This is a very good job at putting together a biography of the little written about author. Pancake came to prominence after committing suicide when Jon Casey and John McPherson put together a posthumous collection of his short stories. They both contribute an essay to add to the length of this slim volume and it is published to rave reviews.
With the help of Pancake's mother, ex-University of Virginia students and faculty as well as the treasure trove of Pancake's letters, Douglass has taken the previously thin story line of Breece's life and developed a thoughtful and interesting account of a troubled, talented young man.
Whether or not you enjoy Pancake's stories, you cannot help but be impressed by the power and conviction of the author's words. Reading the biography and more importantly, the letters, you see where this power comes from. Pancake is nearly single-minded in regards to his need to write. Every life decision he makes reflects on how it will affect his writing before he makes it.
It also is very clear that this was a mentally troubled young man in need of help that he never found. It is all the more troubling for the reader of this volume, knowing that Pancake would eventually put a rifle in his mouth and pull the trigger, watching the signs of his depression grow and develop. There are also other writing tidbits included: alternate attempts at a couple of his published stories as well as beginnings to other stories, outlines of stories, and unpublished stories. While these are interesting to read, and certainly help show Pancake's development as a writer, they show that Casey and McPherson were correct in their keeping the collection of short stories slim. Barring the discovery of a decade of Pancake's personal diaries or journals, this should go down as the authoritative account of his life and work.