Dr. William Maples passed away nearly 30 years ago (February 1997) at the young age of 59. Never heard of him you say? How about these names: Quincy, CSI (Vegas, New York, Portage la Prairie) or Bones – have you heard of them?
Maples was the inspiration or at least haunts these popular television shows. In his book, Dead Men Do Tell Tales, he provides a glimpse into the life of what was then a unique animal – a forensic anthropologist.
Working in Florida, he pioneered or studied under the first scientist who combined these disciplines. I recall seeing this book when it first came out in the early 1990’s and wanted to read it – now 30 years later I can check it off the list. Its age is both a detraction and an appeal for reading the book now. On the detraction side, Maples is describing state of the art that has long since been made obsolete. On the appeal side, he shines a light into his science just before it went mainstream with television shows such as CSI or Bones.
This book is more than a historical curiosity though, it is also a good read. Maples had the opportunity to examine some world-famous bones include the elephant man, Spanish conquistadors, US president Taylor and the remains of the family of the last Russian Czar. He tells of these exploits in a direct and slightly casual way, sort of how you would imagine him delivering a lecture on the subject to interested laymen.
The book includes photos and some descriptions that I passed over in places. Nevertheless, if you like CSI, science or history – keep a look out for Dead Men Who Still Tell Good Tales.