing status of “Imagine,” whether one cares for her or not. I’m not a huge fan of Yoko’s singing or songwriting capabilities, but if she helped write that iconic song, then she definitely deserves credit for it!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. And then there is the The Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones) series where everyone dies. R, R, Martim does every writer and reader a service by killing off our favorite characters in mostly unheroic circumstances. Not only do we learn to let go of our literary friends but we are also, often brutally, reminded that death comes for us all and ultimately there is no such thing as safety.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Almost Iowa! Well said! I must be one of the few people in the world who hasn’t read those books or seen the TV version. But, yes, I’ve heard there are plenty of people who die the kind of deaths you wryly describe. Unfortunately, that’s real life in a way — good people often dying in unpleasant ways. 😦


  15. The best death scene I have ever read was in the book Anna Karenina and it was a minor character, Nikolai, Levin’s brother who died of consumption. It was such a realistic view of the struggle of death, I recommended it to a hospice/palliative care physician I worked with at the time. So few books/movies portray death in any kind of realistic manner. Of course, there were other deaths in that book, with the tragic suicide of Anna herself at the conclusion. But it was Nikolai’s death that haunted me long after I finished the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Excellent comment, Shallow Reflections! It’s interesting how, in some novels, the death of a secondary character can be more haunting than the death of the main character. And, yes, death is often not portrayed realistically in novels and on the screen. For one thing, it can be sanitized to some extent.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, sanitized is the correct word to describe death scenes in print/film. Similar to birth scenes. When I had a baby I couldn’t believe it wasn’t one scream/push and over. Instead I labored through three shifts at the hospital before the blessed event occurred!

        Liked by 1 person

          • Since we’re discussing death here mostly, and its unrealistic depiction in fiction and film, I would like to add a pet peeve on the topic: it takes a great deal of effort and around two whole minutes to strangle anybody, yet film after film and book after book, it’s but a moment and suddenly a corpse. I think if more people (and jurors) realized how hard it is to do, and how long it takes to do it, few would find credible the testimony of stranglers as to the the ‘accident’ they so often claim occurred.

            Liked by 2 people

  16. A very timely post for me. I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately, probably brought on by thinking about my mum and dad’s. I’m concerned about how we can make this time more comfortable for people, both the dying and the bereaved, and have been reading about the work that Soul Midwives do. http://www.soulmidwives.co.uk/ I’ve also recently read a book called ‘A Safe Journey Home’ by Felicity Warner about the ways a Soul Midwive helps people. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B004KPLKBY/ref=oh_aui_d_detailpage_o08_?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    Currently, I’m reading ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven’ by Mitch Albom.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ellem63, thank you very much for your heartfelt comment — and for the links. I found them interesting not only in general but personally because my first daughter was in a hospice for two years, and the people who worked there — while not known as “soul midwives” — were extremely helpful in making an awful situation a little more bearable.

      Sorry about your mother and father.

      I’ve read one Mitch Albom book, “Tuesdays With Morrie,” which I found compelling. I guess people have mixed feelings about Albom as an author — some find him wonderfully earnest, others too sentimental. He’s also been a good newspaper columnist for many years.


      • Hello Dave. I apologise for the substantial delay in my replying to you. I did read your comment, but was feeling unwell at the time (bronchitis) and was only able to read without writing … still got the bronchitis, but over the worst. 🙂

        I was sorry to hear about your daughter. To lose a child must be one of the hardest things to bear. I’m glad that you found the experience with the hospice helped.

        I finished the Mitch Albom book (5 people in Heaven) and loved it. I’ll certainly be looking up more books of his.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thank you, ellem63. The delay is not a problem at all. Very sorry you’ve had to deal with bronchitis.

          Losing a child, or anyone close, is definitely horrible. But, as cliched as it sounds, time does help a lot. In my case, it was 27 years ago. Thank you again for the kind words.

          Liked by 1 person

  17. Another try at posting:
    Dave, although you said you’ve already written about “horror stories, ghost tales, mysteries, detective novels, thrillers, etc.,” I’d still like to respond to this column as someone who has probably read more murder mysteries, private detective series, crime novels, thrillers, police procedurals, locked room mysteries, romantic suspense, legal novels than anyone I know, and perhaps more than anyone else who comments on this blog. This doesn’t mean that this is anything to be proud of, but that’s just the way I’ve spent most of my reading life. This doesn’t mean I’ve neglected classic or modern literature, sci-fi fiction, poetry, plays, non-fiction works, biographies or memoirs, but these mystery books were my way to cope with real life. Except of course for my beloved Jane Austen!

    That being said, probably my two favorite mystery novels are “Gaudy Night” by Dorothy L. Sayers, in which there isn’t even a murder to solve (only a poison pen writer) and “The Daughter of Time” by Josephine Tey, in which a Scotland Yard detective is trying to “solve” the historic mystery of the two boys supposedly killed in the Tower of London by Richard III.

