Full disclosure: he had no lines, but as one of the judges he swore his best acting
lessons were in watching Henry Fonda perform the same part night after night.
The other non-speaking judges may have spent their time on stage planning another audition,
but Garner developed the fine art of listening.
Unbroken-hearted when stage directors told him his voice wouldn't carry beyond the third row,
he carried that talent for listening into television and film where it would set him apart from
the overly-ambitious performers who just couldn't wait to start their big speeches.
His "persona" became that of a thoughtful, honest and caring man. The chapters jump back and forth
in time, sometimes enough to make your head spin. Everything is in order of category, not timeline:
Golf, Racing, Civil Rights, etc. etc. The same people will pop in and out of different stories.
Disconcerting. And while there is a listing of career achievements at the end, there is no index.
But nothing in life is perfect and that even extends to the impeccable Mr. Garner.
And let's not forget Jon Winokur, author of The Portable Curmudgeon, a book which proved to be
such a comfort to Garner through his heart surgery in the 1980s that he hawked it on talk shows.
A biographer has to tread so lightly, to speak in the voice of the subject without giving in to the
impulse to sound his own -- even when he himself is already a respected author.
(Afternote: James Garner died July 19, 2014.)