This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, June 19, 2020.
We started something a couple of weeks ago called the Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable. It’s explained more fully below.
I wanted to take this space this week to urge you to join the roundtable. You don’t have to be from Tennessee, and you don’t have to be a Vietnam veteran. You just have to be interested in what happened during the American involvement in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. The roundtable is an online forum (using the Zoom conferencing software) that is scheduled to meet on the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. Our next meeting will be Monday, July 13, 2020.
The link to our meetings is: https://tennessee.zoom.us/j/99528787603
We have a mailing list for the TVWR, and if you would like to be on it, please let me know.
Meanwhile, I hope that you are reading something interesting and that you have a great weekend.
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Cornelius Ryan reported the stories and the details that made him the first New Journalism journalist
Today, we would call it crowd-sourcing. Back in 1956, however, it didn’t have a name.
Cornelius Ryan, a well-known but out-of-work journalist, had an idea that he was shopping around. He wanted to write a book about D-Day, figuring that in three years — the time it would take for him to do the book and get it published — we would be celebrating the 15th anniversary of the event. But he didn’t want to write it from the generals’ and politicians’ point of view. That would be easy enough to include.
What Ryan wanted to do with this book was to include the soldiers’ point of view. He wanted to tell their stories and to put ordinary readers into the scenes that he would be describing.
Ryan was an Irishman, born in Dublin in 1920. He came to London in 1941 and joined the staff of the London Daily Telegraph, covering the air war over Germany. He flew 14 often dangerous missions with U.S. bombers as they sought out German targets. He then was assigned to Patton’s Army. He was there on D-Day, along with dozens of other reporters, and he followed Patton’s Army until the end of the war in Europe. Then he went to the Pacific, where he covered the end of the war with Japan.
After the war, he went to Jerusalem for the Daily Telegraph and the next year was offered a job as a contributing editor to Time magazine. That prompted a move to New York City, and he eventually he became a U.S. citizen. In 1949 he made a trip to Normandy, where he began to develop the idea of a book on Operation Overlord, the codename of the invasion.
During the next few years, he continued to cover major stories for Time and Collier’s and won recognition and numerous awards. The idea of the D-Day book never left him, however, and in 1956 when Collier’s went bust, he decided to see if he could find a backer for his idea. The Readers Digest got interested enough to finance Ryan’s method: advertising in personal columns around the U.S. to find soldiers who had been in those first waves of troops who came ashore on June 6 and 7, 1944.
More than 1,100 people responded to the ads, and Ryan asked them to write down what they could remember about the experience. He interviewed more than 150 face-to-face.
Ryan’s book, The Longest Day, is full of small stories and riveting details: what it was like to get shot, parachuting into France in the dark behind enemy lines, what German General Erwin Rommel had for breakfast (when he remembered to eat at all). It was an instant and huge success, and the movie on which it is based sealed its fame as one of the seminal works on World War II.
Ryan wrote two more significant World War II books: The Last Battle and A Bridge Too Far, both of which were also full of the telling stories and details that made the books so readable. He died of cancer in 1975, after struggling through chemotherapy treatments while working to finish A Bridge Too Far.
Ryan’s books weren’t just good and popular. Michael Shapiro argues that they portended a new type of journalism that eventually became known as the New Journalism, the type of immersive reporting that was famously practiced by the likes of Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese:
In a sense, Cornelius Ryan started reporting The Longest Day on June 6, 1944, and never really stopped. That day, that war, was his story. And when a reporter comes back with something that, as Norman Maclean once wrote, “tells him something about himself,” readers know it. They feel it on the page and in the prose, and willingly join along in that relentless need to know, and to make sense of things.
Ryan, it turns out, did learn something of himself in his work, and came to know himself well enough to have it inscribed on his tombstone, beneath his name and the years of his too-short life. A single word: Reporter. (Shapiro, Michael. (May/June 2010). The reporter whom time forgot: how Cornelius Ryan’s The Longest Day changed journalism. Columbia Journalism Review.)
