Robert Stone and I were close during the last 15 years of his life. For anything prior to that, my primary source for his biography was his wife, Janice; the two had met in a class at New York University soon after Stone finished a three-year enlistment in the navy in 1958. Janice had spent much of their 50-plus-year marriage organizing Bob, as she would put it. She also preserved and organized a wealth of material for the biographer who might one day show up.

Stone died owing the third book on a three-book contract—intended to be a childhood memoir, and much anticipated, as his childhood was rumored to have been dark and strange. He had sold the book on the strength of an article, published in Architectural Digest in the 1990s, about living with his single mother during his middle teens in a single room at New York’s Endicott Hotel. He never wrote a line of the memoir. That unusual, fascinating childhood presented itself to the biographer as a black hole. There would be little to go on beyond such anecdotes as Janice and others might remember.