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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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MortDrucker

America’s chief subversive, more on the bees, the Marvelettes, and talking ourselves into infirmities: newsletter, April 17, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,590) on Friday, April 17, 2020. \   Not being able to grieve properly and not being able to express sympathy in person are two of the chief difficulties of our current situation. I mentioned those last week, and a friend who is a minister […]

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MarvinGaye

Bach’s letter of application, the challenge of new words, Handel washed up, and more on Ida Tarbell; newsletter, April 3, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,592) on Friday, April 3, 2020.   During the last couple of years, sometime before Easter, I have included in this newsletter a post about George Frederick Handel and the condition of his life just before he wrote his most famous oratorio, The Messiah. I have included that […]

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WilliamRoughead

William Roughead, founder of modern true-crime books

No one that I know of has the title of Founder of Modern True-Crime Literature (or some such), but if such a title existed, the leading candidate would be a guy you have probably never heard of — a Scottish lawyer named William Roughead (pronounced ruff-head). Roughead (1872-1950) was a lawyer in Edinburgh and, by […]

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Onthewaytothemountains1

The sharp words of Ida Tarbell, the dilemma of Woody Allen, more on cultural appropriation, and reader reaction: newsletter, March 20, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,597) on Friday, March 20, 2020. The magnitude and rapidity with which the world has changed in the last week lies beyond our complete understanding. Those things that we could confidently predict — high school graduations, opening day of the baseball season, the church service […]

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JackHiggins

Jack Higgins, aka Harry Patterson

When The Eagle Has Landed was published in 1975, it was an immediate and huge hit for its author Harry Patterson, who was writing under the pen name of Jack Higgins. The fast-paced and gripping narrative captured the imagination of readers and the attention of filmmakers, who quickly purchased the movie rights and almost as […]

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DorothyThompson-SinclairLewis

The thrillers of Jack Higgins, the rise of Dorothy Thompson, plus some March literary madness: newsletter, March 6, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,602) on Friday, March 6, 2020.   The tornados that roared through Nashville and Middle Tennessee earlier this week left death and destruction in their wake and broke more than a few hearts — one of them being mine. I grew up in east Nashville […]

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MarkRyland-WolfHall

March literary madness: Hilary Mantel and Erik Larson

Two major literary events of the season are occurring this month: the release of new books by Hilary Mantel (The Mirror and the Light, due out March 10) and Erik Larson (The Splendid and the Vile, available now). Mantel caused a sensation with her Wolf Hall, the first of a trilogy of historical novels that […]

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CP-Greywacke Arch

The 20th-century’s top female journalist, good advice to editors, and more fodder for the spy novelist: newsletter, February 28, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,604) on Friday, February 28, 2020.     As February rolls into March, I am impressed by three items of “too much” during the last two months: too much warm weather (I know, but it is winter), too much rain (just like last year), and too much political news (with much of it uniformly awful). If […]

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SYKMbanner

Irish mystery writers, plus an excellent website

In thinking about putting together a March display on Irish mystery writers for the local library, I asked my good friend and reference librarian/researcher extraordinaire Brennan L. — also proud Irish descendant — for a starter list. Here’s what she provided: Here is a handful of Irish/Northern Irish crime writers I have read.  Sorry, but […]

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HugoGernsback

Hugo Gernsback and the invention of science fiction

When you write a really good mystery story or novel, you might be able to get an Edgar Award. The source of the name of the award is as obvious as the name of the professional football team in Baltimore. But what do you get if you write a really good science fiction story or […]

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