Format: Hardcover, 248 pages
Publisher: W.H. Freeman and Company, April, 2000
Over 65 million years ago in what is now Cheyenne River Sioux territory in South Dakota, a Tyrannosaurus rex matriarch locked in a ferocious battle fell mortally wounded into a riverbed. In 1990, her skeleton was found, virtually complete, in what many call the most spectacular dinosaur fossil discovery to date.
And then another battle began--a "Survival of the Fittest" free-for-all involving commercial dinosaur hunters, gun-toting law officers, an ambitious federal prosecutor, a Native American tribe, jealous academics, an enterprising auction house, major museums, and corporate giants, all making their claim for the dinosaur named Sue (after the field paleontologist who first spotted her bones). At stake: not just Sue's wealth of scientific riches, but her grant-drawing power and vast commercial potential as well.
Before it was over, there would be claims and counterclaims; charges of checkbook-polluted science, criminal larceny, and vengeful prosecutions; and devastating prison terms. And the gavel would come down on the largest-ever ($8.36 million) auction price tag for a fossil, paid by Chicago's Field Museum, with help from Disney and McDonald's.
Now, as her May, 2000, museum unveiling nears, Sue is not only poised to be a scientific phenomenon but a main attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom and (fittingly enough for the world's greatest meat eater) a marketing superstar for McDonald's. Meanwhile, the man whose team actually unearthed Sue--professional dinosaur hunter Peter Larson--remains hauntingly, touchingly obsessed with the 41-foot-long, dead-for-millions-of-years T-rex.
Sue is not just another dinosaur, and Tyrannosaurus Sue is not just another dinosaur book. It is a fascinating introduction to the centuries-old history of commercial fossil hunting, a legal thriller, and a provocative look at academic versus commercial science and the chase for the money that fuels both. And, in the case of Peter Larson, through whose eyes most of the story is revealed, a kind of love story. Steve Fiffer, an attorney as well as an author who has followed the story for the past seven years, has captured the whole range of characters and issues embroiled in the fight for Sue. Ranging the prehistoric Badlands to the hallowed halls of justice, academia, and merchandising tie-ins, Fiffer communicates both the excitement over Sue's discovery and the motivations, maneuverings, and absurdities of the various forces attempting to control her destiny.