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A successful biographer (Aaron Burr, Andrew Johnson) reveals the tricks of the trade as he and his fellow authors practice them. Lomask proceeds in the time-tested format which starts with how to select the subject and evaluate whether there's a worthwhile book in it, through how to get the final effort published. Along the way he dispenses considerable good advice on organizing research, sources to use (stick to primary ones), structuring the material, making chapter transitions and stimulating reader interest. He strews helpful suggestion, like seed corn. For instance, he advises one to begin research at the end of the subject's life: contemporary news reports are more complete by then, while private letters tend to include reminiscences. He includes a number of pertinent examples of how other writers have kept reader interest alive through planted hints of interesting things to come. Other examples are used to demonstrate how biographers make the subject come alive on the page. His brief section on ""style and tone"" draws liberally from Strunk and White's Elements of Style, but it's a must for those who have no style guide. His ""Suggested Reading"" appendix should help a neophyte start out on the right foot. This how-to-be-an-author book is mercifully free of padding and un. necessary literary devices. It's brisk, its examples are pertinent, it covers the ground without beating its subject into the ground. A boon for budding Boswells.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1986
Publisher: Harper & Row