Is the election making you want to disappear? Need a few tips for how to fake your death in case things don't go your way? Join Elizabeth Greenwood, author of PLAYING DEAD: A Journey Through the World of Death Fraud, and journalist Evan Ratliff on Election Eve to discuss PLAYING DEAD and all things vanishing and vaporizing.
Is it still possible to fake your own death in the twenty-first century? With six figures of student loan debt, Elizabeth Greenwood was tempted to find out.
So begins her foray into the world of death fraud, where for $30,000 a consultant can make you disappear—but your suspicious insurance company might hire a private detective to dig up your coffin and find it filled with rocks.
Greenwood tracks down a British man who staged a kayaking accident and then returned to live in his own house while all his neighbors thought he was dead. She takes a call from Michael Jackson (no, he’s not dead—or so her new acquaintances would have her believe), stalks message boards for people plotting pseudocide, and buys her own death certificate in the Philippines. Along the way, she learns that love is a much less common motive than money, and that making your death look like a drowning virtually guarantees that you’ll be caught. (Disappearing while hiking, however, is a way great to go.)
Utterly fascinating and charmingly bizarre, Playing Dead is an empathetic investigation into a universal human fantasy and the men and women desperate enough to give up their lives—and their families—to start again.
** PRAISE for PLAYING DEAD **
"Ms. Greenwood takes us on a romp through the world of the living dead — not zombies, but real folk who for one reason or another decide the best way to go on with life is to fake death. It’s a delightful read, and for anyone tantalized by the prospect of disappearing without a trace it might even provide some useful tips —though Greenwood is careful to caution that “pseudocide” is rarely painless."
— Erik Larson, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dead Wake
"Elizabeth Greenwood is as entertaining and gifted an archeologist of subcultures as she is an able explorer of issues like anonymity, the right to privacy, and how much control people can ever exert over their identities. An energetic and insatiable writer, her generous mind infuses every page of this astonishing book."
— Heidi Julavits, author of The Folded Clock
"An insightful look at the reasoning behind often desperate choices. Wonderfully weird."
— Deborah Blum, New York Times bestselling author of The Poisoner's Handbook
“Ms. Greenwood leaps into an anecdote-filled history of — and rough primer for — erasing yourself. She shrewdly notes that our fascination with vanishing is only heightened by the ‘hypervisibility of our age.’… The fun in Greenwood’s book — much of it admittedly grim fun — is in learning the details.”
— New York Times
“It's highly entertaining — the perfect late-summer read.”
"The most literally escapist summer read you could hope for."
"Belongs to that genre of popular nonfiction best exemplified by Jon Ronson.... It’s a form that above all requires a likable, self-deprecating, curious narrator, and Greenwood fits the bill."