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Deconstructing Sammy

by Matt Birkbeck

Sammy Davis Jr. lived a storied life. Adored by millions over a six-decade-long career, he was considered an entertainment icon and a national treasure. But despite lifetime earnings that topped $50 million, Sammy died in 1990 near bankruptcy. His estate was declared insolvent, and there was no possibility of it ever using Sammy's name or likeness again. It was as if Sammy had never existed. Years later his wife, Altovise, a once-vivacious woman and heir to one of the greatest entertainment legacies of the twentieth century, was living in poverty, and with nowhere else to go, she turned to a former federal prosecutor, Albert "Sonny" Murray, to make one last attempt to resolve Sammy's debts, restore his estate, and revive his legacy. For seven years Sonny probed Sammy's life to understand how someone of great notoriety and wealth could have lost everything, and in the process he came to understand Sammy as a man whose complexity makes for a riveting work of celebrity biography as cultural history. Matt Birkbeck's serious work of investigative journalism unveils the extraordinary story of an international celebrity at the center of a confluence of entertainment, politics, and organized crime, and shows how even Sammy's outsized talent couldn't save him from himself.

'Till Death Do Us Part

by Matt Birkbeck Robi Ludwig

Every day six people in the United States are murdered by spouses or intimate partners. The stories of killer spouses tend to captivate us, as they beg the question of how so many seemingly normal and happy people manage to go over the edge. Indeed, every relationship presents "extreme moments" where scary feelings surface, yet what happens when those feelings turn to action? In Till Death Do Us Part, noted psychotherapist Dr. Robi Ludwig, along with journalist Matt Birkbeck, presents the psychological profiles of notorious killer spouses -- from Scott Peterson and Clara Harris to Rabbi Fred Neulander and Betty Broderick. Ludwig reveals ten killer personality types. These ten personality types are defined in detail and illustrated with examples from high-profile cases along with in-depth analyses of the motivations behind the murders. The ten types range from the Betrayal/Abandonment Killer (who loses control and kills from a broken heart) to the Control Killer (who micromanages every aspect of the spouse's life) and the Black Widow/Profit Killer (who kills for money). With gripping stories and probing insight, authors Ludwig and Birkbeck examine the concept of peaceful versus violent resolution and why certain spouses believe murder is the best and only response. In an age when spousal murder is headline news, Till Death Do Us Part explores a phenomenon that many spouses can't help but think about at some point in their relationships -- which sheds light on the very notion of "happily ever after."

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