Norman Tutorow: Correct this historian if he's wrong ... which he never is

Historians in the News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Norman Tutorow is a bad typist - he uses the two-finger hunt-and-peck method. It's hardly an exercise in elegance.

The only thing worse than his typing is his handwriting - you can't read it. He can't read it.

His shortcomings notwithstanding, Tutorow has amassed a very large reputation among a very small number of people for writing history - not just writing it but correcting it, retelling it and altogether fixing history. He is thorough, tenacious and, many would say, obsessed with getting the details right.

When he says something outlandish - he insists, for instance, that seven out of 10 "facts" in history books are wrong - he tends to be able to prove it. He comes off as confident, even cocky. Many historians fear him or loathe him because he has so often - and with such glee or disdain - revealed their work to be full of inaccuracies.

"He has a natural bent as a forensic scholarly investigator," said Gerald Gillespie, a retired German studies and comparative literature professor at Stanford University who has known Tutorow for years. "Frequently, scholars who have said something authoritative are completely miffed when Norman blasts it out of the water."

Tutorow, 73, lives with his wife, Evelyn, in the sprawling Del Webb retirement community in Lincoln, Calif. He doesn't play golf, even though his house backs onto the golf course.

He's not really sure why he lives there. But one thing is certain: He is anything but retired. He and his wife work from 7 a.m. to midnight seven days a week, sharing the research duties while Tutorow writes the books. They practically live in the California History Room at the California State Library, where the couple arrive with their daily to-do lists and pore through old newspapers on microfilm.

They read. They compile. They sift. They write. They repeat. It goes on and on until every source, rumor, anecdote and accepted fact is assessed, dissected and documented. By the time he has finished a book, Tutorow figures he has read it 25 times.

That's 25 times more than most people....
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