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Heads and Tales: Caricatures and Stories of the Famous, the Infamous, and the Just Plain Interesting

My latest literary and artistic efforts are coming to fruition in the next couple of weeks with the publication of a new book: Heads and Tales: Caricatures and Stories of the Famous, the Infamous, and the Just Plain Interesting. The book will be in paperback and ebook form, but it will be accompanied but something new: […]

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LawrenceBlock

Lawrence Block, a writer both prolific and successful

When an intelligent but smart-alecky High School junior got his English composition assignment in a 1943 Buffalo High School, he decided to treat it like the intelligent but smart-alecky kid he was. He would make some fun of it. The assignment was to write about his own career possibilities. He wrote about all of us […]

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SusanGlaspell

Susan Glaspell, a not-quite-forgotten feminist writer

John Hossack, a well-to-do farmer near Indianola, Iowa, was attacked with an ax while he slept in his bed on the night of Dec. 1, 1900. His wife, Margaret, was in bed beside him but said she heard nothing of the intruders who did it until they were in another part of the house. Margaret, […]

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Susan Glaspell, a forgotten feminist writer, and Lawrence Block, successful and prolific: newsletter, January 15, 2021

  A common saying among woodworkers – one you have probably heard – is “measure twice, cut once.” That saying counsels us to be careful. But there is another saying that is less well-known and maybe just as important: “Let the tools do the work.” What that saying tells us is that sometimes we can […]

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Reader on a bench

Happy New Year, a great female Restoration writer, journalism drives through Crazytown, and more 2020 review: newsletter, January 1, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,480) on Friday, January 1, 2021.   Happy new year. During this time of year, we often hear the word “resolutions,” and we may be encouraged to “make resolutions.” Possibly like many of you, I have found that making resolutions is frustrating and ultimately unproductive. […]

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EdwardHoch

Hoch’s Ladies

Throughout Edward Hoch’s long and prolific writing career as a mystery short story writer, he developed many recurring main characters, as we noted in last week’s newsletter. Most of these characters were male. A few, however – three to be exact – were female, and they are worth noting in and of themselves. In fact, […]

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Graham Greene, the BBC, and the death of John le Carré, plus more sketchbook pages: newsletter, December 18, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,4xx) on Friday, December 18, 2020.     With the death of John le Carré (see below) last weekend, my thoughts immediately turned back to the last couple of newsletters where I profiled Erskine Childers. In two different parts of the 20th century, these two writers did pretty […]

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JohnLecarre

What they are saying about John le Carré

With the publication of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold in 1963, John le Carré redirected the genre of espionage fiction away from the fanciful world of James Bond to the moral grayness of people such as Alec Leamas and ultimately George Smiley. And while James Bond was lots of fun, George Smiley […]

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RebeccaHardingDavis

Rebecca Harding Davis and the beginnings of American realism

If you know anything about journalism history, you probably know the name Richard Harding Davis. He was a reporter in the early 20th century known for his coverage of the Spanish-American Wa, the Boer War, and the beginnings of World War I. He was also one of the most handsome men of his day. His […]

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Erskine Childers’ extraordinary life and death (part 2)

After the publication of The Riddle of the Sands in 1903, Erskine Childers could have settled in to a literary and possibly a political life in London. The book had achieved astonishing success and popularity. The book had also become an important part of the ongoing debate in England at the time about the nation’s […]

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Paul Scofield

Thomas More and Thomas Cromwell: the shifting literary views of each man

Few historical figures can claim as many major literary executions and resurrections as Thomas More, venerated saint of the Roman Catholic Church, who was, in real life, executed by Henry VIII in 1536 for his refusal to sign the Oath of Supremacy. That oath would have acknowledged the king, rather than the Pope, as head of the […]

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The call for unity, a defense of Thomas More, and more about Abe: newsletter, November 20, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,495) on Friday, November 20, 2020.     Thanksgiving is approaching, and I have always particularly enjoyed our national season of gratitude. It is important that we acknowledge what we have been given, even during a year when all of us have seen our lives […]

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William Seward, voting, Vietnam Voices, and a podcast recommendation: newsletter, November 6, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, November 6, 2020.   There are those of us who are wondering if the fevered political season will ever end. An interesting novel is sometimes a good antidote. I’m reading a couple now: Ian Rankin’s In a House of Lies and Ian McGuire’s The Abstainer. […]

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MaryMapesDodge

Mary Mapes Dodge, the Silver Skates, and St. Nicholas magazine (part 1)

Mary Mapes Dodge, suffering from the disappearance and then death of her husband in 1857 and facing the need to support herself and her two sons, wrote one of the most beloved children’s novels of all time — Hans Brinkler or The Silver Skates. For that, she will always be remembered. But what she did beyond the […]

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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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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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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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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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Presidential candidates who stayed put and the one who didn’t, Smokey Robinson, and the no-tears absence of baseball: newsletter, May 15, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,579) on Friday, May 15, 2020.     One of the bright spots we had going for us this spring — among so many spots that were not quite so bright — is the garden, which with plenty of rain and somewhat cooler temperatures had […]

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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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