To buy Fenn’s books or not? That is the question.

I recently received a comment from one of my regular contributors, a searcher who puts much thought into his effort. There was a question at the end of his comment. He wrote, “Lately I have kept researching my general area and feel strongly about my approach. I am considering purchasing both [of Fenn’s books,] “The Thrill of the Chase” and “Too Far to Walk” to see what hints jump out to confirm or ruin my area. What say you?”

In a Socratic way, the question stimulated the response I share below:

My Copies of Fenn’s Books

I have purchased both of the books referred to above. I’ve read them both, TTOTC more than once. I also have a copy of Fenn’s book on his San Lazaro pueblo excavation, which I’ve read sporadically, especially when I need something to relax me at bedtime before going to sleep. Not that it’s sleep-inducing, it’s just a comforting read.

The challenge of identifying additional clues or hints in any of his books is made immensely more difficult due to Fenn’s writing style.

He is a natural storyteller. Storytellers naturally embellish. He, by his own admission, takes license with his research, spelling, grammar, punctuation and definition. He makes mistakes, sometimes intentional, sometimes not. He is adorably cunning. He’s intentionally inexact. And, he’s a senior citizen, therefore  his memories aren’t quite as perfect as he would want us to believe.

He wrote his memoir like I would write my memoir, neither of us like Thomas Jefferson wrote his.

As a result, almost everything he writes can be interpreted by someone as a hint or clue that reinforces something they may already want to believe, including their search algorithm. Once a searcher makes a decision that something they have read in one of Fenn’s books supports their particular search algorithm, it naturally becomes part of the algorithm, not only the current one, but future ones as well.

I have fallen prey to it as much as anyone, having convinced myself there is something special about the word “horseshoe” based on one of Fenn’s segues in the book. (Of which I will write more about later.)

I also believe Fenn’s writing style is the primary reason there is so little agreement in the search community about where we imagine he hid his treasure. ChaseChat and Dal Neitzel’s blog, while very useful and informative, have published thousands of posts in which searchers disagree with other searchers solutions, and when they do, cite Fenn’s written or spoken words to support their differing position.

Finally, whenever Fenn is asked whether there are additional hints or clues in the books (independent of the poem), he responds with obfuscation. At the event at Moby Dickens Book Shop in Taos, he said, “There are nine clues in the poem, but if you read the book (TTOTC), there are a couple…there are a couple of good hints and there are a couple of aberrations that live out on the edge.” A couple? Aberrations that live on the edge? What? Either he’s blowing smoke, or we’re all reading way too much into his writing.

So, back to the original question. Would I recommend you buy the books?

Absolutely.

I would buy them even if I wasn’t searching for the treasure. I would buy them because they are pretty well written books soulfully composed by a talented storyteller with a great story to tell. I would buy them because they gave me the opportunity to meet him and to have them autographed by him.  I would buy them because they are a pleasant reminder of this period late in my life where I can tell people that “I’m a treasure hunter,” (rather than “retired”) when they asked me what I do for a living.

But mostly, I would buy them because they provide me additional insight to Fenn, the man. And, as I have written in the past, “The key to finding the treasure is in the man. Know the man, and you know the treasure.”

If, in addition, I could give myself a morale boost by identifying some of what he’s written as hints that solidify one or more of my search solutions, then that would be an added benefit.

Buy the books? Yes! You’ll be glad you did.


If you haven’t already, and decide to buy the books, do yourself a favor and call either  Moby Dickens Book Shop in Taos or Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe, and order the books from them. They’re small businesses that have been very supportive of Fenn and the search community, and they sell the books at list price. Tell them Toby sent you.

10 thoughts on “To buy Fenn’s books or not? That is the question.

  1. Well, I ordered the “Thrill of The Chase” and it came quite quickly. I read the whole thing in short order. A few morsels of info did pique my interest, and some other snippets gave me more to think about in reference to the Trove. Over all, I enjoyed the book and think Forrest is a great story teller…. more later…

  2. Well, I took the plunge and ordered TTOTC. After nearly a year of research and a few trips west in search of the chest, I have come to the cross road… I feel very confident in my general search area but need to verify a couple of details still. I am hoping the book will either “light up” my area or simply dash it to pieces. I can’t wait to read what I have only heard bits and pieces of…

  3. [quote]I also believe Fenn’s writing style is the primary reason there is so little agreement in the search community about where we imagine he hid his treasure. ChaseChat and Dal Neitzel’s blog, while very useful and informative, have published thousands of posts in which searchers disagree with other searchers solutions, and when they do, cite Fenn’s written or spoken words to support their differing position.[/quote]

    That’s an interesting position to take – different than mine, but it made me think. My thought as I read that paragraph was that, in the case of “quotes” or citations people use to back up their ideas/solutions, probably over 75% of those are incorrect (e.g. a misquote, sometimes subtle, or a misattribution) or of “low quality” (e.g. secondary/tertiary source: a reporter writing an article, quoting what a person who talked to Mr. Fenn remembered him saying). In summary, people seem to lack something, I’m not sure what to call it, some combination of critical thinking skills, attention to detail, organizational skills (of thoughts/citations). Mind you, I’ve been and will again be guilty of this as well.

    Taking the recent Jason and the Argonauts post of mine on chasechat as an example, (and not to vilify Jason again, but just an example – and most everyone is guilty of this to some extent at some time), I count 3 “points” scored out of 17. I think giving three points was very generous, and that resulted in a ~18% success rate – or another way to say it is 82% failure rate, of the statements he made. That may seem really bad, but I’m saying I think it’s par for the course.

    Does the ambiguity of Mr. Fenn’s language and apparently contradictory statements also play a role in the varied ideas/solution? Yes, but I feel it is secondary. Because I sense that even if every statement he made was unambiguous, and none were contradictory, at least 75% of citations and quotes (i.e. the foundations of people’s solutions) would still be incorrect or low quality.

    • I think the word I’m looking for might be ‘discipline.’ A lack of discipline trumps ambiguity/inconsistency in the source material, in my opinion.

      • Thrill, discipline is a good word to use to describe what you mean. More simply put ,I think human nature dictates that we hear or see or comprehend things at a different pace than others, and as things get passed on, the picture or facts take on a life of their own. I have seen many examples and have been on both ends of that equation countless times in my life. Thankfully there are well documented sources to protect the important facts that have great meaning to history and existence itself. It is astounding to contemplate just how much has been lost, or how simple so called facts may be skewed by how they are handled in the way we communicate. Salesmen are masters at making you feel warm all over while they get you in the buying mood. Put that skill in the hands of a writer and who knows what is real or not! Discipline… very good word of the day!

  4. I am looking forward to inhaling all of Fenn’s books at some point in the future! The timing just needs to be as perfect as possible. My research thus far has been w/out the books and will remain so until I cull out one or two more gray areas. I will then take the plunge and let the juices flow! Happy hunting… Thanks Toby

  5. Every time I’ve been to Moby Dickens Book Shop, I buy at least 1 book from them (not necessarily Fenn’s books) BUT, they have a lot of Fenn’s books there, so you can peruse them with no pressure at your leisure – and play with their kitty cats upstairs… 🙂

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