A fluent, tightly focused biography of a man who was born and died under two appearances of Halley's Comet, and led a restless, colorful life in between. Cox (Undying Glory, 1991, etc.) pulls together this account of Twain's peregrinations, family life, and career by developing two main themes: his lifelong, almost comically feckless quest for financial security, and an obsession with race that, the author claims, pervaded all his writings. Though Cox doesn't run through the entire Twain catalogue, he does discuss the high spots, showing how incidents in Twain's early life shaped his great fictional characters and how his attitudes toward women, government, human nature, and, most especially, racial injustice evolved over time. With intriguing details and quotations that don't read like sound bites, Cox creates a vivid portrait of this talented, contradictory, seminal figure. A strong replacement for Milton Meltzer's Mark Twain (1985, o.p.).