Read Recently — June — Biography

the Death of Caesar: the story of history’s most famous assassination by Barry Strauss

Pretty much what it says on the cover. Strauss sets up the main characters in the first part of the book, shows us the lead-up, the dirty deed itself, and then the aftermath in the second, largest part, and and then eliminates the losers in the final section. Spoiler: the lone survivor is Octavian!

Primary sources only, so we don’t get much dialogue; Strauss acknowledges where they contradict each other and does his best to figure out which ones are obviously lying. All things considered, this is surprisingly entertaining. Recommended.

An Unfinished Conversation: the life and music of Stan Rogers by Chris Gudgeon

Stan Rogers died at the end of May, 1983, when the airplane he was riding back to Canada from the Kerryville, Texas, folk music festival caught fire and was forced to land. The landing was good but the plane was full of smoke and flames; 22 other passengers also lost their lives. Rogers left behind a wife and three children, and a legacy of Canadian folk music that is still heard today.

Though the book is about Rogers, Gudgeon doesn’t hesitate to throw in a little mini-bio for any other musicians who happened to cross Rogers’ path, some of whom I have featured in my Music Mondays. That doesn’t add up to much padding, though, since the book is very short (even for such a short life): of its roughly 200 pages only 130 is spent on the actual biography; the remaining 70ish pages is lyrics from some of Rogers’ songs, each with a brief note about how/when/why it was composed) and a discography, first of Rogers and then of various albums he was influenced by/approved of. Note that the book is copyrighted 1993, so many of the albums in the discography may no longer be available.

At one point I have to question either Gudgeon’s research or his sanity, though: in discussing themes in the album Fogarty’s Cove he points to a theme of loss and tosses off in one line that “Maid On The Shore” is about “sailors search for love and find death instead.” Ummmm, no.

Mildly recommended.

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