Charles Dickens on the police and the suppression of the poor and weak
With the current discussion and reassessment of the role of police in society has come a rethinking of police in crime literature. In books and TV shows, the cops are the good guys, the ones with law and integrity on their — and our — side.
When that’s not the case, it’s abnormal, deviant.
But in real life, we are finding out, that is not always the case, and one of the questions that is being raised is how much our literature — and, broadly, that would include movies and television shows — has contributed to the “cop as always a good guy” myth.
The answer, of course, is, “A lot.”
And that goes all the way back to the 19th century when modern police forces, much as we know them today, were forming.
Olivia Rutigliano, on LitHub.com, takes a look at the attitudes of the most famous of all 19th century writers, Charles Dickens, and his contradictory attitudes toward police and policing. She begins with an article Dickens wrote in 1851 for his magazine Household Words about his ride-along one night with his friend Inspector Charles Field.
Field, according to Dickens, enters the darkest spots of London and exercises instant and complete mastery over its inhabitants, who are obviously up to no good or about to be so.
In the strangely giddy “On Duty with Inspector Field,” Dickens runs into what may be the biggest recurring hypocrisy in his career, as well as the history of popular entertainment: the insistence that police officers fighting crime provides exciting content, while avoiding that the vast majority of “crime-fighting” is ultimately the continued oppression and convenient scapegoating of society’s most vulnerable people. Source: On Charles Dickens’ Devious, Hypocritical “Nice Guy” Cop | Literary Hub
The body of Dickens’ work is well-known for his exposure of the way in which powerful people oppress the poor and the weak — especially children. In this article Rutigliano walks us through some of Dickens’ dual attitudes about the duty and power of the police.
Our literature is an important part of who we are and how we form our attitudes, and this perceptive article is a timely one to read.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
One-hit wonders: Motown had plenty of those
When I asked for suggestions about where (if anywhere) to take the Motown series, my friend Steve W. had a good suggestion: what about the one-hit wonders — the songs that were hits but we never heard from the artist again.
Grab your favorite search engine and ask for “Motown’s one-hit wonders,” and you will find plenty of lists and plenty of opinions. It’s a lot of fun to look at the lists and to compare them with your own, or to try to remember what songs they are talking about. I will offer up three songs that I’m confident you’ll remember even if you can’t recall the artist.
“What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin. The older brother of The Temptations lead singer David Ruffin during the group’s classic period, Jimmy Ruffin took a song originally written for the Spinners and made it a break-through hit. The song reached number 7 on the pop charts.
Along with his brother, Ruffin was raised in Mississippi and grew up singing deep-throated gospel music. When a spot opened up on the Temptations, Jimmy got the offer to fill it — an offer that was rescinded when they heard his bother sing. Jimmy had some success as a solo artist but never reached the heights of “What Becomes of the Broken-Hearted.”
“Do You Love Me?” by the Contours. This song was originally meant for The Temptations, but they happened to be out of town when the time came to record it. It was then handed off to the Contours. The year was 1962, and by then this group of Detroit natives had been singing together for three years. They first came together as The Blenders.
The song made it to number 1 on the R&B chart and number 3 on the Hot 100 chart, and it eventually sold more than a million copies. The Contours continued to record through the 1960s, but they never had a record that came close to the success of “Do You Love Me?”
“Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong. The reason you may remember this song is not because of the Barrett Strong recording but because the Beatles also recorded it and put it on one of their albums.
The song was co-written by Motown founder Barry Gordy and released in 1959, making it one of the very first of Motown’s hit records. Strong himself was more interested in becoming a songwriter than a recording artist, and he turned his attention to that. As such, he contributed to several of The Temptations’ biggest hits.
The Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable: an introduction
We have recently expanded the Blount County Public Library’s Vietnam Voices project by creating the Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable, a monthly online conference for those interested in learning more about America’s involvement in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.
