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Extended Audio Sample Deconstructing Sammy, by Matt Birkbeck Click for printable size audiobook cover
4.25 out of 54.25 out of 54.25 out of 54.25 out of 54.25 out of 5 4.25 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Matt Birkbeck Narrator: Peter Jay Fernandez Publisher: HarperCollins Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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 dollars, 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. 

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Birkbeck has killer leads, gripping kickers and sensational descriptions. This cinematic book reads more like a detective story than a traditional ‘life of.’”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “Tremendous…Birkbeck tells the epic of Sammy Davis Jr…from his Harlem boyhood to his wrenching deathbed (he died of cancer in 1990) in his Beverly Hills mansion, where various hangers-on, seeing the circling vultures, stripped his corpse even before it was a corpse.”

    Los Angeles Times Book Reveiw

  • “A piece of investigative journalism that unravels what happened to Davis’ estate, and reveals more about the man...Birkbeck spoke to people that have never spoken before—and the portrait of Sammy that emerges is difficult, demanding, and ultimately tragic.”

    Talk of the Nation

  • “Birkbeck’s background as an investigative journalist (he has written three true-crime books) allows him to cleanly lay out Davis’s failed investments in dubious real estate ventures and fraudulent tax shelters…worthy of a reading audience’s rooting interest.” 

    Barnes & Noble, editorial review

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Joe | 12/31/2010

    " Sammy was the modern day Mozart, in my opinion. This story is heartreaking, but essential to understand Sammy and this period in history. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Steven | 12/14/2010

    " After the fact analysis of how Sammy Davis let his financial woes ruin his and his relatives lives. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Melissa | 9/11/2010

    " This book focuses on the trials and tribulations that Sammy's family and his estate faced following his death. Although Birkbeck does not provide a thorough biography of Davis, he provides insightful Davis anecdotes and paints an intimate portrait of Altovise Davis, his wife. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Richard | 7/29/2010

    " Well told story of an interesting man. "

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