The Dead Guy Interviews, by Michael A. Stusser

I still have my battered middle school copy of DK Publishing's Chronicle of America. It’s held together with duct tape and prayers, but I’m going to keep it forever. The Chronicle was a massive collection of articles, arranged by year, which gave a brief overview of major events in American history. It didn’t provide a ton of information, but it gave you a quick, entertaining, clearly written introduction to a vast array of subjects. In addition to helping me out straight through university, the Chronicle left me with a profound appreciation for easily digestible history—which is why I am now totally in love with Michael A. Stusser’s The Dead Guy Interviews.

Stusser’s book is a collection of forty-five “interviews” with the ghosts of some of history’s most famous figures. He chats with everyone from Montezuma to J. Edgar Hoover, asking about everything from their official causes of death to their sexual appetites. He also tells them bad jokes—here’s a snippet of his interview with Abraham Lincoln:

MS: Can I just tell you about some weird similarities to JFK?
AL: Who?
MS: Both of your last names have seven letters, both of you lost kids while living in the White House, and both of you were shot on Friday.
AL: That’s a little weird.
MS: Your secretary was named Kennedy, and Kennedy’s secretary was named Lincoln. Both successors were named Johnson.
AL: Common name.
MS: Booth ran from the theater and was caught in a warehouse. Oswald ran from a warehouse and was caught in a theater.
AL: Weirder.
MS: You were shot in a theater named Ford. Kennedy was shot in a car called Lincoln, which was made by Ford. Both killers were assassinated before their trials.
AL: Freakin’ me out.
MS: And here’s the weirdest: A week before Lincoln was shot, he was in Monroe, Maryland. A week before Kennedy was shot, he was in Marilyn Monroe. HA!
AL: Sounds like this JFK character got the better deal.

The Dead Guy Interviews has its flaws. The book is cheapened by several overly topical references (I’m sorry, but there was just no need to bring up Flavor Flav on the first page), and Stusser was clearly more concerned about being fun and readable than he was about perfect accuracy—he’s not above presenting controversial theories as fact, stating unequivocally that Mozart wrote the music for “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and Shakespeare was the author of Cardenio.

Still, this is an ideal introduction-to-history text for the 18-34 demographic—the first generation to have grown up surrounded by video games and MTV. We may have the attention spans of gnats with ADD, but that doesn’t mean we have no interest in people like Coco Chanel, Mussolini, or Genghis Khan. Nobody should be looking to Mr. Stusser’s book to be their one-and-only history resource, but The Dead Guy Interviews is a funny, instantly entertaining, and hugely informative way to introduce readers to several historical VIPs.
Posted by: Julia, Last edit by: Julianka


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