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Author Archive: "Stacy Perman"

The Desire of Objects

It was in the middle of a gray and brittle February when I approached the wrought-iron gates of the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. I was already elbow-deep and several months into researching my book, A Grand Complication. I had read letters, diaries, and books, as well as countless newspaper clippings, yellowed documents, telegrams, and even hotel menus. I pored through photographs, conducted interviews, examined bound auction catalogues, and deciphered archives written in a florid pen abandoned long ago. I was hot on the trail of the two men at the center of this intertwined story: James Ward Packard and Henry Graves Jr., which is what brought me to the graveyard made eerily famous as the setting of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Two of the greatest watch collectors of the 20th century, Packard and Graves had embarked on a quest to possess the most complicated watch in history, resulting in the Graves Supercomplication. And I was hot on the trail of their timepieces too. I had stood before vitrines examining magnificent mechanical watches in museums in New York, Geneva, Jerusalem, and London. On ...

Powell’s Q&A: Stacy Perman

Describe your latest project.

In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules is the story of the famed fast food chain. Although, one would be hard-pressed to find anyone who considers In-N-Out a mere burger joint. Its fans are legion: everyone from Julia Child to Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith to Bob Hope has counted themselves among the devoted. Hatched in postwar Southern California, In-N-Out Burger opened in 1948 — which also happened to be the same year when, just 45 miles away, a pair of brothers, Mac and Dick, launched a burger chain of their own called McDonald's. Although In-N-Out Burger invented the drive-through and helped pioneer the fast food industry, the founding Snyder family chose to steer a different course, staying private, family owned, and clinging to a simple philosophy based solely on quality. The story of In-N-Out Burger is the quintessential American success story — one that influenced the cultural narrative of California before spreading east, eventually evolving into a cult phenomenon. Told through the colorful saga of the Snyder family, it is filled with cars, sibling rivalry, tragedy, ...

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