2012 Bison Books paperback edition

Friday, December 24, 2010

Signing Books, Getting in the Christmas Spirit

Me at Books and Company, Lexington, VA 12-19-10


What is more Christmassy for a writer than hanging out days before December 25 in a cool small-town independent bookstore, signing your own book? Not much. Surrounded by happy, laughing book-people shopping local by buying books? Perfect.

You can't help but think of all those years of getting books for Christmas: now people are giving your book to friends and family. It warms the heart, just as reading A Christmas Carol does, every year, without fail.  

You, the author, are now part of that great chain of holiday book giving, going back to Gutenberg (well, maybe starting a few years after his printing press; it took awhile, after all, for non-manuscript books to catch on, not to mention literacy). Going back, anyway, to when you were ten and a favorite aunt gave you a leather-bound copy of Little Women for Christmas and you never looked back.

This Christmas, 2010, at the end of months of Gutenberg-like revolutions in the book business, I couldn't help but think, as I signed my book near home this week in Lexington and Richmond, that all the indies I came across in my recent book tour, from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., might not only survive but thrive once the New Book Order comes to pass. 

Independent booksellers have made it this far and now nobody knows what's coming next in the book business -- except that the race may go to the small and the nimble. Social marketing is changing the game by the day. Independent booksellers are getting a cut of e-book sales. Their superb customer service and ambiance are winning hearts and minds. A passionate reaction is emerging, insisting that the bound book shall not disappear. 

Anthony Powell, the English author of the 12-volume masterpiece, A Dance to the Music of Time, wrote that books do furnish a room. Let's expand on that and say that bound books do furnish a life.

So, while we still have them and hope we always will: God bless us -- writers, publishers, editors, booksellers, book buyers -- every one. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Totally Subjective List of the Best Books of 2010


Aren't all such lists subjective? 

So why not make such a list totally subjective: "I chose these books because they were written by my friends (and me)." You have a problem with that?

It's hard enough getting a slice of media attention. Let's all pitch in and spin our friends, the people we can vouch for as hard workers, brilliant thinkers, and consummate professionals.  

As we come to the end of yet another challenging year, I offer these 2010 books as worthy of your attention and wallet. Buy and read any and all of them. You will be glad you did.
 

A Totally Subjective List of the Best Books of 2010





Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Writer's Heaven

2010-12-16-KateBufordDSC01381.jpg
Me reading from Native American Son: The Life and Sporting Legend of Jim Thorpe at the launch of the Marmauke Writing Factory, Pleasantville, NY, Dec. 15, 2010. 
Spending several years writing non-fiction narrative is kind of like being a spy. No one knows where you are for weeks at a time. You float from archive to archive, a parasite sucking information from sources (archivists) deeply undercover in the bowels of historical societies and Special Collections in places like Canton, Oklahoma City, Cooperstown, and downtown Los Angeles. If you're into it, it's irresistible.
You have to have the instincts -- and passion -- of a sleuth. Or a bloodhound, nose to the ground, following the scent to the source. 

Then you have to write up into persuasive narrative written form all the information you've found. Hole up in an office somewhere -- like upstairs in your home -- and turn straw into gold. It's lonely, or at least other people tell you it must be. You aren't aware of feeling that way. If you were, you'd be doing something else with your life. However, when you start feeling agoraphobic, it's time to reach out.

Which is where a writers group comes in. I've been in such a group before. We met every week at a wonderfully welcoming restaurant in Chappaqua, NY (Le Jardin du Roi - great lobster salad) and read our stuff, shared war stories. But recently this idea got taken to a whole 'nother level. In September the Marmaduke Writing Factory Marmaduke was formed in Pleasantville, NY, just east of Chappaqua in Westchester County. Not only is there a group of about 10 writers, there is a designated space -- a craggy, rocky, edgy basement cave -- for established authors to go and write, think, and help each other. 

It's warm (there's a gas fire), there are desks, tables, armchairs, and copies of all our books on shelves to distract us. Very cozy and reassuring to literary spies coming in out of the cold of lonely endeavor.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Favorite Sports Books

 

I just wrote a sports book -- well, it's a history book, too -- so people assume I've read sports books all my life and know all about them. I don't. 

