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Phifer2001-1

A look back at the year of book production and the decade of true-crime books, and the deaths of famous females: newsletter, Nov. 29, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,661) on Friday, November 29, 2019.     The gardens are, for the most part, sub-soiled and will be tilled in the next few days before the truly cold weather sets in. The bees are still alive in their three hives, although I do not […]

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Edmund Morris and a subject not worthy of the time and effort

A journalist or historian needs something to write about — a subject worthy of the time and effort it takes to gather the information and put it into a suitable form. Seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Sometimes, of course, stories just don’t pan out. If you’re working in daily journalism, a story like that is […]

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The necessary element for espionage thrillers

We all know what the essential element of a murder mystery is. It’s the murder. The essential element of an espionage thriller is more elusive, but I have a candidate in mind. It’s betrayal. And thereby lies the tale. What drives a person to betray friends, family, colleagues, and/or country? How deeply will the element […]

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Lyndon Johnson

The essential in espionage thriller, Gulf of Tonkin revisited, a remarkable mathematician, and more reader reaction: newsletter, Nov. 15, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,662) on Friday, November 15, 2019.   The Veterans Day event we had at the Blount County Public Library that launched the first volume of Vietnam Voices could not have been better. About 150 people showed up, the choral group from Maryville’s Broadway Baptist Church […]

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Edmund Morris and Richard Ben Cramer and unworthy subjects, a police procedural podcast, and reactions to the World Series: newsletter, Nov. 8, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,666) on Friday, November 8, 2019.    Baseball is a game you can share with others. That was the message I got from a large number of emails sent after the special report on my trip to the World Series in the last newsletter. Those emails […]

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NCWyeth

N.C. Wyeth: learning by heading west

In 1903, 20-year-old Newell Convers Wyeth, an aspiring illustrator, boarded a train and headed west. Actually, he could claim more than the adjective “aspiring.” He had just pulled off a coup in the world of illustration that had eluded artists who were two or three times his age. His illustration of a cowboy on a […]

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The woman who created Nancy Drew, the Ratline podcast, and reader reactions; newsletter, October 18, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,665) on Friday, October 18, 2019.     Rain finally arrived in East Tennessee this week after an absence of about 45 days. It was greatly welcomed. There wasn’t a lot of rain but enough to begin turning the ground from brown to green. The hope […]

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Philip Kerr’s last book

Author Philip Kerr got very bad news in July 2017. He had stage 4 cancer, and the doctor gave him between one and two years to live — although, she said, she had had a patient in his condition that lived for five years. “I’ve got five years,” Kerr said to his wife, Jane, when […]

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Hiawatha fishing

Philip Kerr’s last book, the difference between dogs and cats, Else Ury’s books: newsletter, October 11, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,6xx) on Friday, October 11, 2019.   When does a dry spell become a drought? In East Tennessee, we have had only one good rainstorm in the last two and a half months. But no one yet is calling it a drought, probably because from last October through […]

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Emma Hart Willard’s visual learning, N.C. Wyeth’s trip west, and JK Rowling on what it takes to write: newsletter, October 4, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,6xx) on Friday, October 4, 2019.     The continued record-breaking heat and dry weather in East Tennessee threaten to disrupt our fall gardening plans. Last year, we had so much rain that there was never a chance to sub-soil and till our garden plots […]

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JosephCampbell

Alan Furst and ‘the death of Europe,’ readers’ reactions to Joseph Campbell and Frances Glessner Lee, and a podcast recommendation:newsletter, September 27, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,6xx) on Friday, September 27, 2019.   Without giving it too much thought, I seem to have shifted my main medium this week with lots of pen and ink drawings showing up in my sketchbook, on my art table, and in this newsletter. Sometimes that happens, and […]

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Mark Lewisohn: A life devoted mostly to researching and writing about the Beatles

When Mark Lewisohn published the first volume, Tune In, of his trilogy about the Beatles (The Beatles: All These Years) six years ago, it turned out to be massive: 390,000 words, which is about four times the length of a good mystery novel and at least twice as long as most nonfiction books. It took […]

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Refining and visualizing Joseph Campbell’s “A Hero’s Journey”

Jennifer S., my good friend, valued colleague, and fellow reader and writer, responded to an item in last week’s newsletter about Joseph Campbell’s concept of “A Hero’s Journey” with this: I enjoyed encountering the wonderful Joseph Campbell within the virtual pages of your newsletter! Campbell’s work was very eye-opening to me as a young reader, […]

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Frances Glessner Lee, the godmother of modern forensic science

Like so many females born in the 19th century, Frances Glessner was denied an education and the opportunity to pursue her interest. Daughter of an industrialist who eventually owned much of the International Harvester company and an eventual heir, Glessner was confined by an overbearing father — her “jailer,” she once said — to a […]

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Banned Books Week, Sept. 22-28, 2019: Keep the Light On

We’re coming up on the annual Banned Books Week, a celebration of intellectual freedom sponsored by the American Library Association. This year’s theme is Keep the Light On. If your local library is having an event, be supportive and take part. If not and you have other means of promoting this idea (a website or […]

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Malcolm Gladwell talks books and more books

Malcolm Gladwell (The Outliers, The Tipping Point, David and Goliath) is an author who has achieved fame — and a good bit of success — by examining parts of society that don’t often get attention or by casting a new light on things we thought were familiar. He’s just published a new book titled Talking to […]

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Diedrich Knickerbocker

The father of American illustration – F.O.C. Darley

Illustrators deserve a more prominent place in the history of American art — and in our own minds — than they have been given. This is especially true in America, where we have a rich cadre of great artists who have made their living, and their fame, by being illustrators. Chances are, with just a […]

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Romance readers, take heart: you have a history

Anyone who knows anything about book publishing knows that the genre of the romance novel is one of the most lucrative in the industry. Thousands of titles are published each year, and these books sell in the millions of copies. The reputation of these books is not, well, high-minded or intellectual, to say the least. I doubt […]

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Joseph Campbell, a scholar whose work was made famous by the movies

Joseph Campbell, a scholar of comparative literature, had been studying the history, development, and functions of “myth” since his young adulthood in the 1920s, but outside of academic and intellectual circles, he remained relatively unknown. That all changed in 1977. Campbell noted how stories — myths — developed in ancient and modern societies, as well […]

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The Hero’s Journey, romance has a history, and the “Father of American illustration”; newsletter, September 13, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,671) on Friday, September 13, 2019. ​ My email bag was delightfully full last week with readers commenting on a variety of items that they had seen in the newsletter. I try to range around the web to find interesting things, and I am always glad […]

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