A. Lena Horne has been a fascination of mine for almost as long as I've loved singers. Before I'd reached my teens I discovered two albums she made in the mid-'70s, "Lena & Michel [Legrand]" and "Lena, A New Album." The sadness, anger, and disappointment I heard in her singing -- the raw passion -- touched me deeply, and led me on a search for all the Lena Horne recordings and movies I could find. I discovered a woman who had worn many masks, and who seemed to have many secrets. The candor of those two albums I loved was often hidden behind a beaming smile (in her early days at M-G-M), a veneer of brittle glamour and "sexy" ferocity (on her famous album from the Waldorf), an offputting iciness (on a 1966 TV appearance with Andy Williams), or a git-down, "liberated" raunchiness that didn't quite ring true for me (in her 1981-1982 Broadway one-woman show). I wondered why she so often kept the vulnerable Lena I loved in hiding. But even after she revealed that side of herself to me for two hours in 1994, when I interviewed her for the New York Times, I didn't think I would ever undertake to write a book about her. That happened ten years later, just after Janet Jackson nearly got to play her in an ABC-TV biopic. (Janet's Super Bowl blunder put an end to that possibility.) The resultant publicity made me realize that a lot of people still cared about Lena Horne, and that her story -- her true story, that is -- had never really been told. It was mired in stale mythology, a lot of it created by Lena and those around her to buttress her position as an icon. I felt the time had come for an honest look at the human being underneath the inspirational figure. Five years later, I admire her even more.