In researching Bill Finger, uncredited co-creator and original writer of Batman, I found a lot of Fingers.
Only one Finger gave me the finger (figuratively).
Here’s what went down:
Bill’s family was Jewish and living in the Bronx for most of Bill’s formative years. During my research, a Bronx historian told me that when Bronx Jews left the Bronx, most went to either New Jersey or Florida. I started with Florida.
On 8/19/06, I cold called dozens of Floridian Fingers. I was proud that none hung up on me. But one was a strange flamingo indeed.
After I got out my clumsy introduction (“Hi, I’m an author of children’s books researching the co-creator of Batman, whose last name is also Finger and who was from the Bronx…”), she said her family was also from the Bronx. But she didn’t want to say more before speaking to “the men,” who weren’t there at the time. She suggested I call back midweek, which I did.
And so began the dodge.
I got the machine, multiple times. But on 8/29/06, she answered. And so deepened the mystery.
She said that “they” were also working on a book and that “the lawyer” advised her to be polite but not to help me. This, of course, seemed to confirm that she was related to my Finger. I asked for her e-mail so I could send her background on me that I hoped would assure her I was legitimate, but she said “not at this time.”
Yet she did say I could try back in a few weeks at which time she would see if there was anything she could tell me.
I said I doubted our books would be competition because mine would be in an all-ages picture book format (the inference being that hers would not). I said that I’d found some members of the extended family that I’d helped reconnect and could do the same with her, but she said they knew everyone they wanted to…
…which suddenly confirmed that she was not family. If she truly was from the branch I wanted, I most likely would’ve already heard about her from the others I’d found. But when I asked them about her, none knew who she was. Learning that she had not been in touch with anyone I had made me feel better.
I asked her name, figuring she would keep mum like she did with her e-mail, but she said did give me one. (And it checked out online.)
On 9/20/06, I called again. This time her husband answered. He said she wasn’t home and he didn’t know about the Bill Finger issue because she was working on that.
I left two voice mails over the next few months. No one called back.
On 1/6/07, I called again. The husband was courteous but said he didn’t think his wife was “interested” or else she would’ve “dealt with me by now.”
Interested? I wasn’t selling something. I was merely looking for information.
The next day, I mailed her a letter to explain myself better than I felt I’d been able to do on the phone. I also sent several of my books. I did not hear back.
I left my last message on 7/2/07. But in recounting this story, I now feel like I should try again…