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The detective story, according to G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton, the great British author of the early 20th century, liked detective stories, read them, and wrote them. He had the formula down pat. It went like this: The bones and structure of a good detective story are so old and well known that it may seem banal to state them even in outline. […]

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BeatrixPotter

The scientific contributions and botanical art of Beatrix Potter

All the world knows Beatrix Potter as the author of the Peter Rabbit stories. Some of the world knows that Potter also illustrated those stories. Probably even fewer people know that Potter was a scientist and a scientific artist, and her specialty was mushrooms. As Maria Popova of BrainPickings writes: . . . no aspect […]

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EdgarAPoe

John Pendleton Kennedy: Edgar Allan Poe’s literary guardian angel

John Pendleton Kennedy is a man who lived in the 1830s in Baltimore, and chances are, you have never heard of him. That’s okay, but without Kennedy, who acted as a lifeline — a literary guardian angel, if you will — you might never have heard of Edgar Allan Poe. Poe lived a scant 40 […]

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AgathaChristie

The deaths of Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple, foretold

When Agatha Christie was living in London during World War II, she wasn’t sure she was going to survive. The Blitz by the German air force had inflicted heavy damage on London’s capital city, and thousands of people had died. Christie believed she might eventually be among them. She was famous, and so were her […]

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Roth-head

Philip Roth, 1933-2018

The death of Philip Roth on Tuesday (May 22) removes one of the great names from the living giants of American letters. In fact, many consider him to be the last of those giants, and they may well be right. Obituaries in the New York Times, Washington Post, and many other publications have praised and […]

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The woman who wrote the first American crime (not detective) novel

Metta Victoria Fuller Victor authored and published The Dead Letter in 1867. It is thought to be America’s first full crime novel. (Edgar Allan Poe’s stuff was short stories.) In its day, it was known as a sensation novel. But it’s not America’s first detective novel. The Dead Letter has a crime, of course. There […]

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Girl With the Pearl Earring

A really close look at ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’ – really close

The folks at the  Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague, Holland, where the painting resides are taking a really close look these days. They have called in experts from around the world and marshaled all of the technology and machinery they can muster to look as closely — non-invasively — at the painting as they can.

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Eugene Francois Vidocq

The ‘private eye’ in literature begins with the real-life character of Eugene Francois Vidocq

The place to look for the origins of the literary private eye is in 19th century France with the character of Eugene Francois Vidocq.

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Ross Macdonald

Ross Macdonald takes hard-boiled fiction to new levels of style and plot

Just when the reading world thought that the hard-boiled detective novel had reached its zenith with Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, along comes Ross Macdonald. The similarities among the lives of Hammett, Chandler, and Macdonald (whose real name was Kenneth Millar) are striking and significant: All had difficult and disruptive childhoods. Each, for a time, […]

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Don’t miss this NYT interview with Philip Roth

Author Philip Roth, now nearly 85 and retired from writing, has given an interview to New York Times journalist Charles McGrath, and it is fascinating. Roth talks about what it was like to be a writer: Exhilaration and groaning. Frustration and freedom. Inspiration and uncertainty. Abundance and emptiness. Blazing forth and muddling through. The day-by-day […]

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Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler: a troubled author who raised the level of hard-boiled detective fiction

Raymond Chandler brought a level of emotional complexity to his characters that had never been seen before in hard-boiled detective fiction.

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Reviews, they always help; Battlelines: the complete Gettysburg

Jim Stovall’s email newsletter for July 14, 2017 Hi there, I hope you’ve had a good week and are looking forward to the weekend. Reviews Writers always want people to read their books, and they want their readers to love what they read. But what the writer needs is honesty. That’s why I alway suggest […]

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A journalist writing a novel

What’s the biggest different between writing journalism and writing fiction? Since the publication of Kill the Quarterback, I have been asked that question more than once. For an old line journalist like me (when I started in the business, they still used typewriters and pastepots), writing a novel had one big advantage: You could make […]

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The Intersection of Journalism and Fiction

The Ossoli Circle — one of the oldest women’s clubs in the South — has asked me to speak today. The invitation came because of the mystery novel, Kill the Quarterback, which was published last year. The following is a text of some of what I plan to say: When people ask what Kill the […]

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Aristotle figured out the storytelling 2,300 years ago

An article in the March issue of The Writer magazine lays out what Aristotle thought about storytelling about 2,300 years ago. The article, written by William Kowalski, points out that the Greeks didn’t have the novel, but they did have theater. From that, Aristotle decided to outline what he thought made a compelling story: All […]

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Elmore Leonard: Rules for writing

Lots of people seem to want rules for writing — as if that makes the process easier. (It doesn’t.) Still, these rules make for interesting reading and are sometimes good reminders. They are the habits that writers should develop. Elmore Leonard works in the genre of fiction, but his rules are worth noting for any […]

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The fiction writer’s bookshelf

If you are interested in writing fiction, here are two of the best books you can have: Christopher VoglerThe Writer’s Journey Renni Brown and David KingSelf-Editing for Fiction Writers (These are the Amazon links.) No one explains “story” better than Vogler. I’m going to post these to a couple of lists to which I subscribe […]

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Eliot Spitzer as fiction

Novelist Richard Russo puts Eliot Spitzer into the realm of fictional hero — or protagonist. Some disagreement with Russo, but it’s an interesting thought. What if you wrote a novel about Eliot Spitzer? What would it look like? That’s the question that novelist Richard Russo considers in an interesting column in the March 16 in […]

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