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The latest in the uncrowded genre of Presidential Memoirs 

The presidential memoir is a publishing genré into which only a few can legitimately enter — although it might be fun to see some imaginative writer pen a fictional presidential memoir that qualified in some other genré, such as a detective story. (The term “fictional presidential memoir” might set some of you wags thinking, “Redundancy?” […]

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words

OED’s word of the year: they couldn’t decide

The year 2020 has done lots of things to us and particularly to the English language. We’re using lots of words, expressions, and definitions that we would not have thought of a year ago. The folks at the Oxford English Dictionary keep close tabs on these things, and usually about this time of year, they […]

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Vietnam Voices – Incursion into Cambodia

This is the second episode in our podcast series, Vietnam Voices. Episode Summary Billy Minser talks about his Army unit’s incursion into Cambodia and their making contact with the North Vietnamese.   Episode Notes Billy Minser spent six months of his year-long tour in Vietnam as a forward observer for an Army combat unit. In […]

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Vietnam Voices podcast – A medic goes on patrol

This is the first episode of our new podcast series, Vietnam Voices: Air Force medic Aubrey Moncrief is assigned to a Green Beret unit in 1968 in Vietnam during the Tet offensive. He describes a patrol he was on when two helicopters were shot down and a pilot is wounded.  Aubrey Moncrief joined the Air […]

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William Seward

William Seward: ‘Just enough virtue’ (part 1)

William Seward’s modern biographer, Walter Stahr, subtitled his excellent book, “Lincoln’s Indispensable Man.” That sobriquet is hard to argue with when you examine how the Lincoln Administration navigated through the shoals of secession and the fierce opposition of the unionist Democrats. There was no guarantee that Lincoln, Seward, and the Republicans would prevail. But Seward […]

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William Seward

William Seward: Just enough virtue (part 2)

William Seward might have become president of the United States except for two words he uttered in a speech in 1858. The words were “irrepressible conflict.” The words don’t sound like much to us today, but in that turbulent decade before the outbreak of the Civil War, they ignited flames that would do great damage […]

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Candice Millard, through her own struggle, finds her real story

When Candace Millard was researching and writing her best-selling River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, she had to navigate her own river of doubt, which eventually helped her better understand what her real story was Millard was pregnant with her second child in 2005, she got a phone call from her doctor saying something […]

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DrewPearson

Drew Pearson, Washington journalist and power-broker

The cloakroom of the fashionable Sulgrave Club in Washington, D.C., on the night of December 13, 1950, showed no evidence that it was the season of good cheer. Instead, a burly ex-boxer, the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy, was pounding, kicking, and choking a smaller man 20 years his senior, the equally infamous — in the […]

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LeeChild

Lee Child, Jack Reacher and their biographer

Several years ago I found myself in the mystery/thriller section of a local bookstore, standing next to a man who was looking intently at a shelf of Lee Child’s books. “I’m trying to see if they have the latest Jack Reacher novel,” he said, unnecessarily explaining himself. “If you haven’t read any of them, you […]

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Jacques Futrelle, a turn-of-the-century mystery writer whose life was cut tragically short

The last time anyone saw mystery writer Jacques Futrelle, he was standing next to John Jacob Astor smoking a cigarette while Astor puffed on a cigar. It was April 15, 1912, and the two were on the deck of the Titanic. Futrelle was 37 years old and well on his way to becoming one of […]

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GordonParks

Gordon Parks and “The Atmosphere of Crime, 1957”

Gordon Parks bought his first camera in 1938 when he was 25 years old and living in Seattle, Washington. Up to that time, Parks did not have much of a life. Born in Kansas in 1912, Parks was one of 15 children and experienced the cruelties of racism when some white kids pitched him into […]

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WalterMosley

Mosley wins distinguished contribution medal from the National Book Foundation

Noted: this from the Washington Post: Walter Mosley has been named winner of the 2020 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. He is the first Black man to win the foundation’s $10,000 lifetime achievement award, which was first awarded in 1988. The author of more than 60 books, Mosley […]

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JosephineTey

Josephine Tey and her masterpiece of paranoia in postwar England

Those Americans of us who watch a lot of British-produced television — from Upstairs, Downstairs to Downton Abbey to Belgravia and many more besides — are often impressed, if not horrified, by the number of servants required to help the British upper-classes get through the day. Butlers, cooks, scullery maids, chambermaids — the list of […]

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Mary Mapes Dodge and her extraordinary editorship of St. Nicholas magazine (part 2)

The publishers of The Century Magazine, in 1872, had given Mary Mapes Dodge a golden opportunity — a “blank check,” as we would say today. She was determined to make the most of it. They wanted her to create a magazine for children, and they were convinced that Dodge was the right person for the […]

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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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Abandoned schoolhouse

More on Mary Mapes Dodge, Josephine Tey and paranoia, and a couple of podcast recommendations: newsletter, September 18, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,529) on Friday, September 18, 2020.   Getting a book that you have anticipated for a while and then having it live up to your expectations is a particular delight. That happened to me with the arrival of Ian Toll‘s Twilight of the Gods: War in the Western […]

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GordonParks

Gordon Parks’ “Atmosphere of Crime” photos, the war in Iraq, a look back at William Manchester, and reader reactions: newsletter, Sept. 4, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,531) on Friday, September 4, 2020.   The idea rattling through in my head for the last few days has been “gentleness.” Our modern human world doesn’t put much stock in the idea of gentleness, but nature does. I’m lucky in that I get to […]

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WilliamManchester

William Manchester: the sad end of a great writer

William Manchester was a magnificent writer and historian whose subjects were amazingly interesting. He made them more so. Manchester is the author of the three-volume biography of Winston Churchill (referred to in a number of previous posts including here and here), The Last Lion. Manchester reached the peak of prominence in the 1960s when he […]

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JQAdams

Racism, the 19th century, and the prescience of John Quincy Adams

Despite the fact that one of America’s great accomplishments of the 19th century was the ultimate abolition of slavery, racial attitudes did not advance toward accepting racial equality at all. By the end of the century, the nation had wrapped itself into the knots of Jim Crow laws that embedded segregation into just about every […]

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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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