In contrast with other writers, Ted Davidson has set this awesome tragedy in a dramatic structure that maintains the tautness the true events demand. By focusing on Jim Reed (the true leader of what came to be called the Donner Party), Maggie Reed (Jim's wife) and Bill Eddy (the best hunter in the party) Davidson breathes life into all the historically accurate, astonishing events faced by the party.

Long-fascinated by one of American history's most gruesomely riveting tragedies and realizing that it was ripe for dramatization in a manner that had not been done before, Davidson began an enormous, multi-year task--to become an expert on the Donner Party. He read reams of books, dug through original documents at the Bancroft Historical Library, 4-wheeled out the Donner trail from the Continental Divide two times, hiked or 4-wheeled the trail over the Sierra many times, snowshoed across Donner Pass atop snow over twenty feet deep, and vicariously lived and re-lived the experiences of the principal characters in order to empathize with them and accurately bring them back to life, and to create exact descriptions of actual locations and true events.

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