I have had a very busy Christmas break. An over large class last semester, coupled with an overly ambitious final project assignment contributed to me spending most of my free time grading papers. I had expected around 20 students in my class, and I got 49. The final project was too long for even a class of 20. I finally got all the papers graded, though, and I'm going to turn the grades in on Monday. It's odd, I think, that when I was an ASA I could easily stand up in court and urge a judge to send someone to prison for the rest of his natural life, but now as an instructor I have difficulty giving a student the low grade that the student unquestionably earned.
Right in the middle of all grading all those finals I got the final page proofs for The Almanac Trial. I have to proofread and index the pages and get it all back to the publisher by February 3. I could hardly wait to finish grading papers so that I could jump on proofreading. With previous books, proofreading has always been a gigantic chore, but it seems I never get tired of re-reading The Almanac Trial. Every time I read through something I have written, I feel an almost overpowering urge to tinker with the text in an effort to improve it. Apparently lots of authors have this problem, because whenever the publisher sends out the final page proofs, they are always accompanied by a dire warning to leave the text alone and simply look for typographical errors. As I started reading through the proofs, I found many things I wanted to rewrite, but so far I have resisted the temptation. I'm about half through with the process of proofing, and I'm sure that I can make it through the rest of the book without succumbing to the temptation of trying to do a major rewrite of some part of the book.
Nobody else may be pleased with the final product, but I am. I weigh the evidence and make what I feel are reasonable findings. Some of the finding may not be popular, and some readers are bound to disagree, but as Ricky Nelson said, you can't please everyone. One thing that I really like about the book is the fact I put in the Appendices. In Appendices A and B, I set out the statements of the major witnesses and the more important documents from the court file. This gives readers the chance to look at the evidence for themselves without any editorial comment and draw their own conclusions about the trial. Appendix C traces the Armstrong family's largely overlooked oral tradition of the trial, much of which bears very little resemblance to the written history. I wouldn't put a lot of stock in most of these stories, but I think there may be some wheat in the chaff of the family's legends.
I think the book is well designed, and any problems with the layout are not attributable to the publisher, but are the result of the author's amateurish work with the graphics which he provided.