From a Michigan newspaperman, a well-researched but confusing biography of a controversial figure from the early clays of Mormonism. Jesse James Strang broke off from Brigham Young and the main branch of Mormonism shortly after the assassination of Joseph Smith in 1844. Founding a sect based on an apparently forged letter of appointment from Smith, divine revelation, and some mysterious brass plates found under an oak tree, Strang went on to found a secular kingdom (with himself as monarch) on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan. Polygamy, political intrigue, and fiery speechmaking became his trademarks there, as well as secret societies and bizarre religious rituals that got him into increasing conflicts with local and state authorities. He was assassinated in 1856 by two disaffected ""subjects."" As an exercise in the exhumation of vast amounts of raw information, Van Noord's study is a success. Every imaginable letter has been read, every diary entry pondered; and the pages are chock-full of quotations from all conceivable sources. But, unfortunately, his enthusiasm for research seems to have obscured the necessity for a clear, readable narrative; an inability to leave out the smallest details makes the chapters hard to follow. Greater attention to the actual writing, with an effort to paraphrase and summarize rather than quote directly, would have produced a smoother, more elegant arrangement.