A Forty Year Quest and a Fascinating Book
Most writers have a little unease when approaching the blank screen for the first time each day. That's very often the case even when the job is no more than making up a story and/or assembling sentences.
For Mark Pinsky, working on his new book involved much scarier situations. And yet he persisted in his risky research for 40 years.
The book, newly released, is Met Her on the Mountain. Pinsky not only wrote the story of a VISTA volunteer mysteriously and brutally murdered in North Carolina's Madison County, he spent decades on the trail of the killers. Without a badge or a gun or any kind of protection. Just his reporter's notebook and recorder.
He ran across the story of Nancy Morgan's death just after finishing school (he was at Duke in the 60s, writing a column for the paper there called "The Readable Radical.") And the story stuck in his mind; he never let it go, through a career that took him through The Los Angeles Times and The Orlando Sentinel and produced several other books, including The Gospel According to the Simpsons. His unusual dual specialty: religion and capital murder cases.
On-site research for Met Her On The Mountain was for many years a week or so a year in the NC mountains. The writer made sure that his schedule would make him a moving target; no advance announcement of his arrival and always making sure that the innkeeper where he stayed would know where he was going and when to expect him back. His story, after all, includes what he found to be the political framing of an innocent man who was finally acquitted.
It's a fascinating story, and well-written. And I love it when someone sticks with the idea or image or search that mysteriously goads him and pulls him. Being faithful to that quest almost always leads to some significant outcome. It certainly does in this case.
(Others agree. Publishers Weekly made the book its Pick of the Week. Huffington Post followed suit with a similar honor.)