Twitch Upon a Star by Herbie J Pilato: Meandering Memories

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Like millions of people across the globe, I grew up watching Bewitched. Although, truth be told, it was not a favourite in our house, or at least if it was, it came on after my bedtime. I did watch it later on in its many resurgences on daytime telly as it was always (and still is, I believe) one of those shows that will be re-run fodder until the end of time.

I do remember the disappearance of actor Dick York who played Darren in the beginning episodes. His absence and subsequent replacement by Dick Sargent was never explained. If I remember correctly it was handled similarly to how they announce replacements in the American soap opera world; “the part of Darren will be played by Dick Sargent.”

It was almost like he’d died, York that is, and in those old halcyon days of pre-internet the information was not revealed to mere mortals like you or I. At least not to mortals who lived in the rural areas of Arkansas.

But regardless of who played the witch Samantha’s mortal husband, the show was entertaining and a wealth of young men grew up hoping that if they couldn’t find a witch like Samantha, they could at least find an Elizabeth Montgomery.

Later when Bewitched finally shuffled off into that realm of reruns and (hopefully) reunions or at the very least a TV movie, Ms Montgomery moved on to other more challenging roles both in her work as an actress and as a person. The work side of things were documented by her body of works. Some of which I only found out about by reading this book.

I had no idea that my “ideal” woman growing up portrayed one of my “real-life” role models and literary heroes, the Pulitzer Prize winning Edna Buchanan.

Twitch upon a Star or “The Bewitched Life and Career of Elizabeth Montgomery: TWITCH UPON A STAR” which is it’s too long title, is written by Herbie J Pilato. Mr Pilato has written several books about television shows and series. This 472 page book serves as a fan’s ultimate pledge of love and devotion. So much so that he uses a grand total of 25 pages to preface and introduce the actual recounting of Montgomery’s life.

I will not say that this book did not inform, because it did. Unfortunately it informed too much of the same information. Repeatedly. While I was eager to read of the “trials and tribulations” of a woman who I felt was a damned fine actress (I’d seen her Lizzie Borden and this childhood ‘crush’ scared the hell out of me) I did not want to read the same information time and again in different chapters.

Elizabeth Montgomery as ax murderess Lizzie Borden.
Elizabeth Montgomery as ax murderess Lizzie Borden.

The book suffers from following no real chronological time line. It moves forward and backward throughout Elizabeth’s life and career. The information dealing with her marriages leapfrogs back and forth and does not adhere to events as they happened. Rather they pop up randomly based, it seems, on the tiniest of threads that Pilato feels makes the re-revealing of this information crucial.

While the tone of the book is one of reverence. (It appears to be Mr Pilato’s opinion that not only could Ms Montgomery walk on water, she was incapable of getting her feet wet) Pilato does try to infer that the woman was not a saint, but the inclusion of so many repeated variants of the same anecdotal reveals plunges the reader into stretches of boredom and disinterest.

love “showbiz” biographies. Not the “kiss and tell” warts and all type of yellow journalism that would not look out-of-place on the cover of The National Enquirer (because enquiring minds want to know) but the ones that offer true insights to a great actors background or how they achieved their goals. The personal touches that make that face on the screen become a real person.

Or perhaps the “nuts and bolts” of what made them become a performer or a certain type of person. Something that tells me once about some incident or occurrence that shaped their lives or performances. Not repeatedly going over the same old ground again and again.

I was really excited to see this book on the Kindle list of Biographies. I always liked Elizabeth Montgomery and wanted to learn more about her as a person. Unfortunately the book relies far too heavily on old interviews done throughout her career; not only to “move” the book forward, but to repeatedly support some point that one of her friends may have made about her character.

Unfortunately this book was a hard slog to get through. I came close to giving up several times. The odd interesting tidbit of information was lost in the endless repeating of information and the stepping forward and then backward through the time line of her life.

This is a 3 out of 5 star book only because there were a few anecdotes that I’d not heard and there was the odd bit of information that almost made the sheer drudgery of reading the overlong and meandering tome worth it.

Recommended for only the most ardent Elizabeth Montgomery fans and then only those whose devotion can forgive such a wandering and unguided look at her life.

Two brilliant actors - Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha and Agnes Moorehead as Endora.
Two brilliant actors – Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha and Agnes Moorehead as Endora.

Cannibals by Jimmy Lee Shreeve: Biting the Hand that Feeds You

Published in 2008 the long title of the book is: Cannibals True Stories Of The Horrifying Killers Who Feast On Human Flesh. As if the actual short title of cannibals was not descriptive enough.

If you are interested enough you can go to Jimmy’s website http://www.jimmyleeshreeve.com/ where it will tell you that:

Cult author and slipstream commentator”

“With over thirty years experience of earning a living in the slipstream, Jimmy Lee Shreeve has written half-a-dozen books, run a successful internet-based business, written advertising copy, self-publicized, re-invented and re-launched himself, and generally blagged his way through it all.

He also writes as Doktor Snake and Dr. Hash. His books include How To Be FamousHash BrowniesBlood RitesCannibalsDoktor Snake’s Voodoo Spellbook, and Human Sacrifice.

Jimmy’s byline and work has appeared in over a thousand newspapers, magazines and online media all over the world…”


The rest of the “about” section also goes on to say he’s been on television and radio.

Shreeve has a writing style slightly reminiscent of John Dunning (not John Dunning the detective novelist) who wrote 12 books on murders across the globe. His style was of a tongue in cheek nature in order to soften the subject matter.

While Mr Shreeve is not so prolific with his writing he does specialize in the more macabre stories out there with titles like Dr Snakes Vodoo Spell Book Vol 1 & 2 and Human Sacrifice. His titles alone evoke a type of tabloid like feeling that is reminiscent of the National Enquirer newspaper which specialized in stories like, “Elvis is alive and living in the back of my car” and “Family watches in horror as rats eat baby.”