Up until about age 22 I hadn't read much of anything published before 1900. I was the only one in my high school honors English class in California to read and really like Tom Jones (1749). I lived in my own private time machine filled with afternoon tea, crumpets, crazy Russians, dissolute French people, and Anglo-Irish aristos hanging on to eccentric elegance in crumbling Georgian mansions beyond the Pale. Sports? That was what my father, brothers, sister, uncles, cousins did. That was time away from reading. Time spent out of the time machine, blinking in the bright sunshine of the present.

At some point my brother Buck turned me on to sports books. Buck is the natural athlete of an athletic family. We like to say he could ski beautifully on two-by-fours. Buck has the instinct for a good story. He also haunts the mailbox every week, waiting for Sports Illustrated to arrive. The family often hides it, just to see his reaction: "Anybody seen the new SI?" "Gee, no, Dad." Buck told me about Stolen Season (see below) and that started it all. I liked the immediacy of sports stories, their apparent simplicity. But of course, behind the game, the life, there was so much more. A good sports book was like a transparent three-dimensional structure (cubic tic tac toe?) that you played as you read. Dynamic.

So, below are 1) my idiosyncratic list of my favorite sports books; and 2) Sports Illustrated's Dick Friedman's gaming of the system of putting sports books into such lists. Add in your favorites. Tell me what I haven't read and should! And, thanks, Dick!

1) My Turn at Bat: The Story of My Life (Fireside Sports Classics) by Ted Williams
2)
"Introducing the ingenious, addictive tool for judging everything under the sun: ENLIGHTENED BRACKETOLOGY, the new science that makes opinion a sport." And Dick Friedman has applied it to sports books. Click on THE ENLIGHTENED BRACKETOLOGIST title above and be sure to turn the page to see which book Dick ended up with as The Best (it wasn't on my list, but I'm going to read it right now). 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On Tour: What Am I Asked Most Often?

Jim Thorpe at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School, c. 1907



The usual book tour FAQs: Why did you write this book? What specifically led you to this subject? Did you like him? Was it true Thorpe couldn't hit a curve ball? How long did the book take to write?

I answer that it took me, give or take, about 7 years to write NATIVE AMERICAN SON. After some gasps and raised eyebrows I get this question: HOW DID YOU KEEP GOING FOR SO LONG?

On the subject of the writers -- and process -- of narrative nonfiction, Garrison Keillor said in early May 2007: "They are at work at computers, with books stacked on the floor, around them and on tables, and notes, legal pads, scribbles, index cards and Post-it notes and a whole great, beautiful chaos of material, and they are just trying to get the job done."

Amen. I kept that quote stuck on the cork board above my desk during the last couple of years of work on Thorpe. Next to it was the May 21, 2007 cover of The New Yorker, which shows a mathematician in a studio apartment, his back to an intricately messy blackboard, paper-littered floor, and desk, as he boils an egg for his breakfast (I only now realize, as I sequence these May 2007 dates, that the cover artist SempĂ© may have been inspired by Keillor's comment. Chronology rules). 

But that doesn't answer the question of how (and, implicitly, why) I -- or anybody -- could keep sitting down at that desk day after day. The answer is the subject himself: Jim Thorpe. Several authors had covered his glory years from 1907 - 1920, but no one had finished the life, told the whole story, right up to the current burial controversy. "The mother lode of subjects," said Ben Cheever of Thorpe. And the excavation of his life indeed felt like digging for something precious to our culture. Enough and more to keep me going.

The young man in the photograph above shaped modern sports. A century later, sports are the common, global passion of our time for boys and girls, men and women, young and old. How we got there is, in large part, the story of Jim Thorpe.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Book Tour: Politics & Prose Bookstore, Washington, D.C.

Me and grandson Kevin, signing books














 
Politics & Prose - what a great, fabled independent bookstore! I had heard about it for years, but had never been to 5015 Connecticut Avenue in our nation's capital before my Native American Son book signing date on November 8. 

Every detail seemed to be perfect in this quintessential book haven. The children's section downstairs was like a time travel dream -- all the favorites I remembered + new titles that looked terrific. My grandson diligently pulled all the squishy books off the shelf and then re-shelved them, over and over. Who says books are a doomed artifact?

