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A ‘day’ becomes a ‘date’; Poe’s rules for detective fiction; a little bit of Henry Fowler

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,140) on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. Hi,  Last week’s question: Were there no Americans before 1776? An answer came in from newsletter reader and good friend Jane P: There were many Americans long before 1776, in the numerous Native American societies and groups across what became the […]

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Ambrose Bierce

Satirist and cynic Ambrose Bierce left his audience in the same way that Amelia Earhart did, only 25 years earlier. He disappeared, without a trace. And like Ms. Earhart, much has been made of that disappearance — investigations, speculation, rumors, stories and even movies. The results were the same. Nothing substantial was ever found. No clues, […]

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Jean Ritchie (watercolor 2017)

Jean Ritchie: 60-plus years of contributions to American music and culture

If you play the dulcimer, you owe Jean Ritchie a debt of thanks. If you have heard a dulcimer, seen one — or even know what one is, Jean Ritchie is the person responsible. Ritchie died in 2015 at the age of 92 (her birthday is Dec. 8, 1922), and she is known to many […]

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Anne Bradstreet, Puritan wife and mother and America’s first published poet

Nay Masculines, you have thus taxt us long, But she, though dead, will vindicate our wrong, Let such as say our Sex is void of Reason, Know ‘tis a Slander now, but once was Treason. Those lines, written in Massachusetts Bay colony before 1650 and referring to Queen Elizabeth I, are a gentle but firm response […]

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Jeannie Rousseau, a diminutive spy and an extraordinary tale of courage

She was small, too small to be a danger to anyone.  And she was attractive, a good-time girl, maybe even a little flighty. Plus, she had a talent for getting people, particularly men, to talk to her. Those traits hid her steely courage, creativity, resourcefulness — and, maybe most importantly, a photographic memory. Jeannie Rousseau […]

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Where ideas come from: One author’s journey

James Callan is a fiction writer who was introduced to newsletter readers several weeks ago. He is the author of the Father Frank mysteries, the first of which is Cleansed by Fire, a roaring good adventure with lots of action and interesting characters. Here are a few questions that James was kind enough to answer. […]

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Ulysses Grant: Writing and dying – in public view

His memoir was eagerly awaited by the public while he was still writing it. His death, for several months before it occurred, was tracked almost daily by the newspapers of the time. Both occurred at the same time in the spring and summer of 1885. For more than a century after his death, the presidency […]

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Book of Judith sets forth the story of a strong female character of Biblical times

The Book of Judith presents a rollicking good tale of danger, intrigue, suspense and high-stakes consequences. Its strong female protagonist takes on a challenge that her contemporary male counterparts shrink from. It’s too bad that the elders of Protestantism decided that the Book of Judith should be excluded from the canon. Girls and boys alike […]

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Lillian Ross, reporter and precursor of the 1960s New Journalism movement

Was she the mother of the New Journalism movement of the 1960s — the movement that showcased the deep reporting of people like Truman Capote and Gay Talese? Many people thought so. Lillian Ross, who died Sept. 20, 2017, at the age of 99, was doing that kind of reporting and writing for the New […]

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Best book of the summer? Readers respond

The subscribers to my newsletter were asked to let me know what their “best book of the summer” was, and here are the responses: Karen: My favorite book this summer was Chasing Someday by Lindzee Armstrong.  It is a story about 4 couples and issues they faced involving fertility issues.  This book is different from the books […]

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