To give Shreeve credit, he has done his homework and dug up some pretty gruesome tales that he shares with the curious reader. From Andrei Chikatilov (the butcher of Rostov) and Albert Fish right back to Albert Packer and Sawney Beane, he writes about the well-known and lesser known cannibals who have gotten their 15 minutes of fame (or infamy) for snacking on their fellow-man.

Admittedly, all these stories can be found on the internet and probably any library or book store in the true crime section. But he does cover each case well and give the narrative his own personal touch. He has researched enough that he was able to give background to Armin Weiwes, *If the name doesn’t ring a bell his story might. He got a “willing” volunteer via the internet to drop around so Armin could kill him and eat him.* background that I had certainly never seen before.

As a “True Crime” book, Shreeve doesn’t have the wry touch of Colin Wilson or even Dunning, although as I said before, his writing style is similar. The book is informative (and let’s face it), gory and shocking.

I cannot vouch for the rest of the stories in his book, but in his recounting of the Jeffrey Dahmer he leaves out the fact that local police actually brought one of Dahmer’s intended victims back to him thinking it was a lovers tiff between two gay men. They took the man (who could not speak very good English) to his death.

I don’t know why Shreeve left this bit of “colour” out of the story but it made me wonder what else he had omitted. Still the book is a fairly good account of cannibals and their “motives.” He also purports to have been part of an exorcism that “cured” a cannibal that he had corresponded with over a period of time.

In keeping with that theme he also discusses the issue of demon possession and/or Devil worship playing a part in the cannibalistic acts of these deviant criminals. He also brings a brief history of cannibalism into play and writes about people who have studied it as a cultural background for a lot of modern societies.

Cannibals include a lot of different cases and the thread that Shreeve uses to tie them all together is the premise of demon possession. I’m not sure I buy that but it made for some interesting theories.

I picked this book up mainly out of curiosity. No one has really stepped into the late John Dunning’s shoes, although Colin Wilson does come close (interestingly enough it was the friendship between Wilson and Dunning that caused the later to actually publish his collection of stories) even if he did not focus on the more bizarre crimes that Dunning covered.

I used to have quite a large personal collection of “true crime” books that I kept for research purposes. I still have them but Shreeve’s book will not be one that I’ll be rushing out to buy. It’s a short (at 256 pages) curiosity and doesn’t really include too much in the way of more information.

I would say take a moment to read it if a) you are of strong stomach; and b) your knowledge of cannibal criminals is quite sparse. Otherwise you’d do well to stick to the mainstream non-fiction writers such as Colin Wilson.

Bon appétit.



And in the News Today, Everything’s Gone a Little Weird

English: Logo of Headlines Today
English: Logo of Headlines Today (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I get up this morning and as usual I start skimming the web. I am looking for news that I find interesting, funny, exciting, irritating or just strange. This morning I found a wealth of  headlines that  made my eyebrows shoot up towards my almost non-existent hairline.

Entire firework display explodes – this was a video that fit the bill of funny and irritating. Of course I would find it funny, I didn’t fight crowds of people to see it live. Nor did I have to pay for parking and then have to fight to get back to my car when the fifteen second display finished. But for the folks who attended, I think maybe irritated would be the order of the day, or in this case night. I wonder if San Diego will try to make it up to the citizens, legal and illegal, who attended the show.

Imogen Thomas shows cleavage – I don’t know who Imogen is, but, I am pleased for her I guess. This one falls straight into the irritating category. If I hadn’t seen the other “headlines” I would have thought it was a slow news day.

Man dies as road swallows car – this one is brilliant. The mental picture you get while reading this one is funny. I got an image of a road sprouting a mouth, opening wide and working it’s muscles literally swallowing the car. The reality, while nowhere near as graphic or fantasy filled, is just as strange. Two people driving in China and the road literally opens up into a five metre hole “that about thirty some odd feet for you non-metric folks out there). Funny with a touch of sad, since one of the unfortunate motorist died.

Pencil Pierces Brain of Two-Year-Old Girl – Pretty self explanatory this one. A toddler on her way to bed falls and almost gives herself a DIY Lobotomy. Luckily for her it did not result in a more fatal injury. Strange and a little interesting. It kind of feels like a ‘human interest’ story in shorthand.

Base jumper survives 120m fall – Another ‘it does what it says on the label’ type story. Guy’s jump goes wrong and he free falls 393 feet and survives. Luckily he landed in snow, so he only fractured about every bone in his body. But…he lived. Another strange and interesting one.

Okay, so admittedly, these ‘headlines’ were all about the video news. These items were all produced by ITN (aka ITV 3) and they were picked presumably because of their diverse nature. Well they certainly caught my eye.

They funny thing is, all these stories made me think of the video equivalent of The National Enquirer. The “newspaper” that used the tagline, “Because inquiring minds want to know,” has been a supermarket favourite for years. *About fifty in fact.*

A lot of people, mainly celebrities, despise the Enquirer. I’ve always found it quirky and downright weird. With is old ‘yellow journalistic’ style of writing I’ve always been drawn to it if for no other reason than to give it a quick scan while waiting in the check-out queue.

The Enquirer used to boast great eye-catching headlines like: Toddler eaten by rats while horrified mother watches, Elvis is alive and living in the back of my car, and Freakish sea monster eats entire ship. I mean just the headlines alone, made for great imaginative skim reading.

While those video ‘headlines’ I saw this morning  don;t quite match the tasteless ingenuity of The National Enquirer they are, at least, the spiritual blood-brother of the paper. It is nice to see that with all the horrible, scary and depressing  news that we are usually bombarded  with someone has made time for the weird and the wonderful.