It was a good group of grownups upstairs for the reading. Some passionate Thorpe fans, some women, and one man who came all the way down from Harrisburg, PA, ready with his questions and enthusiasm. It's interesting: there is always at least a handful of true fans among the audience who have been waiting for a chance to express their devotion to Thorpe. 

Maybe they learned it from their father or grandfather, but it's always the same questions:
  • was it true Jim couldn't hit a curve ball? (no)
  • did be beat Army in 1912 all by himself? (just about)
  • was he as good as my grandfather said he was? (yes)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On the Road: The Book Tour

 
Los Angeles, LA84 Foundation, Book signing: Sunday, October 24, 2010

Book tours are grueling. Adversarial people show up. Nobody shows up (well, not really). Your hand gets cramped signing lots of books. You wish your hand got cramped signing more books. Back and forth. The usual, except that the national book tour -- maybe like bookstores -- is now pretty rare, soon to be extinct, they say.

So, it has been a wonderful and a little sad but sweet privilege to be sent out by Knopf on a proper book tour for NATIVE AMERICAN SON. I am acutely aware that even having a hardcover, beautifully designed and edited non-fiction book to my credit is, in 2010, rather like owning the last Model T to roll off the Ford assembly line.

This Christmas, so the news feed says, will be the "tipping point" when e-readers may overtake books themselves as holiday gifts. Last weekend, at the Kingston, NY Barnes & Noble, as I headed to the back of the store for my scheduled book signing, I passed a booth right inside the front door with an employee demonstrating the Nook. Hedging their book bets.

In my next blog I'll list the highlights of this official, publisher-sponsored, book tour. As it might be the last I'll ever do, I'll try to bury it with honors -- while I enjoy every single minute.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Mission Band Potawatomi Book Blessing Ceremony

  Sacred Heart Mission

Now that the Jim Thorpe biography is done, I'm convinced,  in retrospect, that it got done because it was blessed early on by a Mission Band Potawatomi blessing ceremony. Whenever I got discouraged, which was often, Jack Thorpe, Jim's youngest child, would smile and say, "It's going to be fine. We blessed it."

Jack was the one of Thorpe's eight children who became the most connected with the spiritual dimension of his American Indian heritage. He was the chief of the Sac & Fox Nation and has also worked for many years as a dedicated, even dogged, administrator and organizer for Potawatomi and Kickapoo tribal projects. He lives in Shawnee, not far from where Jim was born in 1887.

Jack took as his mission to expose me to some essentials of Indian life in Oklahoma. For several days I drove him around Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties as he pointed out his father's birthplace, the Sac & Fox headquarters on the former reservation land near Stroud, and the locations of Jim's mother's allotment. He introduced me to Ruth Sanderson, a full-blooded Kickapoo who builds the tribe's Woodland-origin bent-branch wikiup ceremonial structure each year in the same place on her mother's original allotment where is has been situated for over 100 years.

Jack also brought me to a Potawatomi funeral -- a private, very small, intensely spiritual and emotional ceremony it was a privilege to attend. Jack asked that I wear a long skirt (which meant a quick trip to the local WalMart). The Indian rite was followed by a Catholic burial in the little graveyard at the Benedictine Sacred Heart Mission church founded in 1876 in Konawa by Jim Thorpe's grandfather after the tribe's removal from Kansas.Charlotte Vieux Thorpe, Jim's mother, is buried in the same graveyard. The Potawatomi have been linked to the Catholic church.since their exposure n the 17th century to French trappers, Catholic priests and monks in their Great Lakes place of origin.

The only Sacred Heart Mission structures that survived the fire of 1901.












The blessing of the book took place at sunset in a wooden ceremonial structure behind the house of Leon Bruno, the former chairman of the Oklahoma Potawatomi Mission Band. A small group of us entered, stepping clockwise to make a circle around the fire in the center that had been lit at dawn. The purpose of the ceremony was not for personal gain, as Jack explained, but to ask for "help for good, to come out right, that no evil happens."  He told me later that implied in that request is a wish for patience, to let the goal run its course on "Indian Time."

