Boots on the Ground by Dusk is a powerful story about the tragic death of American soldier Pat Tillman and his family’s struggle to uncover the truth behind this tragedy. The book that inspired the upcoming movie has been re-published with a new forward and is now available in paperback from Blurb. And under our Blurb for Good program, for every book sold, Blurb will donate $1 to Pat Tillman Foundation.
We wanted to help shed light on the story behind this powerful book and who better to help us than Leigh Haber, Blurb’s curator-at-large. Leigh was instrumental in the making of this book, both the original hardcover and the Blurb paperback. Read on for Leigh’s interview with Mary Tillman, Pat’s mother and the book’s author.
When I first met Mary Tillman, whose nickname is Dannie, I was still in corporate publishing. Her agent, Steve Wasserman, had submitted her book to me, and I decided to acquire it. Meeting Dannie was an inspiration. She had lost her son under the most egregious circumstances, and yet she remained strong, passionate, and determined. In publishing the book, she wasn’t looking for money or glory. Rather, she was looking to try and do what her son would have wanted her to do in response to his death: To get to the bottom of what happened, and to help others by seeking the truth and then communicating it to others.
I’ve since left corporate publishing, but recently reconnected with Dannie when she emailed me just about two months ago. She told me about the documentary and that the book wasn’t available in a paperback form, so I offered to help. Since then, it’s been a wonderful collaboration between the Blurb team; the film people at Weinstein, as well as John Battsek (who produced the film) and Amir Bar-Lev, who directed it; and some fantastic creative types like Tara Long and Clay Hebert, who all helped bring the paperback into being and into the public eye. But of course most of all, it’s been great once again connecting with Dannie and with the phenomenal Narda Zacchino, who co-wrote the book with Dannie.
In conjunction with Blurb’s paperback release of the book, I asked Dannie a few questions about the book, and about the making of the film. Here is an excerpt from that conversation.
Leigh: Dannie, in your opinion, why are books still such a powerful medium for telling a story and getting out a message?
Dannie: In a book the storyteller can paint vivid descriptions, develop characters, expand on details of events, and present and elaborate arguments more fully than in any other medium.
Leigh: When you originally thought about writing the book, did you have Pat in mind, as he was such a lover of books?
Dannie: It was actually my collaborator, Narda Zacchino, who convinced me to write the book. The articles and essays that had been written about what was learned did not have enough depth, scope, breadth, or accuracy. I didn’t think about a book in terms of Pat’s love of reading, but I think he would be pleased the book was written.
Leigh: Now that the film is about to be released, is there anything you’d like to say about those artists, like Amir, who use storytelling so skillfully…and perhaps more specifically on Amir, why is it that you think he connected to powerfully with Pat’s story, with you, and with the book?
Dannie: I have a lot of respect and admiration for artists. Artists are all storytellers of sorts. Amir did a remarkable job presenting Pat as a person. He was also extremely effective at showing how disgracefully Pat’s death was handled by the military and government, and how complacent the mainstream media was in presenting the administration’s spin. This was no easy task, because he had to tell an extremely complicated story in 94 minutes, encumbered by the necessity to edit, time restraints, production costs, and content restrictions. The film is quite amazing.
Amir admittedly had thought Pat was the character the media presented after his death: pro-war, patriotic, and conservative, but as he got to learn more about him he realized that Pat was a complicated personality, and that his views were more nuanced than people imagined. This realization intrigued Amir.
I think Amir appreciated the book because it allowed him to experience the emotions we went through as information about Pat’s death and its aftermath unfolded, and because it acted as a timeline for the complicated sequence of events.
We’re proud to be able to support Dannie and her family in getting the story out there. Thanks to Leigh for her post. Please check out the book and the movie, and let us know what you think.