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VictoriaWoodhull

Victoria Woodhull, our first female presidential candidate, spent election night in jail

Victoria Woodhull, on the night of November 5, 1872, should have been at home with her husband and family or possibly somewhere with friends and companions. It was the evening of the presidential election of 1872, and Woodhull had a special interest in its outcome. During that campaign, Woodhull had been the first female presidential […]

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FergusHume

Fergus Hume’s mediocre but nevertheless inspiring first novel

Caroline Crampton, writer, producer, and narrator of the Shedunnit podcast, which is a must-hear for mystery and detective fiction fans, has produced an interesting new episode that raises the always intriguing question, “What was the first mystery/detective story?” You may think you know the answer – mine was Ed gar Allan Poe’s The Murders in […]

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BenFranklin

Ben Franklin’s method of making friends out of enemies

The highest compliment that you can give someone is not to make a public knowledge moment of their appearance or of their talents and accomplishments. Even when sincerely given, words of this nature are shallow, cheaply rendered, and temporary. They may also be disputed. No, the highest compliment comes with words such as, “I need […]

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Cornell Woolrich

The Benjamin Franklin Effect, Cornell Woolrich, another Heads and Tales podcast, and more: newsletter, February 12, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,480) on Friday, February 12, 2021.   “Keep your mind focused” is undoubtedly a phrase you have often heard. Sometimes it comes in the form of a baseball metaphor: “Keep your eye on the ball.” It means, very simply, don’t let your mind wander. Sometimes, however, […]

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SidneyPaget

The Sherlock Holmes look, Elizabeth I’s mediocrity, Heads and Tales, and Highsmith at 100: newsletter, February 5, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,401) on Friday, February 5, 2021.     The ability to learn is one of our highest values. Gathering facts and information and marrying them to our previous knowledge and experience is the essence of what it means to be human. But what about our […]

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SidneyPaget

What did Sherlock Holmes look like?

Sherlock Holmes is taller than average, a bit lanky, and thin. He has an angular face with a pointed nose and chin, and he has a receding hairline and very little facial hair. Possibly some sideburns. He wears a deerstalker hat and an Inverness cape. He pays relatively little attention to what he eats. Thus, his […]

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HeadsandTales-frontcover-1

Heads and Tales, my new book; Arséne Lupin and his creator; the man who first burned Washington; newsletter, January 29, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,480) on Friday, January 29, 2021.   This pandemic and the necessary isolation that it has caused forced us all to change our habits, particularly our ways of socialization. Every organization that I know of has had to change the way it conducts its business […]

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MauriceLeblanc

Arséne Lupin – a version of Robin Hood – this time in French

The myth of Robin Hood – the charming outlaw who “steals from the rich and gives to the poor” — is an enduring one, and also an international one. We are seeing that play out with the current popularity of the Arséne Lupin series on Netflix. Robin Hood is a guy who plays by his own rules, who […]

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HeadsandTales-frontcover-1

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 by something else: a podcast […]

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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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LouisBraille

Louis Braille and a new way of reading and writing

January should not escape us without noting that it is Braille Literacy Month. No name is more associated with reading and writing by the blind than that of Louis Braille. Braille’s method of writing so that the blind could read was not the first such system, however. Another system of writing and reading prevailed and was well […]

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LawrenceBlock

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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WalterTevis

Benjamin West and his iconic painting, Dickens on the police, and the surprising author of The Queen’s Gambit: newsletter, January 8, 2021

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,480) on Friday, January 8, 2021. Many people, with good reason, are not fans of January and February. Those months are part of the “bleak midwinter,” which features colder temperatures, shorter days, and a dearth of vegetation.  For the landscape artist (I confess to occupy in a […]

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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

Edward Hoch, grand master for the mystery short story

When you talk about the Agatha Christies and the Ross McDonalds of the world — the great mystery and detective fiction writers of the 20th century — you probably don’t think of Edward W. Hoch (pronounced Hoke). That’s too bad because his fiction should be listed among the pantheon of the greats. The problem with […]

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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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AphraBehn

Aphra Behn: a marginalized voice restored

She is thought to have been the first woman to make her living purely by writing. But that one fact — whether or not it is actually true — does not do justice to the person or to the work of Aphra Behn. Behn lived from 1640 to 1689, a time known as the Restoration […]

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ChasDickens

Charles Dickens and his manipulation of the language

Few writers in the history of English literature are as read, recognized, and quoted as Charles Dickens. He gave us our more most recognized secular Christmas story, A Christmas Carol, one that we cannot escape during the Christmas season. Dickens planted indelibly in our brains characters such as Martin Chuzzlewit and David Copperfield. The dialogue he […]

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Playing the cello

Dickens manipulates, we review, and readers react: Merry Christmas: newsletter, December 25, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,480) on Friday, December 25, 2020.   Merry Christmas. Part of the genius of the Christmas story is that it is about a baby. There is something about a baby that calls forth the depth and the best of our Humanity. Human babies are the […]

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