True crime podcasts; Amazon gift card giveaway ($200)

November 14, 2017 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: newsletter.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,827) on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.


Good afternoon from East Tennessee. I hope you’ve had a good week and are looking forward to a great weekend.

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

Mystery lovers = Fans of true crime (sometimes)

Crime is aberrant social behavior, and murder is extreme aberrant behavior. Those of us who like mysteries — where murder is often sanitized and stylized — are often fascinated by true crime where murder is brutal, bloody, and sometimes without the logic of a good mystery. And another thing about true crime: it often goes unsolved. The mysteries are real mysteries, without tidy resolutions.

Examination of “true crime” is increasing in popularity on one of the newest media: podcasts. I have been spending a good bit of time lately listening to some of these podcasts. They vary greatly in style, approach, and length. I am going to review some of these over the next few weeks and make some recommendations.

My first recommendation is a series called Sword and Scale. This website and podcast, according to its own description, is about “the dark underworld of crime and the criminal justice system’s response to it.” The folks associated with Sword and Scale have spent a lot of time producing interesting and informative podcasts about serious crimes. One episode I listened to was episode 90. Here’s the description:

When Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist Claudia Rowe, author of The Spider and The Fly, decided to write to a serial killer, she wasn’t prepared for how it would change her life. In her quest to understand the nature of cruelty, she ended up discovering much more about herself.

It was an hour well spent.

Where did English come from?

Last week I posted a link to a great sub-five-minute video from Open Culture on The Origins of English. It is embedded at the top of the website. I heard from a reader — Brett M., my good friend who lives in Baltimore — who says the English language is one of his favorite topics:

A book written by a layman but nonetheless very thorough is The Adventure of English by Melvyn Bragg. It essentially goes into very exhaustive detail about the same things in that video.
But I implore you to take a look at Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by John McWhorter. He is a a comparative linguistics professor at Columbia. His professional research has been largely on the evolution of Creole languages but he writes a lot for the General public. Any way that book is a short lay description of his theses about the origins of English and specifically how the story of the evolution of English isn’t complete without a study of the syntax as well as the lexicon. And he makes a very compelling case about the origins of several of the unique quirks of English.

Thanks, Brett. Looking at the origins and uses of English will be a continuing feature of this newsletter.


Amazon Gift Card giveaway ($200). I’m one of several authors who have come together to offer our newsletter subscribers an opportunity to win a $200 Amazon gift card. You can use the card for anything that Amazon sells (not just books). You can sign up for a chance at the card at this location: Signing up will put you on the mailing list of my fellow authors. If you choose, of course, you can unsubscribe to any list.

The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.

More from The Devil’s Dictionary

More entries from The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, a book you should know more about:

POETRY, n. A form of expression peculiar to the Land beyond the Magazines.

PILGRIM, n. A traveler that is taken seriously. A Pilgrim Father was one who, leaving Europe in 1620 because not permitted to sing psalms through his nose, followed it to Massachusetts, where he could personate God according to the dictates of his conscience.

PIANO, n. A parlor utensil for subduing the impenitent visitor. It is operated by depressing the keys of the machine and the spirits of the audience.

PESSIMISM, n. A philosophy forced upon the convictions of the observer by the disheartening prevalence of the optimist with his scarecrow hope and his unsightly smile.

Bierce was a Civil War combat veteran who became one of the nation’s foremost writers and cynics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I promised to tell you more about Bierce, and that will happen in the near future. You can get a free copy of The Devil’s Dictionary in a variety of formats through Project Gutenberg.

Finally . . .

Watercolor of the week: Good morning, Chicago

If you know downtown Chicago, you know it to be an architecturally and visually stunning city. I lived there during the summers of 1998 and 1999 when I worked with the news graphics department of the Chicago Tribune. I did a lot of sketching and drawing when I was there, and I have never been able to get it out of my head. Here’s an attempt to capture some of what I felt when I saw the city.

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.Keep reading and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter


4-star review: Jim Stovall once again displays his considerable talent for storytelling. High school student Maxine Wayman is scrounging for a story to demonstrate she deserves a journalism scholarship when she stumbles across a gambling scheme surrounding the Trinity Lane High School basketball team in Nashville. The plot incorporates threads of journalism, 1960s-era divisions over the Vietnam war, and a teenager coming of age in a broken family. Stovall does a fine job of taking readers through some surprising turns, though Maxine’s ability to negotiate the adult world is at times a bit of a stretch. Still, it’s a story that’s engaging until the end.

Kill the Quarterback

5-star review: This is a top-notch read of investigative journalism. Mitch Sawyer is seeking the why to discover the who killed a college senior, star quarterback Jimmy Chin Lee. Tension rises as the body count climbs. It is a fast paced look at the inner workings within a news room as deadlines loom and the inner thoughts of Mitch as he struggles with life love, and angry cops. The mystery has more twists and turns than a rollercoaster and kept me guessing to the end.

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