Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Book research, book hell …


Writing a book takes on different stages. In fact, from a technical standpoint, I can’t even call writing a book “writing a book.” Because it’s quite inaccurate.

Eventually, one writes a book. But, if it’s a biography (as is the project I’m currently immersed in), and you follow a certain philosophy, the writing doesn’t come until later. Much, much, much, much, much, much later.

First, there is research, and more research, and more research. It’s the key to quality portrayal, and it involves significantly more than simply calling the stars and a couple of teammates. Genuine research, in my mind, entails creating your own library. When I was working on Sweetness, for example, I literally constructed my own Walter Payton library. It contained photo copies of most every yearbook he ever appeared in; every article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune (and included the words “Walter Payton”) between 1975 and 1988; roughly 60 books that concerned Walter, Mississippi, Chicago, Jackson State University, the Bears and the disease he ultimately died of. Whenever I dive into a new subject, the wife loses her mind, because in myriad corners of the house one will find stuffed notepads, random receipts, yellowed clips. It’s my own brand of disorganized organization, and it makes little sense to anyone—but me.

I digress. Yesterday, the wife and I spent the day at a nearby Panera. I entered the restaurant looking like a bag man. I had my backpack (filled with articles), a ripped white shopping bag (filled with articles) and a smaller second shopping bag (also filled with articles). I also brought along two staplers, seven highlighters and a roll of tape. I found my space, ordered my iced coffee and refused to budge for seven hours.

It’s my love.