REVIEW: Famous Last Words – Confessions, Humour and Bravery of the Departing (2021)

A book by Chris Wood

Famous Last Words – Confessions, Humour and Bravery of the Departing was a bit different than what I expected it to be. I was expecting a true crime book looking at what people said as they stared down the gallows – perhaps entirely made of quotes or something. There is a bit of that here, but this book is a LOT more as it covers a large swath of noteworthy people and what they said before their (usually) untimely demise. The book looks at executed murderers, celebrities, esteemed royalty, and even would-be terrorists, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Chris wood takes great care to explain every detail of what leads up to the infamous final breaths, and adds context to what they are saying. In this regard, this is a very interesting history book with a number of surprises.

“Nothing focuses the mind more starkly than impending death. Its inevitable spectre greets us all; from princes to paupers and nobility to the needy. Prepare to mount the scaffold and share in the final utterings of the condemned; join the stricken in their death beds and witness unburdened tongues wag their closing, and often remarkable confessions as deeply entrenched secrets are finally unshackled in the wake of imminent death.”

I think the most interesting one in here, for me at least, was that of Sir Henry Irving, a famous Victorian actor that literally delivered his last words in a play he was acting in wherein the character he was playing was killed. Playing the lead in Becket, he uttered “Into thy hand, O Lord, into thy hands!” as the curtain fell on both the play, and sadly his own life. Irving was taken back to his hotel after folks realized his health was failing, and he died soon after. Imagine being in the audience for something like that, and realizing that was his final minutes on Earth – the sheer morbidity of it all would be crazy.

This is an enjoyable book, and an easy “read a chapter before bed” sort of thing. Pend and Sword did a Similarly structured book a while back called First World War Trials and Executions that I also enjoyed a lot for the exact same reason. It’s full of interesting facts and had some things, being outside of the UK, that I was unaware of. Definitely recommended.

If you are interested in more information on this book, please click HERE

If you’d like to buy it, please look at Kindle or physical editions

REVIEW: The Wrestlers’ Wrestlers – The Masters of the Craft of Professional Wrestling (2021)

A book by Dan Murphy and Brian Young

Being a big professional wrestling fan, I knew I had to jump on the opportunity to read this new book by ECW press. ECW Press, coincidentally not named because of the former company, occasionally does Wrestling books that are very good. If you haven’t ever heard of them, The Death of WCW by Bryan Alvarez and R.D. Reynolds is worth a read for sure. This book in question, The Wrestlers’ Wrestlers – The Masters of the Craft of Professional Wrestling has the initial experience of a typical curated top XX list, but what sets it apart from others is the source material for the list. The author went out to other wrestlers and asked “who would you say is a ‘Wrestler’s Wrestler?'”. The responses were varied and deep and not what one typically sees in these sorts of books.

The Wrestlers’ Wrestlers spotlights elite performers and analyzes exactly what made them your favorite wrestler’s favorite wrestlers. Authors Dan Murphy and Brian Young interviewed more than 40 in-ring veterans, historians, referees, and promoters to get a unique insider’s look at the people who have made a lasting impact on the world of professional wrestling. It offers a special peek “behind the curtain” and a rare look into the top stars’ thoughts on their peers, their influences, and their personal favorites.”

Sputnik Monroe, one of the many men who is profiled in the book.

My biggest takeaway from this book are the sections about wrestlers that I am too young to have ever seen anything of. With the book spanning the 1920’s to modern times, information about wrestling in that post WWI era is always scarce despite hearing the occasional move being named after somebody today (Thesz Press comes to mind). Getting to read things about pioneers of the artform such as Karl Gotch, Strangler Lewis, and Lou Thesz was awesome, and with the latter, I have decided to pick up a copy of his book as it was the source for a lot of this material evidentially. One of my favorite recurring tidbits is the fact that in those early days of pure shooter styled wrestling, matches would sometimes last upwards of two hours in length. I can’t imagine sitting through that now, but it must have been a real sight to see back then!

