Ross Macdonald

Ross Macdonald takes hard-boiled fiction to new levels of style and plot

Just when the reading world thought that the hard-boiled detective novel had reached its zenith with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, along comes Ross Macdonald. The similarities among the lives of Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald (whose real name was Kenneth Millar) are striking and significant: All had difficult and disruptive childhoods. Each, for a time, […]

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Don’t miss this NYT interview with Philip Roth

Author Philip Roth, now nearly 85 and retired from writing, has given an interview to New York Times journalist Charles McGrath, and it is fascinating. Roth talks about what it was like to be a writer: Exhilaration and groaning. Frustration and freedom. Inspiration and uncertainty. Abundance and emptiness. Blazing forth and muddling through. The day-by-day […]

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Raymond Chandler and the development of the ‘private eye’; newsletter, Jan. 12, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,500) on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018. Special note: If you have unsubscribed to this list previously, I apologize for this email. I had some problems with the list over the past couple of weeks — due mainly to my incompetence — and some unsubscribers may have […]

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New theories on why we can’t – or don’t – read

Scientists and scholars are taking a closer look at that question these days and are coming up with some interesting, and occasionally surprising, answers.

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Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler: a troubled author who raised the level of hard-boiled detective fiction

Raymond Chandler brought a level of emotional complexity to his characters that had never been seen before in hard-boiled detective fiction.

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The 10 best true crime podcasts, profiled

For the past few weeks, I have been listening to true-crime podcasts and making recommendations to my newsletter readers. There are lots of such podcasts out there, and you have to admire the effort, dedication, and skill that it takes to put these together. The reporting on some of them is excellent. Here are the best […]

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The death of a great mystery writer; and more crimes against English; newsletter Jan. 5, 2017

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,662) on Friday, January 5, 2017. Special note: If you have unsubscribed to this list previously, I apologize for this email. I had some problems with the list this week — due mainly to my incompetence — and some unsubscribers may have been added back in. […]

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Alabama vs. Georgia, 50+ years ago: The Saturday Evening Post-Wally Butts-Bear Bryant libel case

More than 50 years ago, the Alabama-Georgia matchup resulted, not in a national championship, but in a legal ruling that expanded the First Amendment protections we now enjoy.

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High in the Air, watercolor © 2018

High in the Air, watercolor

Even this grouchy ex-prof (football coaches are paid too much) who is not even a football fan (baseball is the only REAL game) has a touch of championship fever. Congratulations to Alabama and Georgia, and best of luck to my many friends on both sides of the stadium. For those who are interested: This watercolor […]

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Henry Watson Fowler

A bit of wisdom from Henry Watson Fowler

Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage is still one of the best references for those interested in how the language is used.

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Edgar Allen Poe

Edgar Allen Poe and the development of the mystery novel

Poe lays down the rules of a mystery novel.

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The 100 best nonfiction books of all time: a list from The Guardian

Robert McCrum, the co-author of The Story of English (1986), has compiled a list of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time, and the list was recently published in The Guardian (The 100 best nonfiction books of all time: the full list | Books | The Guardian), a well-respected newspaper and news website in Great Britain. Such […]

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Sue Grafton

G is for Grafton: Mystery writer Sue Grafton succumbs to cancer at age 77

Sue Grafton’s private eye, Kinsey Millhone, has taken her place beside Hammett’s Sam Spade, Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe, and Macdonald’s Lew Archer.

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College football heads for its zenith

Update on Tuesday, Jan. 2: Congratulations to all four teams (Oklahoma, Clemson, Georgia and Alabama) who participated in the College Football Playoff — and especially to the winners of last night’s games, Georgia and Alabama. The championship game next Monday should be a fun one for all fans, especially the Tiders and the Dawgs. Many […]

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Dashiell Hammett (watercolor, Jim Stovall, 2017)

More on the ‘private eye’ and Dashiell Hammett; lots of reader response this week

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,431) on Friday, Dec. 29, 2017. Hi,  A lot of you readers took the time to respond to various parts of the newsletter last week, and I have included some of those responses here. Thanks to you all. Your responses make great reading, and I […]

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