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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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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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Podcast: From the NYPD: Break in the Case 

If you are a fan of true-crime police procedurals and looking for a good podcast along those lines, there probably isn’t a better source than the New York Police Department. The NYPD has just begun a new podcast called “Break in the Case” that will follow some complex cases through multiple episodes to their conclusion. […]

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Lyndon Johnson

Gulf of Tonkin – the debate continues

My current involvement in our Vietnam Voices project (see last week’s newsletter) has provoked discussions among some of my good friends about the incident cited most often as the spark for the American escalation of forces in that country in 1964 and 1965 — the attack on U.S. naval vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin. […]

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Podcast: Countdown to Capture – Peter Chadwick: Murderer and Fugitive

Countdown to Capture – Peter Chadwick: Murderer and Fugitive is another of the police-produced podcasts (I recommended one, Break in the Case, from the New York Police Department last week) that examine and a crime and the subsequent investigation purely from the police point of view. But this one is different. It was produced by a […]

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Mathematician Hilda Gieringer’s remarkable journey

If you are not a mathematician, you are unlikely to know about plastic deformation, the Gieringer equations, or slip-line theory. And you have probably never heard of Hilda Gieringer. But if you have ever crossed a bridge, you owe Hilda Gieringer a word of thanks. . . . slip-line theory plays a central role in […]

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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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The significance of Nov. 22, the politics of pronouns, and the impact of World War I: newsletter, Nov. 22, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,663) on Friday, November 22, 2019.   Thanksgiving is upon us, and it is, for many reasons, my favorite holiday. Good food and a bit of idleness, along with some crisp fall weather, are on my agenda. Whatever is on yours, I hope that it […]

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World War I and the great changes it wrought

I am a great advocate of the Great War, more often called World War I. It’s not that I think that it should have happened, of course, but I think the all-inclusiveness and horror of World War II often overshadow it, and its influence on our politics and our society is frequently forgotten. People who […]

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The politics of “thee” and “thou”

How can pronouns be controversial? They are, after all, just these little words that substitute for nouns. But in our creative age, we have made even the pronoun political so that today, which pronoun you use, under what circumstances, and to whom or what it refers gives us a clue about your place on somebody’s […]

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Latin: Not dead, useless, or useful. It’s something else entirely.

Critics say Latin is a dead language. No one writes it. No one speaks it. To study it is useless. Its utility has long since passed. Nay, say the supporters of Latin. It does have utility. It sharpens the mind and the intellect. It tells us where we get many of our most important words […]

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Crime fiction podcast: Hunted from Dick Wolf

If you like your crime podcasts fictional rather than true, check out Hunted, starring Parker Posey and produced by Dick Wolf, creator of Law and Order and its progeny. Here’s the description. HUNTED From Legendary producer Dick Wolf comes a new fiction podcast starring Parker Posey about the U.S. Marshals dedicated to capturing the country’s […]

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Lyndon Johnson

The essential in espionage thriller, Gulf of Tonkin revisited, a remarkable mathematician, and more reader reaction: newsletter, Nov. 15, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,662) on Friday, November 15, 2019.   The Veterans Day event we had at the Blount County Public Library that launched the first volume of Vietnam Voices could not have been better. About 150 people showed up, the choral group from Maryville’s Broadway Baptist Church […]

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Edmund Morris and Richard Ben Cramer and unworthy subjects, a police procedural podcast, and reactions to the World Series: newsletter, Nov. 8, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,666) on Friday, November 8, 2019.    Baseball is a game you can share with others. That was the message I got from a large number of emails sent after the special report on my trip to the World Series in the last newsletter. Those emails […]

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Special report: World Series 2019; new information on Edith Cavell: newsletter, Nov. 1, 2019

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,666) on Friday, November 1, 2019. One of my life-long dreams was fulfilled last weekend when I had the opportunity to attend a World Series game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. I have written a long report on it for this newsletter, divided it […]

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Podcast recommendation: Secrets and Spies: The Untold Story of Edith Cavell

Edith Cavell was a British nurse working in German-occupied Belgium in 1915 when she formed an escape network for British and allied soldiers who found themselves behind enemy lines. She helped hundreds of soldiers and put herself in great danger in the process. German authorities realized what was happening, and Cavell was arrested, tried for […]

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Charles Finch on getting started with a mystery

How do you write a mystery novel? Charles Finch, author of the Charles Lenox, says that plots don’t come naturally to him, so he has a trick: I start by writing a brief, extremely dull short story. No one will ever see one of these if I can conceivably prevent it; it’s usually only about […]

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Charlie Munger, wisdom financial and otherwise

Shane Parish,  chief writer and creator of the Farnham Street blog, one of my regular reads, writes this about one of his favorite people: Charlie Munger, the billionaire business partner of Warren Buffett and major inspiration behind this site, is not only one of the best investors the world has witnessed, he’s also one of […]

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Tunnel 29, another podcast hit from the BBC

First, there was the Ratline, the story of a high-ranking and much-wanted Nazi who escaped justice after World War II. Now, the BBC’s Intrigue series has come up with another podcast hit: Tunnel 29. This is the true story of a group of people, mostly students, who found themselves in West Germany in the early […]

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What ‘Nancy Drew’ really means

Those of us who read Nancy Drew mysteries as children did not realize that Nancy had a “social context” and that she had become a cultural icon. We just enjoyed the stories and wanted to know what Nancy would encounter next. We probably missed what Olivia Rutigliano points out in her excellent and thought-provoking review […]

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