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"....a smart, tart and 
often hilarious

through the tombstones."




"The New York Times comes each morning and never fails to deliver news of the important dead. Every day is new; every day is fraught with significance. I arrange my cup of tea, prop up my slippers. Obituaries are history as it is happening. Whose time am I living in? Was he a success or a failure, lucky or doomed, older than I am or younger? Did she know how to live? I shake out the pages. Tell me the secret of a good life!"

                                                         --from The Dead Beat

"This delightful quirk of a book is not dark or morose; it's an uplifting, joyous, life-affirming read for people who ordinarily steer clear of uplifting, joyous, life-affirming reads….Of all the personalities captured in 'The Dead Beat,' few are more endearing than Johnson, a former obituary writer. Her enthusiasm is infectious.…Writers interested in honing the craft should inhale this book. Who else might profit or delight from reading about obituaries? Just about anyone who's not yet in one, I'd wager."

--Mary Roach, 
The Los Angeles Times


"In The Dead Beat, Marilyn Johnson - an obituarist herself - acts as our Virgil through the back pages, introducing the knowledgeable, eccentric and talented writers responsible for sending off the just and the unjust, the famous and the not-so-famous."

--The Observer


"...while Johnson's analysis of the form and its top practitioners is absorbing, her account of the culture of obituary lovers is downright amazing."

--Jane and Michael Stern, 
The NY Times Book Review




                                Borders Original Voice 


                                Barnes & Noble 
Discover Prize finalist


                                New York Times bestseller


                                Amazon Best Books of 2006 
Top 10 Editors' Picks: Nonfiction


                               2007 Washington Irving 
Book Selection


                               San Francisco Chronicle
 Best Books of 2006


"I think it will be the sleeper book of the year."

--Don Murray, The Boston Globe


"A fetching book about obituaries? Well, yes:
 Ms. Johnson writes about obituaries with the
 zeal--and insight--of an avid obit fan."


Michiko Kakutani
, The New York Times


"If you have ever, once, reveled in the obit page, you'll be reading aloud from these fan's notes by a former Life obit writer. She's been obsessively clipping for years and shares the choice shockers and tearjerkers -- along with an infectious reverence for the form. Only irresistible lives live here." 



"Open this enormously entertaining book and your life will contain three certainties: death, taxes and an overwhelming desire to turn the pages."

--The San Diego Union-Tribune


"The Dead Beat is a romp of a book that captures with well-placed humor the curious assortment of people featured in the obits, as well as those who write them, read them, collect them and - well - simply are obsessed with them."

--The Rocky Mountain News


"Marilyn Johnson shares her obsession in exuberant and elegiac style."

--The Baltimore Sun


"What Marilyn Johnson thought would be 'a little cult book' is turning into one of the most admired books of the season."

--The Connecticut Post


"If you've ever wanted to know the secrets behind the obituary - and there are some juicy, fascinating ones to be had - Marilyn Johnson's wonderful 'The Dead Beat' (HarperCollins) is the book for you."


"Marilyn Johnson is such a beautiful writer, and is so at ease and funny about the forbidden subject of death, that you find yourself cheering when the obit writer gets it right and the dead person gets his due."

--Betsy Carter, author, We Were Strangers Once


"If Marilyn Johnson had been meaner, I could have said she puts the bitch in obituary. Instead, she's written a warm, funny, appreciative book that, ironically enough, should live forever. But get it now."
--Roy Blount Jr., author, About Three Bricks Shy of a Load and Alphabet Juice


"What a wonderful surprise--a charming, lyrical book about the men and women who write obituaries. The Dead Beat is sly, droll, and completely winning."
--David Halberstam, author of The Best and the Brightest


"A joyful book about obituaries? Absolutely! Marilyn Johnson pulls it off with death-defying grace, insight, charm, and wit. In the end, what a celebration of life."
--Lee Eisenberg, author of The Number and The Point Is


"A beautifully written, funny and fascinating tour through the unexpectedly lively world of obituaries. Vital reading for anyone who knows a dead person or is likely to become one."
--Lisa Grunwald, author, Time After Time and The Irresistible Henry House


"Marilyn Johnson's new book The Dead Beat is an epiphany of epiphanies of epiphanies. Her writing, like good poetry, opens your eyes to see the extraordinary in the ordinary to the degree that you have to wonder where her sizeable skills end and where grace begins....Ms. Johnson reminds us, to riff on a line from Thomas Merton, that all of these ordinary folks walk around blind to themselves but shining like the sun."
--Rev. Jim Street