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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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roseoneill

Rose O’Neill, creator of the Kewpie doll and the richest illustrator of her time

In 1887 when she was 13, Rose O’Neill entered a drawing contest sponsored by the Omaha World-Herald. Her entry was by far the best submission, and she was declared the winner. But there was a problem. Some of the editors did not believe that the drawing was original. It was too good, and they thought […]

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Advice to Robert Caro: Turn every page

When Robert Caro began his reporting career for Newsday in New York, an editor gave him a key piece of advice. Caro was working on his first big investigative story and going through lots of files. The editor’s advice: “Turn every page.” Caro took that advice to heart, and now he is one of the […]

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BlueFlute

Advice to Robert Caro, America’s fourth man at Los Alamos, M-W’s word of the year, and more: newsletter, December 13, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,661) on Friday, December 13, 2019.   This newsletter, I say with some pride, is read by folks in the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, and other places of which I may not be aware. As the year ends, I thank […]

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Parkour

Mary Beard, every Latin word, and the author accused of fraud: newsletter, December 6, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,661) on Friday, December 6, 2019. The week after Thanksgiving is a time filled with shopping both in stores and online. Many retail establishments depend on this time to make up for loses incurred by staying open during the rest of the year. In addition, […]

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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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EdmundMorris-caricature

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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