2012 Bison Books paperback edition

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.