It's the book that "nearly broke" author James Knight - but he says it was an "utter privilege".
On July 9, Back on Track, the life story of former Gunnedah youth officer Bernie Shakeshaft will be released to the public.
The biography was penned by another former local, Mr Knight, who after investing a gruelling nine months in the project, says it is his last non-fiction book.
For the author, Back on Track was "a labour of love or love of labour" but captures "the power of humanity".
"This one nearly broke me," he said.
"I did it for Bernie. It's an issue that so desperately has to be told ... people have to be made aware ... We can't take these sorts of stories for granted."
The author has put his life on hold, committing 70 plus hours a week to capture the essence of vision of Mr Shakeshaft's life-changing work in Armidale through BackTrack.
BackTrack is a not-for-profit organisation established in 2006 with the sole purpose of working alongside youth who would otherwise fall through the cracks.
Mr Knight said he first heard about Mr Shakeshaft's initiative through his mother Anne Knight, a Gunnedah artist and poet.
"After meeting Bernie and doing a bit of homework, I knew I'd only peel back one or two layers if he said it all himself," Mr Knight said.
"I thought, 'right, I want to dig'."
But the author found that once he started to dig, he couldn't stop.
"For me, it became a full-time project for the last nine months," he said.
"It hammered me emotionally ... I don't think you can do too many of these sorts of books."
Mr Knight interviewed at least 100 people for the book, including police, social workers, teachers, former and current youth in the program and their friends and families.
The 51-year-old said they willingly opened their homes and hearts to him, sharing countless tales of tragedy and angst.
"I cried a lot," he said.
"People are very giving. It all flows back to their love for Bernie and their respect for what BackTrack and the Armidale community are doing."
The author said it positioned him in "a place of the utmost privilege".
"I'm a doorman. I stand at a door and knock on it, and it works both ways," he said.
"I knock on a door and someone says 'Come in' and we have a chat and I hear their story then we wave goodbye and the door is shut. And then I write the story, then open the door to the public, to the readers.
"It's a position of the most extraordinary privilege and responsibility. It's a pretty magical place to be."
The book will be launched on July 18 in Armidale where no doubt community members will be keen to get their hands on a copy.
"My big hope is [that] BackTrack will get a great recognition for what it does ... but also, particularly in urban areas, people get more of an idea of what's happening in rural centres," Mr Knight said.
"I have a lot of confidence in this book ... I hope Bernie is satisfied."
I did it for Bernie. It's an issue that so desperately has to be told ... people have to be made aware ... We can't take these sorts of stories for granted.James Knight, author
Now that it's all over, Mr Knight has emerged from "the bunker" and will "introduce myself to my wife and my son again and take the dog for a walk".
He won't be picking up the pen again any time soon, saying "this is my last non-fiction book".
"I say that as solidly as I can. If someone came and twisted my arm with an extraordinary offer ... This is it ... It's too tough," he said.
"It's time to do other things.
"I think it's a pretty strong way to finish."