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Don Foster Has a Way With Words

A literary forensics expert who teaches English at Vassar has uncovered a Shakespeare elegy, confirmed Ted Kaczynski wrote the Unabomb Manifesto and, with the FBI, identified Eric Rudolph as a suspect in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing

Don Foster prefers his role as a "quaint old English professor" at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York. But since he uncovered a neglected 1612 funeral elegy by "W. S." and demonstrated authorship by William Shakespeare—using a technique that analyzes a writer's style: word choice, punctuation, spelling, habitual phrasing, poetic devices and the like—his skills and talent have been in demand. The editors of New York magazine called on Foster to identify the anonymous author of the book Primary Colors, the gossipy best-seller based on the 1992 Clinton Presidential campaign. Using his computer to scan the writing samples of 35 potential authors for habitual phrasing and word choices, Foster focused on political journalist Joe Klein. Identified in the magazine, Klein denied his role for the next five months until the evidence became overwhelming.

Don Foster has worked on cases ranging from the JonBenét Ramsey murder to the Olympics bombing at Centennial Park in Atlanta. When he proved last winter that the poem "The Night Before Christmas" was written by a bon vivant named Henry Livingston and not the straitlaced Bible teacher Clement Clarke Moore, his celebrity rose to new heights. His recent memoir, Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous, presents a lively, personal narrative of his career in literary forensics.

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