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Attorney-author Michael Kahn argues for his favorite legal thrillers

Trial attorney and author Michael Kahn used to respond to his wife Margi the same way every time she asked about the book he was reading. I could write a better one, he would say. Finally, she had had enough. “Then write one,” she finally said, “or please shut up.” So he shut up-no easy task for […]

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MargueriteHiggins

Marguerite Higgins and “no place for a woman”

When Communist forces crossed the border into South Korea in 1950, Marguerite Higgins got on a plane in Tokyo, where she was head of the New York Herald Tribune bureau, along with three other reporters, all of them male. One of them told her not to go. At the last moment, G– tried to dissuade me from going along, […]

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HouseinBrooklyn

Marguerite Higgins finds a place for a woman in a combat zone, Stevie Wonder, and what Lincoln looked like: newsletter, May 22, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, May 22, 2020. This summer is likely to turn into my Wolf Hall summer. I have waited too long to dive into Hilary Mantel’s widely-acclaimed trilogy of historical fiction about the life of Thomas Cromwell. Mantel published the third volume of the trilogy (The […]

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Damon Runyon: from baseball to Broadway

The Guardian has an interesting series in which their writers fill in the blank to  “I wish more people would read . . . ” Sam Leith’s blank-filler is Damon Runyan, and he could not have made a better choice. Runyan was a New York City newspaperman in the first decades of the 20th century […]

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GeneralStore

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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ClareHollingsworth

Clare Hollingsworth: A newbie reporter gets the scoop of the century

During the last week in August 1939, Clare Hollingsworth had been a fulltime newspaper reporter for less than a week. She had been hired by the London Daily Telegraph to cover Poland, and she was based in the western Polish town of Katowice. She asked the British consul there if she could borrow his chauffeured […]

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TheTemptations

Clare Hollingsworth’s ‘scoop’ of the century, William Styron’s ‘mistakes,’ the Temptations, and reader reaction: newsletter, May 8, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,5xx) on Friday, May 8, 2020.   {% endif %}One of the most enjoyable things about woodworking — besides completing a project itself — is something I had never really articulated before this week. I was watching one of Steve Ramsey‘s YouTube videos, and he managed […]

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MarthaandtheVandellas

Martha and the Vandellas go dancing in the streets, Wordsworth’s 250th, checking on your local bookstore, and time in the workshop: newsletter, May 1, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,587) on Friday, May 1, 2020.       Whatever your circumstances are during this pandemic and isolation period, chances are there are folks who are a lot worse off than you are. Finding ways to help those folks, rather than simply amusing ourselves, should […]

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JSBach1

Johann Sebastian Bach: a spectacular failure and an ultimate success

It was the greatest letter of application for a job in the history of letters. It was also a spectacular failure. The applicant didn’t get the job. The year was 1721 and the 36-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach, whose wife had died the year before leaving him with small children to raise, was looking for a […]

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MortDrucker

America’s chief subversive, more on the bees, the Marvelettes, and talking ourselves into infirmities: newsletter, April 17, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,590) on Friday, April 17, 2020. \   Not being able to grieve properly and not being able to express sympathy in person are two of the chief difficulties of our current situation. I mentioned those last week, and a friend who is a minister […]

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IdaTarbell

Ida Tarbell: Life after Standard Oil (part 3)

Part 1: Ida Tarbell — the sharp, powerful arrow of her words (part 1) Part 2: Ida Tarbell: Madame Roland, Napoleon, and Abraham Lincoln (part 2) Ida Tarbell developed her life as an independent thinker and writer. She asserted her right to be and think in whatever way she saw fit, and she did not conform to […]

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MarvinGaye

Bach’s letter of application, the challenge of new words, Handel washed up, and more on Ida Tarbell; newsletter, April 3, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,592) on Friday, April 3, 2020.   During the last couple of years, sometime before Easter, I have included in this newsletter a post about George Frederick Handel and the condition of his life just before he wrote his most famous oratorio, The Messiah. I have included that […]

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WilliamRoughead

William Roughead, founder of modern true-crime books

No one that I know of has the title of Founder of Modern True-Crime Literature (or some such), but if such a title existed, the leading candidate would be a guy you have probably never heard of — a Scottish lawyer named William Roughead (pronounced ruff-head). Roughead (1872-1950) was a lawyer in Edinburgh and, by […]

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7roses

A founder of modern true-crime writing, the poison pen in real life, more on Ida Tarbell, and podcast recommendations: newsletter, March 27, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,597) on Friday, March 27, 2020.   I’ve quoted Shane Parish of the Farnam Street blog several times over the past few weeks, but I couldn’t let this pass by without sharing it with you: We’ve aged a generation in the past three weeks. What matters has sharply come […]

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IdaTarbell

Ida Tarbell: Madame Roland, Napoleon, and Abraham Lincoln (part 2)

Ida Tarbell might have stayed in France for a very long time if it hadn’t been for Abraham Lincoln. Tarbell had moved to Paris in 1891 when she was 34 years old. She gave up a secure job as an editor of The Chatauguan in New York and went to France with the idea of […]

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IdaTarbell

Ida Tarbell — the sharp, powerful arrow of her words (part 1)

When Ida Tarbell fired an arrow of words at a target, she aimed with the accuracy and power of a book full of facts. John D. Rockefeller, probably the richest man in the world at the time, was “the oldest man in the world — a living mummy,” a “hypocrite” who was “money-mad.” She concluded, […]

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Onthewaytothemountains1

The sharp words of Ida Tarbell, the dilemma of Woody Allen, more on cultural appropriation, and reader reaction: newsletter, March 20, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,597) on Friday, March 20, 2020. The magnitude and rapidity with which the world has changed in the last week lies beyond our complete understanding. Those things that we could confidently predict — high school graduations, opening day of the baseball season, the church service […]

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Hellman-McCarthy

The Hellman-McCarthy suit, apostrophes again, and an easy-to-use thesaurus: newsletter, March 13, 2020

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,601) on Friday, March 13, 2020.     The threat of the coronavirus that is now spreading through the United States and other western nations brings to mind other contagions that have plagued human beings throughout our history. Sometimes they have colorful names; sometimes they […]

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Good advice for editors from Jane Friedman

One of my favorite people from the world of independent publishing is Jane Friedman, a wide-ranging consultant and author of the weekly newsletter Electric Speed, which is consistently full of good tips and advice. The introduction to her newsletter this week struck me as especially enlightening. It’s a special message to those who would be […]

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Dorothy Thompson, America’s leading voice denouncing Nazism in the 1930s

Winston Churchill is rightly remembered as the lonely voice of 1930s Britain who recognized the dangers of Nazism and loudly and regularly denounced Adolph Hitler and his thugs while his nation was sleepwalking through the decade. America had a similar voice, but unfortunately, we hardly have any memory of her. The voice was that of […]

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