We had our first meeting on Monday, June 8, and the featured speaker was Billy Minser, an artillery officer who was the “forward observer” for an infantry unit. Billy talks about what it meant to be a forward observer and what it took to call in artillery and airstrikes to support his unit.
We have posted these videos that include part of what he said:
https://bit.ly/tvwr-forwardobserver1 – What it was like to be a “forward observer” with a combat unit
https://bit.ly/tvwr-forwardobserver2 – “A wall of exploding steel around us”
Billy was one of the editors of the first volume of Vietnam Voices: Stories of East Tennesseans Who Served in Vietnam, 1965-1975. This book is a set of transcriptions of some of the interviews we have conducted with veterans who served in-country in Vietnam.
We are working on a second volume of Vietnam Voices and hope to have it published this summer.
Here’s the official description of the Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable:
The Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable (TVWR) is an online presentation and discussion program that is a part of the Vietnam Voices project of the Blount County Public Library and the Blount County Friends of the Library.
TVWR conducts periodic online meetings (via the Zoom conferencing software) that feature short presentations by knowledgeable speakers about the U.S. involvement in Vietnam from 1965 to 1975. These presentations are open to anyone who is interested in learning about the Vietnam War, and there is no charge for participating.
A major focus of this program is hearing from people who served in-country in the U.S. armed forces during that period. TVWR is not limited to this focus, however. We seek to hear from anyone who has expert knowledge about America’s involvement in Vietnam.
The Vietnam Voices project of the Blount County Public Library is an audio archive of interviews with Vietnam War veterans. In addition to the audio archive, the project to date has published one volume of these interviews that is available for sale in the library and on Amazon (https://bit.ly/vietnamvoices1).
TVWR typically meets as a Zoom conference, and the meetings last for 30 to 45 minutes. The meeting has a host and a speaker. Meeting times are the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. Eastern Time.
The speaker gives a 10- to 20-minute presentation. During this time, other participants are able to use the chat function of Zoom to ask questions or make comments. At the end of the presentations, the host and/or speaker will choose which questions to answer or comments to respond to. Participants can turn on their audio so they can ask questions directly and make comments.
Audio and video of the meeting are recorded using the Zoom recording function.
After the meeting is concluded, the video of the meeting will be edited and will be available on a TVWR YouTube channel.
Purposes of TVWR
The purposes of TVWR are
— to increase our knowledge and understanding of the American involvement in Vietnam, 1965-1975;
— to allow those who served in Vietnam an opportunity to tell their stories in a public format;
— to record and archive those stories for our historical record;
— to allow more people to participate in the Blount County Public Library’s Vietnam Voices project;
— to extend the reach of the Vietnam Voices project beyond the confines of Blount County and East Tennessee.
Marcia D.: I live in an apartment so no garden. However, my Parish leases the land by my apartment building for a garden which is fenced. Before the Virus, my Parish was feeding about 300 people a day, 5 days a week. It would be a hot meal. The vegetables in the garden supply fresh vegetables for their meals. The garden committee has done an awesome job of decorating the garden.
Jacqueline M.: Love your newsletters … especially about your bee keeping.
Tod W.: I especially enjoyed your notes on William McIlvanney, an author I’d also never heard of. It took me a while but I finally found where ebook versions could be bought. They’re available here on Amazon in case your readers might be interested.
I also liked your section on early violin crafting. Jorja Fleezanis is a great friend and my next-door neighbor and has held a chair in Violin at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University. Prior to that position, she served as Concertmaster in the Minneapolis Symphony under the direction of Osmo Vänskä, and Assistant Concertmaster of the SF Symphony under Michael Tilson Thomas. Until his death in 2009 she was married to critic Michael Steinberg. I have no idea what her violin’s lineage is but, in performance, it sounds wicked good.
Thanks for your ongoing jottings,
Finally . . .
Best quote of the week:
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. Anne Frank, Holocaust diarist (1929-1945)
Helping those in need
Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, and now coronavirus — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: The name we should know besides Stradivarius, the fascination of the garden, “tartan noir,” and more: newsletter, June 12, 2020
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