The details of the ceremony are private and I will honor that here. However I can say that at the end I was given a deerskin tobacco pouch; I was to sprinkle tobacco at the base of a tree whenever I felt threatened or frightened. I was also given a medicine bag containing the four sacred elements of sage, cedar, tobacco, and sweet grass.

The tobacco pouch and medicine bag were on my writing desk every day for the seven years it took to write NATIVE AMERICAN SON.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Farewell, Bernie Schwartz



A break from Jim Thorpe to mark the death yesterday of Tony Curtis.
 
“ ‘The cat’s in the bag and the bag’s in the river.’ This is Sidney Falco speaking.” 

The year was 1997. The voice on the phone was indeed "Falco," speaking that famous line from Sweet Smell of Success. Tony Curtis was a key source for my biography of Burt Lancaster that would be published in 2000. I’d been trying for months to get an interview with him. Here he was, suddenly, with no advance warning, calling from Los Angeles, gleefully playing for me his venal, hyper-eager press agent. The 1957 movie bombed at the box office – “This was a feel-bad movie,” exulted Curtis, still delighted with the film’s unrepentant cynicism that repelled that decade’s filmgoers. But Sweet Smell had the last laugh, giving us the enduring Manhattan archetypes of Falco and Lancaster’s Walter Winchell clone, J. J. Hunsecker. 

Both Hollywood stars – and they were huge in 1957 – were New Yorkers first and foremost. Curtis from the Bronx, Lancaster from East Harlem. As Curtis told me, they knew the script in their bones and were essentially playing Big Apple aspects of themselves. “Look at the way Sidney looked,” said Curtis. “So… perfect. Good-looking, lean, silk shirts, tapered trousers. Couldn’t get out of that environment. He’s there forever.”  

Curtis, born Bernie Schwartz in 1925, got so far out of that New York environment he was able to play a hilariously pitch-perfect Cary Grant knock-off in Some Like It Hot and an improbable circus aerialist flying through the air in Trapeze. There’s usually, however, a cost to such success, a stench, as Sweet Smell vividly shows. Curtis would go on to have the typical Hollywood problems of multiple marriages, substance abuse, a declining career.

But he never forgot who he started out as and the hunger to escape the accidental limitations of birth. His Bronx Jewish energy fueled his ambition, as it does Falco’s, forever, on film – and his survival. Curtis reinvented himself as a painter, a good one. To judge from my interview, at least, he never lost a sharp, observant, highly intelligent New York humor. From that first Falco line to the last good-bye, I pretty much laughed, hard, while somehow managing to take good notes.

“I’d like to take a bite out of you,” says Hunsecker to Falco. “You’re a cookie full of arsenic.” Curtis gives Lancaster a knowing smirk. Sidney Falco was Bernie Schwartz if he’d never escaped to Hollywood.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Oklahoma, Here I Come!



 
Prague, Oklahoma, about 1903

Oklahoma was never on my list of places to see before I die. Which goes to show how prejudices we don't even know we have limit our view of the world. 

Jim Thorpe was born in Oklahoma in 1887 (not 1888, as most sources claim) near where this rough western town of Prague would be created about twelve years later by immigrants from Bohemia. His Sac & Fox and Potawatomi people had been "removed" (forcibly relocated) to Oklahoma after the Civil War from Kansas (to which they had been removed from Iowa, to which they had been removed from Illinois). Towns like this were laid out overnight on Indian lands that opened up for white settlement with the famous Oklahoma land runs, like the one pictured below, that began in 1889.



When I first arrived in Oklahoma City (OKC to locals) in 2002 to start research on Thorpe the city and surrounding country looked flat, dry, and plain. There didn't seem to be much for the eye to linger on. The wind blew constantly because there was nothing to stop it. 

Then I noticed the sense of humor -- flat, dry ("dusty!" laughed one Oklahoman), plain, and very funny. Will Rogers wit. The punch line came at you like a cowboy seen far away on the horizon: Wait for it. "Why is Oklahoma so windy? It's all that hot air blowing up from Texas." It's an intimate state, a  monk told me, a man so handsome he was referred to, affectionately, as "Brother What A Waste" and "Father Hunk-a-Monk." When the state finally got around, 80-some years later, to adding a dome to the capitol building, there was a constituency that argued it was more distinctive to be the only state in the union without a dome. 



