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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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LeeChild

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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JohnLothropMotley

The writing of Hans Brinker, Gayle Lynd’s long journey, and a Walter Mosley short story: newsletter, September 25, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,521) on Friday, September 25, 2020.   The year continues to bring its oddities. Major League Baseball is finishing its shortened season this week and will begin playoffs next week. The configuration is like no other, and I won’t try to explain it. I’m not […]

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WalterMosley

Mosley wins distinguished contribution medal from the National Book Foundation

Noted: this from the Washington Post: Walter Mosley has been named winner of the 2020 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. He is the first Black man to win the foundation’s $10,000 lifetime achievement award, which was first awarded in 1988. The author of more than 60 books, Mosley […]

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JosephineTey

Josephine Tey and her masterpiece of paranoia in postwar England

Those Americans of us who watch a lot of British-produced television — from Upstairs, Downstairs to Downton Abbey to Belgravia and many more besides — are often impressed, if not horrified, by the number of servants required to help the British upper-classes get through the day. Butlers, cooks, scullery maids, chambermaids — the list of […]

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JamesLeeBurke

Dave Robicheaux and his creator James Lee Burke: both great stories

If you are a James Lee Burke or Dave Robicheaux fan, you will want to take a look this retrospective on Burke’s writing career by David Masciotra on CrimeReads.com. Although Burke has written much that does not include the flawed detective Robicheaux, this character is by far his most popular and most developed creation. Throughout his […]

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MaryKingWard

Mary King Ward and the life she lived

Mary King Ward is remembered because of the way in which she died. She should be remembered for the way in which she and for the accomplishments she achieved as a 19-century female scientist. Ward died in 1869, thought to be the first automobile traffic fatality. That fact overshadows the many aspects of her life […]

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HighwayGas

The 19th amendment, James Lee Burke, John Quincy Adams, and NYT’s typos: newsletter, August 21, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 21, 2020.   Through muted celebrations, we noted the centennial of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution this week. This amendment guaranteed the right of women to vote, and it represented the largest and most significant change […]

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Forward observer thumbnail-2

Being tall at Guadalcanal, a notorious pirate, rural noir, and the serial killer: newsletter, August 14, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 14, 2020.   One of the things on my mind this week is the concept of respect. The thinking on that was kicked off by an NYT column by Bret Stephens on the 18th-century politician and philosopher Edmund Burke (Why Edmund Burke […]

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Girl on a park bench

The movie and book that define noir, online teaching and learning, the hard-boiled detective, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, August 7, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, August 7, 2020.   Churches can’t meet, businesses can’t operate properly, schools and libraries can’t open — none of this can happen without major concerns about the safety of the people involved. This is a deeply frustrating time for all of us. […]

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The Guitar Player

The practicality of the first Black bookstore owner, the role of ex-presidents, and more about libraries and erasing history: newsletter, July 31, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,550) on Friday, July 31, 2020.   As with much of the rest of the world, Americans continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. Should we send children to school? Can professional sports maintain a schedule? Is it safe to go to a restaurant or […]

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Georges Simenon

Baseball finally, the massive output of Georges Simenon, and the need for some creative thinking: newsletter, July 24, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, July 24, 2020.   A memory rattled through my brain this week of a newspaper column I read many years ago. It was in the 1960s, and the column was by Russell Baker in the New York Times (I’m pretty sure), and […]

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Arc de Tromple

Changing American attitudes toward slavery, police reporting reconsidered, and reader reactions: newsletter, July 17, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, July 17, 2020.   The world gets crazier and the pandemic, in America, gets worse. My heart is with those who have to make difficult decisions, from sending their kids to school to ordering businesses to shut down. I pray for their […]

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Calton Hill, Edinburgh

The real Mary Westmacott, capitalizing Black when referring to race, Tennessee Vietnam War Roundtable meeting: newsletter, July 10, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,557) on Friday, July 10, 2020. “The Best Year Ever” is probably not a description that you are willing to apply to 2020 just yet, but that thought occurred to me this week as I was gathering in the bounty from our garden. We are […]

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VietnamVoices-frontcover

Hugh Walpole, reactions to masks and COVID-19, First Amendment violations, and an international watercolor conspiracy: newsletter, July 3, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, July 3, 2020.   An international cabal of industrialists and watercolorists has met in secret (not sure when, probably at night; not sure where, probably Switzerland) and decided that July will be International Watercolor Month. I will continue my investigations and report my […]

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VV1-cover

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, […]

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AnOldFriend

Cornelius Ryan and the origins of the New Journalism, a new branch of Vietnam Voices, and some of Motown’s one-hit wonders: newsletter, June 19, 2020

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 […]

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Attorney-author Michael Kahn argues for his favorite legal thrillers

Trial attorney and author Michael Kahn used to respond to his wife Margi the same way every time she asked about the book he was reading. I could write a better one, he would say. Finally, she had had enough. “Then write one,” she finally said, “or please shut up.” So he shut up-no easy task for […]

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HouseinBrooklyn

Marguerite Higgins finds a place for a woman in a combat zone, Stevie Wonder, and what Lincoln looked like: newsletter, May 22, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, May 22, 2020. This summer is likely to turn into my Wolf Hall summer. I have waited too long to dive into Hilary Mantel’s widely-acclaimed trilogy of historical fiction about the life of Thomas Cromwell. Mantel published the third volume of the trilogy (The […]

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BerryGordy

The queen of pandemic literature, Motown’s founding father, Shakespeare online, and reader reaction: newsletter, April 24, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,587) on Friday, April 24, 2020.     Before the pandemic hit, I had been planning a small display for our library on Motown in order to let patrons know about all of the Motown books that we have on the shelves. That idea, obviously, has been […]

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