    I’m perhaps being defensive here, and if so, I’m sorry, but I suppose it’s difficult to come up with any literature that doesn’t automatically have dead people appearing. I think you know how greatly I felt the death of Lily Barth in “The House of Mirth” by Edith Wharton, or of Beth March in “Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott. And if you do read “The Fault in our Stars,” then about the death of one of the main characters. I think that unless you read teen series, where Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Louise and Jean Dana, The Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden, Vicki Barr, etc., those characters last forever and never or very slowly age, which isn’t at all realistic!

    Any thoughts?

    Liked by 2 people

    • No problem commenting on mysteries, etc., Kat Lib! As a matter of fact, I just added a line to that effect in my question paragraph near the end of the post. You are indeed an avid reader of many categories of genre fiction — along with more “general” fiction, as you noted.

      Thanks for mentioning “Gaudy Night”! A terrific novel (very glad you recommended I read it) — and it DOES seem unusual for a mystery not to have a murder. Coincidentally, I was wondering a few minutes ago, in a Facebook reply to a writer I know, how many mysteries don’t have a corpse or corpses.

      And, yes, there is death in so many novels. Hard to avoid when one is trying to write realistic fiction, and of course characters passing away can add immeasurably to the drama and emotions of a novel.

      Excellent comment!


    • Not quite off-topic, as the plot proceeds from a violent death:

      Have you read Margery Allingham? I hadn’t before last week, when I read “The White Cottage Mystery”. I enjoyed the book; it’s well-paced and does keep one guessing, and as you like prewar English mystery fiction, I think you might enjoy it too, have you not already done so. Agatha Christie, in the blurb on the back of my copy, says: “Margery Allingham stands out like a shining light.”

      Liked by 1 person

      • No, I don’t think I ever read this, but I did read all of her Albert Campion novels (I think?). Just from the few things I read on Wikipedia, Allingham was evidently J.K. Rowling’s favorite “golden age” mystery writer. There were so many great British writers back then, including most of those I’ve already mentioned: Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, G.K. Chesterton, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, Margery Allingham, Nicholas Blake (aka Cecil Day Lewis), Anthony Berkeley (aka Francis Iles), R.Austin Freeman, Michael Innes, Philip MacDonald, Edmund Crispin, Cyril Hare and many more. There were also France’s Georges Simenon, as well as Americans such as Ellery Queen and John Dickson Carr. Then we got into other Americans such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, with a more hard-boiled edge to them. So, there were some I only read one of their works, but I did read most in their various series, or in stories, sometimes twice or more!

        So now, I have to read Allingham’s “The White Cottage” as it was Allingham’s first detective story. Thanks for the recommendation!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Happy to be able to show you anything new in the genre, given your depth of reading within it!

          I admit to being more of a fan of that hardboiled sort of crime fiction, my favorite novel therein being Hammett’s “Red Harvest.”

          Liked by 1 person

          • There is also something new to read and learn about any kind of genre. As I’m sure I have mentioned, I did like Hammett and Chandler a lot, but I loved Ross McDonald (Lew Archer) and John D. MacDonald (Travis McGee) probably more as hardboiled detectives.

            I just remembered a book I bought years ago, “The Historian as Detective,” by Robin Winks, which probably distills my love of mysteries, based on evidence for one thing, but not such as CSI type books where everything is solved by DNA, blood types, or whatever, rather than those that were more cerebral, e.g. Sherlock Holmes (and yes, I know he had a chemistry lab in his home).

            Liked by 1 person

            • My wife is very fond of Doyle’s Holmes stories– all of them. I like them too, but I read them decades ago. Should I wish to reread any, there’s a shelf in our apartment devoted to them….

              We both share a great regard for the Granada TV series starring Jeremy Brett, who we both feel has never been surpassed, and can never be.

              I read some MacDonald things, also decades ago, and was reminded lately of one, given the horrific weather: Condominium, in which, if I recall correctly, many dwellers who decided to party and wait out a hurricane were blown out of their building and into the sea.

              I probably read more Ross McDonald, as I was reading Chandler, again. decades ago. An English professor friend suggested I read a Chandler, then a McDonald, then a Chandler– and I followed his advice, enjoying every minute.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Word Press is being very finicky again this morning, so here goes:
                I agree with your wife, as I too have read the entire collected stories and novels of Holmes twice that I can remember. I also totally agree with you both that Jeremy Brett was the quintessential Sherlock, and I’ve never watched any of the other films or series. I have the entire collection of the Granada series with Brett, again have watched them all at least twice. I’m one of those people that needs to watch movies and read books twice before I can actually remember them. As to Ross McDonald, not too long ago they reissued all the Lew Archer series in trade paperbacks which I of course had to buy, because I lost almost all of the mass market books in a flood back in the early 1980’s. I’d like to reread the John D. MacDonald, Hammett and Chandler novels again, but now that I’m on a fixed income, I no longer have the disposable funds to spend on books, DVDs, and CDs. But I have enough of all three, and in conjunction with streaming and YouTube, I have more than most people do, especially all of the people who’ve lost everything they’ve ever owned in the Harvey/Irma/Maria hurricanes and other disasters. I feel especially awful about Puerto Rico, which seems to have lost everything, such as power, gas, food, and water, and no one knows how long recovery will take.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Puerto Rico has enjoyed our kind attentions for more than a century, lately visited by vulture capitalists who bought up the island’s debt and refuse to take anything less than 100% in the dollar owed– and PR, being a commonwealth, just happens to have few protections against their predations, as it is not legally allowed to declare bankruptcy.