Any biography worth its name should expand the sympathies and understanding of the biographer. Now I love the state I had to learn so much about in order to write NATIVE AMERICAN SON. One new friend recently dubbed me "an honorary Okie." It's a title I'm delighted to accept.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Frank Deford and me in Jim Thorpe, PA

Native American Son is not out yet but, thanks to the controversy surrounding the burial of Jim Thorpe in the town named for him in Pennsylvania (see previous blogpost, "No Rest for the Dead," the book tour has effectively begun.


Jim Thorpe, PA

Which is how I found myself sitting across from the great sportswriter and author Frank Deford, in a room above the stage at the Jim Thorpe Opera House. HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel, thanks to a pitch from the Knopf publicist Lena Khidritskaya, had decided to do a 12-minute segment on the lawsuit filed by Jim's son, Jack Thorpe, against the town of Jim Thorpe. As Thorpe's most recent biographer, I was chosen as the "expert."

It's always a bit daunting to come out of the dark cave of writing a book -- and the grueling editing and proof stage before the book goes to press -- into the bright light of media scrutiny. Deford's questions were, not surprisingly, both acute and broad. Is Jim Thorpe remembered today? he asked. I remember the 1950 Associated Press sportswriter and radio announcer poll (no TV yet) that voted him the greatest athlete of the half century, way ahead of Babe Ruth, he said. Today, everybody lauds only the most recent star, he lamented. What surprises did you discover? he asked (the passion with which he was and is remembered as the outsider robbed of his due, I answered, his unexamined "iron man" sports career in the 1920s after he exited the "greatest athlete in the world" limelight, and his equally unexamined career in Hollywood in the 1930s).

What did I think Jim Thorpe would say about the current burial controversy and a town he never saw named for him? was Deford's last question. I answered that he might say: Remember what I did when I was alive. I earned the name.

It was a terrific way to start the book tour, with the best in the business. Catch the show on September 21 on HBO.






Tuesday, August 10, 2010

No Rest for the Dead

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Angie Debo: Oklahoma Historian Extraordinaire


Angie Debo, Oklahoma Historian Extraordinaire 1890 - 1988.

Jim Thorpe was born in Oklahoma Indian Territory in 1887. More than a hundred years later I started researching his life in the old, dusty Oklahoma Historical Society in the Wiley Post building across from the (then-domeless) state capitol in Oklahoma City. The creaky central wooden staircase and the warren-like rooms looked, felt, and smelled as if they hadn't changed a bit since the structure was built in 1930. At desks guarding the stacks of books and files were devoted archivists with an Oklahoma humor so dry one of them called it "dusty." ("Why do we need a capitol dome, anyway? It's better being maybe the only state without one.")

My first day at the Society one of the archivists sat me down for an introductory chat. It was important to understand from the start of my work, he said, that the early history of Oklahoma was, as he put it, corrupt and venal. It was not Oklahoma! And the person we had to thank for having the courage to write the true history of her state, against concerted opposition from major political figures who wished to preserve the Boomer/Sooner myths, was Angie Debo

Read this brief summary of her life -- http://www.unl.edu/plains/publications/resource/debo.shtml. Imagine what it must have been like for this remarkable woman, working tirelessly for years in the same dusty archive, piecing together the heartbreaking story of the Indian nations and individuals of Oklahoma and beyond.

The scrupulous and disciplined passion of her self-imposed calling animates every word she wrote in such books as And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes, A History of the Indians of the United States, Geronimo: The Man, His Time, His Place, and more. Her work is accurately called the cornerstone of American Indian scholarship.

p.s. The Oklahoma State Capitol got its dome in 2002. A portrait of Debo hangs in the rotunda area. The Historical Society moved to brand-new quarters in the Oklahoma History Center in 2005.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Who Was Jim Thorpe?

OK. I'm deep into the last day of the so-called first pass of the Thorpe manuscript (it's actually the next-to-last proof). So, here's a really quickie summary of why Thorpe was so great in sports: 


An American Indian (Potawatomi; Sac and Fox) from Oklahoma who was arguably the greatest American athlete of modern times. 
He played sports in the early decades of the twentieth century, just as they were emerging as the activities that would become passions for millions. Thorpe was so good at so many games and athletic activities, he became the  the gold standard of athletic achievement.

