Welcome To My Book Blog

A place to update and discuss facts surrounding the controversial, tragic death of legendary Hollywood film actress, wife and mother, Natalie Wood who drowned mysteriously Nov. 29, 1981 off Catalina Island. Thank you for visiting.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Review of Goodbye Natalie Goodbye Splendour

Channeling Ricky: Miss Landers' Book Club

Following is a review written at the above link. Channeling Ricky is an interesting blog, and I truly appreciate this perceptive, insightful review of GNGS posted there.

I have been meaning to write a review of this book for awhile now and a few Channeling Ricky readers have asked me about it recently. I read Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour after (no, not before) I started writing The Mysterious Death of Natalie Wood blogs. I took time to read the book again recently and I will tell you why in a moment.

The book recounts the death of actress Natalie Wood, who drowned near Catalina island in November, 1981. Wood was married to actor Robert Wagner who many have speculated to have been responsible for her early demise. Wood and Wagner owned the yacht Splendour, of which co-author Dennis Davern was the captain. These three individuals, along with actor Christopher Walken, traveled on the Splendour to Catalina for a Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Until the publication of the book, details about the weekend spent by the foursome were pretty sketchy. None of the survivors of the weekend ever said much publicly about the drowning. Deemed an unfortunate accident by the Los Angeles Coroner and the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, the case was quickly closed.

Marti Rulli, who is the author of the book and a long time friend of Davern, tells Dennis' story for him. Her story is woven with Davern's as she recounts her efforts over the decades to get Davern to share the details of the weekend at Catalina. Davern was not forthcoming with his story, as he vacillated between loyalty to, and fear of Wagner, and suffered from depression, probable post-traumatic stress and alcoholism. Eventually, he told Rulli the whole story. Rulli arranged for Davern to take a lie detector test and undergo hypnosis to demonstrate his truthfulness and to further recall the events on the yacht prior to Wood's death.

Rulli's story is the reason why I read the book a second time. On the first go-round, I wasn't too interested in her component, believing that perhaps she should have left herself out of the narrative. But she is the one that Davern eventually opened up to, and she went through a lot of personal transformation while awaiting for this event to occur. After reading her book and following her blog, I believe Ms. Rulli is probably the foremost authority on the death of Natalie Wood, except for Mr. Wagner, of course and he isn't exactly giving us the real story.

The book is suspenseful. It is difficult not to read ahead to find out what did happen in November 1981. I felt a little sympathy for Davern, whom I view as dysfunctional at the time but not necessarily culpable. He could have saved Natalie Wood, but he did not. He had had too much to drink, he was afraid of Robert Wagner, he didn't know Natalie was in the water, he was instructed not to turn on the yacht's emergency lighting, he could not hear her over the radio, etc. Is he also guilty, as he believes Wagner is, by association and collusion with Wagner, and because he failed to act to save Ms. Wood when moments were critical? I believe he is also responsible for his failure to act, but the degree of responsibility is difficult to determine.

Davern demonstrates bravery now that he did not demonstrate at the time of Wood's drowning. He has finally told his story, when he could have left it untold and Wood's death mostly forgotten. Instead he chooses to lay the facts on the table, indicting Mr. Wagner for Wood's death and himself for cowardly behavior. Throughout the book Davern expresses remorse for not saving the life of his friend and employer Natalie Wood. He reminisces about her and her family, reminding us of her humanity. A fascinating read, Davern's story, and that of Natalie's, will continue to haunt this reader for years to come.


  1. Marti,

    Thank you for posting my review of Goodbye Natalie, Goodbye Splendour on your blog site. I am truly honored.


  2. To Sharon: Thank you for writing this review and thank you for posting it, Marti. I've followed everything about Natalie's death from the day it came over the news. I was heartbroken, I was crushed that such a senseless death continued to remain a mystery. It's something I've thought about on many occasions for decades, wondering if we'd ever know what really happened. I believe every word in Goodbye Natalie and it all makes such sense and I can't believe an entire investigative team couldn't come up with the sensible deductions presented in Goodbye Natalie. I have no doubt that Natalie's death was not accidental. My fear is that we will not have justice for her until the guilty party dies.

    Marti, I hope that doesn't happen. I hope something can be accomplished while he is around to face it.

  3. it can't be forgotten that the investigation was based on lies.

  4. Yes, the investigation was based on lies. Dennis has admitted he was not forthcoming with the authorities, that he followed his boss's instructions to say nothing unless through an appointed attorney. Before Natalie was buried, the authorities were being ridiculed. Dennis's attorney played "games" with the lead detective, considering him to be "the enemy" -- and to this day, the authorities do not want to admit their mistakes. They quake at thought of being ridiculed, but in this case, it was not public ridicule. No one would blame them for closing a case based on lies, but now everyone will blame them for ignoring the truth. Eventually, they will be completely exposed for their negligence in this case, and what will make it worse is that they refuse to listen to the truth. In my opinion, they are the reason this case remains questionable. There are witnesses willing to tell them everything they know and they don't want to hear it. Soon, they will have to address this issue.

  5. Sharon, you are welcome. Several readers have emailed me who appreciate your review also.

  6. and the lies from Wagner and Walken continued as the years went on. Walken has no credibility whatsoever. His statements to the press have been infrequent but he has told many different stories of what went on that night. He made up a story about Natalie leaving in the dinghy to call her kids, he told the reporter that the phone on the boat did not work. That's a lie. Why is he lying?