Vietnam Voices – Attack pilot

Episode Summary Bill Beaty, an attack pilot in the U.S. Navy, tells what it was like to fly bombing missions over North Vietnam in 1970. “I got shot at a lot,” he says. Episode Notes William Beaty retired from the U.S. Navy as a Naval Aviator, serving in-country from November 1970 to June 1971.  He […]

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Charles Lindbergh

Unity and the lack thereof – American style

In the immediate aftermath of political campaigns, the winner (and sometimes even the loser) appeals for “unity,” which often means in real-speak, “I want you to agree with me now that I am in power.” Such appeals, possibly well-meant, rarely have much effect on either supporters or opponents. But it sounds good, and it’s expected. […]

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The flute player

Ed Hoch’s short stories, another presidential memoir, and something new from Vietnam Voices: newsletter, November 27, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,489) on Friday, November 27, 2020. The small farm where I live is blessed with hundreds of feet of fencerows. They stretch past the barn and around the pasture and by the garden. And they have been neglected for many years. That means that the […]

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Richard Tregaskis

Richard Tregaskis, the tall guy on Guadalcanal

The Marines that he wrote about on Guadalcanal would tell Richard Tregaskis that if the Japanese captured him, they would probably use him as an “observation post.” They weren’t far from wrong. Tregaskis, a reporter during World War II for the International News Service, was six-feet, seven-inches tall — tall enough to be an observation […]

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Paul Scofield

Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell: the shifting literary views of each man

Few historical figures can claim as many major literary executions and resurrections as Thomas More, venerated saint of the Roman Catholic Church, who was, in real life, executed by Henry VIII in 1536 for his refusal to sign the Oath of Supremacy. That oath would have acknowledged the king, rather than the Pope, as head of the […]

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Abe w big ears

More books about Abraham Lincoln

Decades ago a friend gave me a book on some aspect of the life of Abraham Lincoln. I remember it only because of what the author said in the introduction. The author allowed that yes, there had been so many books written on the life of Lincoln to that point, and now, finally, there was […]

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Vietnam Voices podcast – Firefight with the NVA

Episode Summary Army Captain Russ Hanson describes a firefight with a unit of the North Vietnamese Army that occurred in Vietnam in 1969. Episode Notes Army Capt. Russ Hanson served with a field artillery unit, serving two tours in Vietnam. This interview was conducted January 22, 2020, at the Blount County Public Library by William […]

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The latest in the uncrowded genre of Presidential Memoirs 

The presidential memoir is a publishing genré into which only a few can legitimately enter — although it might be fun to see some imaginative writer pen a fictional presidential memoir that qualified in some other genré, such as a detective story. (The term “fictional presidential memoir” might set some of you wags thinking, “Redundancy?” […]

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OED’s word of the year: they couldn’t decide

The year 2020 has done lots of things to us and particularly to the English language. We’re using lots of words, expressions, and definitions that we would not have thought of a year ago. The folks at the Oxford English Dictionary keep close tabs on these things, and usually about this time of year, they […]

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The Flute Player copy

The call for unity, a defense of Thomas More, and more about Abe: newsletter, November 20, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,495) on Friday, November 20, 2020.     Thanksgiving is approaching, and I have always particularly enjoyed our national season of gratitude. It is important that we acknowledge what we have been given, even during a year when all of us have seen our lives […]

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Vietnam Voices – Incursion into Cambodia

This is the second episode in our podcast series, Vietnam Voices. Episode Summary Billy Minser talks about his Army unit’s incursion into Cambodia and their making contact with the North Vietnamese.   Episode Notes Billy Minser spent six months of his year-long tour in Vietnam as a forward observer for an Army combat unit. In […]

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Vietnam Voices podcast – A medic goes on patrol

This is the first episode of our new podcast series, Vietnam Voices: Air Force medic Aubrey Moncrief is assigned to a Green Beret unit in 1968 in Vietnam during the Tet offensive. He describes a patrol he was on when two helicopters were shot down and a pilot is wounded.  Aubrey Moncrief joined the Air […]

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Sunday morning

More on William Seward, another walk through the Golden Age, and writing like a rifle: newsletter, November 13, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, November 13, 2020. Some people cook and bake. Some people collect. Some make things. Some draw and paint, some listen (to music, etc.), some watch (birds, airplanes, insects, old movies, etc.), some read. The list could go on and on, of course. […]

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William Seward

William Seward: ‘Just enough virtue’ (part 1)

William Seward’s modern biographer, Walter Stahr, subtitled his excellent book, “Lincoln’s Indispensable Man.” That sobriquet is hard to argue with when you examine how the Lincoln Administration navigated through the shoals of secession and the fierce opposition of the unionist Democrats. There was no guarantee that Lincoln, Seward, and the Republicans would prevail. But Seward […]

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Early voting

William Seward, voting, Vietnam Voices, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, November 6, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, November 6, 2020.   There are those of us who are wondering if the fevered political season will ever end. An interesting novel is sometimes a good antidote. I’m reading a couple now: Ian Rankin’s In a House of Lies and Ian McGuire’s The Abstainer. […]

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Candice Millard, through her own struggle, finds her real story

When Candace Millard was researching and writing her best-selling River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, she had to navigate her own river of doubt, which eventually helped her better understand what her real story was Millard was pregnant with her second child in 2005, she got a phone call from her doctor saying something […]

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First cup at sunrise

The unknown Jacques Futrelle, Drew Pearson (part 2), and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, October 30, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, October 30, 2020. Back to the (Zoom) Future. In the last few days, I attended a poetry reading of a friend’s new book on Facebook; I helped another friend launch a book on Zoom; and I attended a memorial service on YouTube​ for a friend […]

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Drew Pearson, Washington journalist and power-broker

The cloakroom of the fashionable Sulgrave Club in Washington, D.C., on the night of December 13, 1950, showed no evidence that it was the season of good cheer. Instead, a burly ex-boxer, the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy, was pounding, kicking, and choking a smaller man 20 years his senior, the equally infamous — in the […]

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Delicate touch

Political debates and a few thoughts about the election, Harold Bloom on reading, and a century of Christie: newsletter, October 23, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, October 23, 2020.   Political debates in this country have never been especially uplifting affairs. Even the iconic Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 (see below) are remembered because they introduced Abraham Lincoln to the nation rather than for their soaring rhetoric and sweeping […]

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Lee Child, Jack Reacher and their biographer

Several years ago I found myself in the mystery/thriller section of a local bookstore, standing next to a man who was looking intently at a shelf of Lee Child’s books. “I’m trying to see if they have the latest Jack Reacher novel,” he said, unnecessarily explaining himself. “If you haven’t read any of them, you […]

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