In those early days, there was no emphasis on specializing in one sport, which freed Thorpe to excel in several.
  • A remarkable All-America running back for the Carlisle Indian Industrial School football team who -- playing before official statistics and against teams such as Harvard, Penn, and Army -- may have been the game's first 2,000-yard rusher. Sports Illustrated said he would have won the Heisman in 1911 and 1912, if the award had existed back then.
  • The first international celebrity athlete: the winner, by huge margins, of gold medals for both the pentathlon and decathlon at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm -- the only athlete to ever win both events.
  • A major and minor league baseball player for twelve seasons who, by 1919 for the Boston Braves, hit as well (.327) as Ty Cobb and Shoeless Joe Jackson. 
  • The professional football icon who put the pro sport on the map -- and whose statue is the first thing you see today when you enter the Professional Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Old Pieces of Paper

Just after 9/11 I was sitting on a dusty ladder deep in the stacks of the National Archives in Washington. Sirens wailed outside, non-stop. Anthrax dust was floating everywhere, it seemed. I had just started the research for Native American Son.

Surrounded by boxes of documents filling shelves from floor to ceiling, I had a chilling thought. If the terrorists had slammed a plane into this building, they would have wiped out the primary sources of our recorded history. Destroyed the records of millions of the already dead.

Like this one: the U.S. Army Enlistments of 1837. The name Hiram G. Thorp (Jim added the "e" later) is fourth from the bottom, indicated by the arrow in the left margin. He was Jim's paternal grandfather, white, born in Connecticut of English descent going back to the founding of New Haven. He enlisted in the Eighth Infantry, Company A at the age of 24. He had blue eyes, brown hair, fair skin, and was five feet, eight inches tall.

We only know all that information about his physical person because of this old piece of  paper preserved on microfilm. For me, starting work on this biography way back in those dark scary days, to find such concrete, evocative details from the past was oddly reassuring. Hiram's record had survived, so far. Maybe mine would too.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Inspiration

"How did you come to write a book about ________? It's the question a biographer is asked more than any other.

So why Thorpe? The answer begins on a hot day in 1996 in the cool archives of the University of Southern California's Cinema/Television Library in Los Angeles. I was working through the extensive Warner Brothers production file for their 1951 bio-pic.Jim Thorpe: All American(In the 1950 photo above you see, left to right, Lancaster, Thorpe, and director Michael Curtiz on the set.)

Burt Lancaster: An American LifeLancaster had played Thorpe, and Lancaster was the subject of the Lancaster biography I was researching and writing.

Though I come from a family of California athletes, I didn't know much if anything about Thorpe. But I did know that for many people sports were more than games, athletes sometimes more than human. So I was struck, hard, by the tone and passion of the letters and postcards in the production file that had come in from all over the country to studio head Jack Warner as shooting started in 1950. The most passionate letter came from a very young Bobby Kennedy. Their gist: Don't mess up the story of our hero. Get it exactly right.

A writer of biographies looks or waits for such messages from the past. At least I do. Maybe it's a romantic notion, but it feels as if the ghosts are transmitting a plea: Remember what was important to us. Thorpe turned sixty-three in 1950. He hadn't played any sport since a disastrous football game in 1928. Why was he so vividly remembered?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Approaching the finish line


















Jim Thorpe (1887-1953) was perhaps the greatest all-around athlete of modern times. For a biographer, me, he was an irresistible subject.

He preceded radio and television, yet remains in the collective memory, however hazy, as the definitive athlete. When I would mention I was thinking of doing a book about him to just about any man, or group of men, the reaction was always the same. A couple of beats of silence and then, with a particular tone of awe, his name spoken slowly, emphatically, "Jim Thorpe!"

The reaction was the same whether it was at a tony cocktail party on Fishers Island or from a postal worker in the Appalachian town of Lexington, Virginia or a contractor in Southern California.

As you can guess from the stacks of corrected proof pages on my work tables pictured here in March 2010, figuring out why Thorpe's story had lingered for so long was not a short  -- seven years -- or easy task.

Unexpected discoveries emerged and will emerge. They always do.