I came to this book without any measurable knowledge of or attitude toward recovered memories. I knew Napa, of course -- I'd lived there, off and on, for sixteen years. I knew the Mondavi family. But I had known nothing of the Ramona case until the front-page story in the Register on the eve of the trial. I drove over to the court- room, five minutes from my home, to listen and learn. If I brought anything to Courtroom B those first days, it was an excitement over these strange memories, an eagerness to understand this extraordinary new power of the mind. Like everyone else I'd watched, fascinated, as these memories were unleashed in the Franklin murder trial to solve a twenty-year-old crime. After George Franklin's conviction in 1990, I had been intrigued enough, as a writer, to take the prosecuting attorney, Elaine Tipton, to lunch.
Something beyond her story captivated me. Simon Schama was currently arguing in his elegant books that history -- beyond the inescapable objective facts -- was given its shape and meaning in our cultural and national memories by the teller's point of view. In Dead Certainties, he showed how General Wolfe's death at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham was three very different histories -- and Wolfe three very different men -- in the hands of three storytellers: a painter, a foot soldier, a psychohistorian. Now this young prosecutor had been given a rare opportunity to reopen a page of history and bring new shape and meaning to the bloody death of little Susan Nason -- and a jury had chosen her truth.
Careers were already being built on these memories, books and TV specials written and filmed. But I wrote nothing then.