In 1951, well before he was a recognized literary figure, writer William S. Burroughs shot and killed his common-law wife, Joan Vollmer. I've spent the past two years trying to solve a seemingly intractable mystery: What was the nature of Joan Vollmer's influence on a nascent literary movement? What was the trajectory of her short life? In an effort to answer these questions, I've also taken on a methodological puzzle: can a combination of traditional sources (e.g. special collections held by research institutions) and non-traditional sources (newly available online collections and other digital resources and tools) be used to create a more nuanced view of someone's life? In this talk, I'll report on my progress and discuss the issues that have arisen from this research.