REST IN PIECES by Bess Lovejoy


The Curious Fates of Famous Corpses
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Death is only the beginning in Schott's Almanac writer and researcher Lovejoy's marvelously macabre chronicle of some of history's most well-traveled cadavers.

Thomas à Becket had it tough in life—having the top of his head lopped off, and all—but the poor guy didn't get much rest in the grave either. Neither did good ’ol St. Nick, Jesse James, Voltaire, Laurence Sterne or any of the other intriguing personalities profiled in this highly satisfying investigation into (real) life after death. While some public figures found their final resting places problematic due to the controversial lives they led, others found their notoriety made their decaying bones valuable sources of prestige for the local municipality. And the good citizens were willing to go to great lengths in order to get their towns on the map, even if it meant digging up famous teeth and skulls. Sometimes the tug of war raged for centuries. Even when they were beyond the reach of politics, celebrity stiffs still had to contend with the nefarious "Resurrection Men." Better known today as grave robbers or body snatchers, these shadowy figures were more than enthusiastic about plundering famous crypts. Lovejoy has a great time relating all their dubious exploits, but the ghoulish behavior is just one aspect of her graveside exploration. Death does strange things to people. In the case of Hunter S. Thompson, it compelled him to have his lifeless body shot out of a cannon to the tune of "Mr. Tambourine Man." Even more profound, Thompson had forged the kinds of relationships in life that would actually make his bizarre death wish become a reality. Somewhere, Thompson is thanking actor Johnny Depp for footing the bill for the cannon. The author invites readers to crack open all these coffins, curl up inside and stare death straight in the eye. The effect is oddly comforting.

A fascinating foray into the way of all flesh.

Pub Date: March 12th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4516-5498-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2013


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