... ah bone, is the pit of a man after the cumbering flesh has been eaten away.
—RICHARD SELZER, MORTAL LESSONS
NOTHING CURED BILL BASS'S headaches so quickly as a call about a corpse. Even after twenty years of identifying human remains, the anticipation of a new case brought instant relief from whatever budget shortfall or stack of exams had started his head pounding in the first place. For that matter, Bass didn't think to grumble at being roused from his bed in the predawn darkness on a cold and rain-whipped morning just before New Year's—by all rights the midpoint in a college professor's winter break.
When Bass accepted the University of Tennessee's invitation to create an anthropology department in 1971, word quickly spread that one of the nation's leading "bone men" was about to take up residence. The governor's office immediately enlisted him to be Tennessee's first state forensic anthropologist, on call twenty-four hours a day. Having honed his art on the sparsely populated prairie around the University of Kansas, Bass expected to deal with the occasional discovery of skeletal remains. He requisi