Topics in this study will appear over time.

Monday, April 8, 2013

That Fiend In Hell: Research for Alias Soapy Smith was unscholarly and lazy?

Throughout That Fiend in Hell, author Cathy Spude assails my research as unscholarly and at times implies that I was lazy in its conduct. Emphasized is the assumption that the bulk of my research was performed online, but as explained in the preface of my book, that was far from the case. Newspaper research was especially difficult in 1985 when I began the task as there were no online collections that allowed one simply to open a screen and type in a key search word. My early research took me to numerous libraries, archives, and museums in Alaska, Colorado, and Washington to view microfilm unavailable through inter-library loan. On page 192 of her book, Spude assumes and implies that I accessed Alaska newspapers online, but as she researched the same Alaska newspapers I did, she is fully aware that, even now, these newspapers are not available online. Further, she assumes I accessed other sources for quotation from these newspapers. This is not the case. Every quotation in my book that is from Alaska newspapers in Skagway for 1897-98 comes from photocopies in my possession from library-held microfilm of those newspapers, cranked through a "reader" page by page.

In my home state I ordered microfilm rolls, one at a time, for two decades. As microfilm has no search capability or index, thousands of hours were invested in scouring each of the many reels, reading page-by-page, day-by-day, year-by-year, researching my subject and those in his circle in newspapers of that time and place. I was extremely successful in finding and publishing information that otherwise might never have been uncovered and explored because much of it lay buried until I found it, assembled it, gave it interpretive context, and published it in 2009. "Reading upwards of 90,000 pages took years. It was a daunting task but proved a goldmine of information not known to have been republished anywhere...." (Alias Soapy Smith p. 6).