THE RESEARCH FOR THIS BOOK WAS OFTEN THE RESULT of chance encounters and serendipity, beginning with Donald Worden's memories of transporting furs as an off-duty police officer. My former colleague Bill Salganik provided an introduction by proxy to Michael Miller, who shared his knowledge of the fur industry and let me try on quite a few coats. Scott Shane was generous with his insights into Baltimore's Russian Jewish community; Carole Epstein solved one of the book's knottier problems poolside in Las Vegas.
Quite a few folks did their best to help Tess and me grasp the finer points of Orthodox Judaism as it might be practiced by the characters in this book. These included Bernard Simon, Suzanne Balaban, Rafael Alvarez, and Sarah Weinman. I also relied on a wide range of reference books, such as This Is My God, Herman Wouk; The Jewish Book of Why, Alfred J. Kolatch; Fables of a Jewish Aesop, translated by Moses Hadas; A Guide to Jewish Prayer, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz; and Essential Judaism, George Robinson. Any errors are my own. But I also invoke the novelist's prerogative to make stuff up, especially when it comes to the ever-changing social-services bureaucracy.
Much of this book was written on the premises of Spoons, so thank you to Karen, Mike, Neil, Morgan, and everyone else at that lovely oasis.
It should be noted that this story was inspired very loosely by the real-life experiences of the late Victor Persico. I met and interviewed Victor in the early 1990s while working for the Baltimore Sun , but the article was spiked for complicated reasons. Victor was a gentle soul, and I wish that the world had had a chance to know the full story of his devotion to his three sons, a devotion that transcended anything I could ever invent. This is much too little, much too late.