A step by step, fact by fact biography of William Sidney Porter reveals research, answers apologists and critics, and meticulously follows the career of the writer known as O. Henry and the progress of the man. It concentrates on the alien qualities -- in Texas, in prison, in New York, on the reticence and kindness, on the failings of immaturity and drink, on the inability to face a showdown, on the question of his guilt or innocence in his incident of the Austin bank embezzlement, on the blight of his prison term. It is detailed in its hounding of his physical as well as his emotional and psychological findings; it soundtracks his two marriages; it roots into the beginning of his writing and identifies subject and (changed) matter in his later works; it links all evidence of his financial ineptitude; it knows the temperature of Texas, Ohio State Penitentiary, North Carolina and New York City days. It is a diagnosis of his place, a unique one and here reconsidered, in American fiction -- it is a mine for what made the man and the writer. Not as a portrait that comes alive and speaks -- as maybe O. Henry could and should -- is the end effect: the total is rather a clinical X-ray. Excellent as a study project but not aimed towards a general biography reading public.