This book occasionally has pictures to accompany the information presented, which is a nice touch. That way you can see some of these legendary men for yourself and see if the descriptions match up. All-in-all this book is a great addition to the bookshelf of any wrestling fan as long as they are willing to venture outside the recency barrier and see what the sport was like in the past. It doesn’t strive to be an encyclopedia or a definitive list in any way, but its interesting to see what qualities the actual wrestlers see as important to being a “Wrestler’s Wrestler”.

REVIEW: The Vain (2021)

A graphic novel by Eliot Rahal

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

Generic Vampire stories are a dime a dozen these days. If you don’t just have a weird version of Bram Stroker’s Dracula, but this time he’s in SPACE or something, you have the other side of the coin that alters them beyond recognition, perhaps into teenage sparkly pretty boys – and it all sucks for the most part. For me to get into a modern Vampire story, it has to be something different (but keeping with the lore), and this volume by Eliot Rahal fits the bill. Spanning more than 40 years, The Vain tells the story of a group of Vampiric survivors – changing with the times to stay alive at any means necessary. If that includes enlisting in the military to kill Nazis, or starting a vampire drug cult in the 70s, if thats what it takes that’s what they do.

Chicago, 1941. A blood bank is held up in a robbery, but no cash is taken—only blood. It’s the latest in a string of similar robberies and as the United States prepares to enter World War II, FBI Agent Felix Franklin is certain it’s part of a wider plot to weaken the United States by depriving it of its blood supply. But the truth is much more sinister.

I wasn’t sure I was going to like this at first. At times, some of the art in the book was somewhat simplistic, but as the story goes on, it improves drastically. The dialogue is also kind of janky in spots, but overall the script is pretty good, and you honestly can’t beat the setting. Vampires living through the Cold-War is something I’m pretty certain I’ve never seen before. As it went on, I was interested to see how The Vain (their WWII Codename) dealt with the zeitgeist of whatever decade they had made it to. The book didn’t overstay its welcome, and had a logical ending that made sense.

I haven’t read much by Oni Press, although I have seen them at Comicon in the past. Once Covid-19 dies down I will have to do a deeper dive on their library if conventions ever come back, I’d love to see if the quality of this book continues on.

REVIEW: First World War Trials and Executions (2021)

A book by Simon Webb

NOTE: I received a free preliminary, and likely unedited copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of providing an honest, unbiased review of the material. Thank you to all involved.

I haven’t read too many true crime books as of late, although I do listen to a ton of podcasts on it. And I mean a ton, its probably a red flag on Spotify, and I am likely on some list somewhere. Some of my favorite ones are historical accounts vs modern ones simply because the cases seem to always take wild turns that you aren’t expecting. You hear about these insane investigations and primitive forensics efforts that likely led to tons of false imprisonments, but its exciting none-the-less. This book chronicles 51 such historical cases in the UK between 1914-1918 – The era of World War I. Taking a small, specific era in history is interesting as one really gets into the time period when its all laid out like this.

Webb splits each case into its own small chapters which are then split into sub-headings such as cases all committed by straight razor, or all axe-murders etc. I liked this configuration a lot; it made this easy for me to read bit-by-bit before I went to bed this past week. This is an entertaining read insomuch as a book on murders can be simply because of the way it is written. That isn’t to say Simon Webb makes light of the cases, as they are all very tragic, but he keeps you wanting to read more and more, and the information is well-researched. This book also acts, in a way, as a chronicle as to why Britain eventually did away with Capital Punishment – many of these cases have terrible things happen during the execution, it you can tell it scarred the main executioner quite a bit.

Another Solid historical offering from Pen and Sword, I’ll have to see if they have anymore books by this author, as a continuation of this series (if it becomes one) into later or previous years would be interesting. If you want a quick read to keep your true crime interest satiated, I’d recommend this book. It’s definitely to die for.