                  They also have limited representation in Congress, and PR, as I understand things, sends no elector to the electoral college. Therefore, the people may vote for president, but their votes ultimately don’t count, as the Founding Fathers, having lately freed themselves from an empire, had no conception that the US would ever have colonies or protectorates or commonwealths to administer: There is no provision in the constitution for any entity but a US state to send electors to be counted in a presidential election.

                  Were PR a US state, the people there might have right to expect equal response equal to what other states receive from the US government in a crisis. And some previous US governments, out of decency and obligation to its citizens,( because PR people are US citizens– a sort of second-class sort, given their representation in our government),would have made such a response.

                  But Donald Trump sees no voters who could support him there, even should they wish to do so, and thus no personal upside in the crisis. He never sees past himself, whatever the topic, and is now furious at being called out by the representatives of the devastated island. Being unconcerned as to the lives of the people of PR beyond announcing imaginary praise and imaginary help and rescue, he golfs and tweets while brown people suffer. That last phrase, ‘while brown people suffer’, does have a personal upside. It helps him with his addled rabid base.

                  But that can’t qualify as surprising to anybody paying attention to the man, before or since taking an office for which he is entirely unfit.

                  How will it take Puerto Rico to recover? I doubt the island ever will, entirely. So long as the GOP holds the levers of power, aid will be grudgingly dispensed and in too small amounts, taking too much time to arrive. Climate change is more likely to whip up more devastation, possibly semi-annually, for region in the foreseeable future and beyond.

                  Liked by 1 person

  18. Comment not posting; second attempt:

    I’m trying to recall the body count in ‘Crime and Punishment’ and came up with four: the pawnbroker and her sister, both murdered by Raskolnikov, Mameladov, who, in his usual drunken state, is run over by a carriage, if I recall correctly, and Svidrigailov, who, finding no more source of sensual pleasure, kills himself. I think I’m recalling those correctly.

    By definition, all ghost stories involve death. The one I read most recently, ‘The Ghost and Mrs. Muir’, involved a trans-mortal romance between the ghostly captain who accidentally killed himself and the young, lonely widow Mrs. Muir. Being non-corporeal i.e. unable to consummate any physical romance forces their souls to communicate so that when that moral coil is shed for Lucy Muir, no barrier lies between them, enabling them to live (in death) happily ever after through eternity (presumably), probably one of the few novels ending in the death of a major character that can be construed by those who categorize endings as ‘happy’ or ‘sad’ as unmistakably happy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oops — I forgot those other two deaths, though perhaps the two murdered by Raskolnikov are more central to the novel than the other demises. I guess I haven’t read “Crime and Punishment” recently enough!

      Great/evocative description of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir”! Love the fact that death gives that story a happy ending of sorts.

      Thanks, bobess48!


      • I did love that movie, as well as the TV series, but if I remember correctly, when Mrs. Muir gives up the ghost, so to speak, she reverts to a younger, more age-appropriate lover for the Ghost. It used to make me wonder, even through my tears, how is that even possible? Does one get to pick the proper age of its ghost to suit someone else’s that they loved? One of my many reasons for not believing in a heaven, by the way, even if it makes for a very nice ending. One of the pieces of music I’ve been playing on my piano — ha, did I mention that I now have a piano? 🙂 — is “Imagine” by John Lennon and Oko and the lyrics that keep bouncing around my head have to do with the heaven and hell, and no religion, too.

        Off-topic, but another song I’ve been listening to lately is “The Mighty Quinn,” as sung by Ian & Sylvia. It took a while for me to remember that this song was written by Bob Dylan, which I find most interesting for some reason, as well as I’m getting tired of it playing non-stop in my head!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Kat Lib, I also remember watching that “Ghost and Mrs. Muir” TV series, starring Hope Lange. And, yes, being the “ideal” age as a ghost seems kind of Hollywood or something. How convenient…

          Nice to see that you gave Yoko Ono co-writing credit with John Lennon for the wonderful (and wonderfully atheistic) “Imagine.” I read an article recently about the long-overdue acknowledgement that the song was a collaborative effort.

          “The Mighty Quinn” had a number of covers! I remember it most for the Manfred Mann version.


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