This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,466) on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year. Tis the season to celebrate, and there are lots of good greetings out there. I wish you good fellowship, good friends and family, good food, good music, and lots of generally good times. This week’s newsletter completes an entry begun last week and follows up on a couple of others.
We begin and end, more or less, with the “private eye.”
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Trouble is his business: the “private eye”
He’s “self-employed,” in modern language. He would laugh at the term, if he felt like laughing. But in his line of business — finding things out for money and dealing with dangerous characters — he’s rarely jolly, or even in a good mood. Trouble is his business.
Just who is the private detective of this “hard-boiled” fiction genre?
— He’s male and middle-aged and has a history.
— He’s alone. Whatever wife or family he’s had are long gone, a distant memory, maybe part of the history.
— He drinks, but not to excess.
— He’s cynical, and one thing he’s good at is spotting people’s real motives. In his experience, people are rarely truthful about what they want or how they feel.
In honor of the “private eye” and his many iterations (including those that turn “him” into “her”), I am writing a series of blog posts on JPROF.com about who he is and who created him. You can find the first one here, More next week.
Best book of 2017?
I posted this last week and got no responses. I’ll give it one more shot.
Look back over the entire year and tell us what the best book you read this year was. Any subject, any genre will. A short description or review wouldn’t hurt, but it’s not necessary. And you don’t have to have finished it yet. If you reading something that’s the best right now, let us know. We’ll begin posting the list next week and will do so through the end of the year.
The book I’m reading now, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo Da Vinci, is my favorite of 2017. I don’t expect to be finished with it any time soon, so it may be my favorite of 2018, too.
True crime podcasts (continued): Crimetown
Crimetown. This multi-episode podcast takes a close look at former mayor Buddy Cianci and organized crime in Providence, Rhode Island. Cianci began his political career as a reformer but found that even though he had been elected mayor, real power in Providence lay outside city hall. The podcasts are hosted by Marc Sterling and Zac Stuart-Pontier, and they use a wealth of audio interviews with city officials, lawyers, friends of Buddy, crime bosses, mistresses, showgirls, and wise guys to tell a mesmerizing story. And unlike many podcast episodes which last an hour or more, most of these are 30-45 minutes long.
See what else we’ve recommended below the signature of this newsletter.
Edgar Allan Poe and the development of the detective/mystery novel (continued)
Last week I posted part of an interesting response from Dan C., newsletter and novel reader and good friend, to a piece that I had written about Edgar Allan Poe. Dan is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy and wrote that Poe had been a student there for a time. Dan also had some other things to say about people who attended West Point. Here’s the rest of his response:
Singer and songwriter Kris Kristofferson attended the academy. Although he had volunteered to go to Vietnam, The Army wanted him to teach English at West Point, so he departed the Army. At that point (pun intended) He was a top ROTC Cadet and went to England for his Rhodes Scholarship, then to Fort Rucker. Alabama for training as a helicopter pilot. He spent a large part of his commission in Germany. His Father was a Two-Star General in the Air Force, both his Grandfathers served in the US Military and his Great Grandfather was an officer in the Swedish Army. His mother, when he resigned his commission to go to Nashville, disowned him and for a long time they were estranged. Even though he had been an ROTC Distinguished Military Cadet, was a Rhodes Scholar, had an impressive career, his leaving the military to be a songwriter and singer, he became a disappointment to her. Around 2010 he started losing his cognitive function. The doctors did not know if it was Altzheimers or dementia. He had fallen fast and rarely knowing what he did earlier on the same day. It turns out that after the five to six years of treatment for dementia, with a lot of side effects that in early 2016, a doctor asked if he had been out in the woods before the onset of his mental problems. He had, up in Vermont. He was then tested for Lyme Disease, which he had. Three weeks of treatment and two years later he has improved, though he still has blank spots in his memory. A great article on KK at 80 from Rolling Stone Mag a couple years ago. https://www.rollingstone.
com/music/features/kris- kristofferson-an-outlaw-at-80- 20160606
One last thing, when I was commissioned, my Mom was pinning my Bars on one side while former LA Rams Defensive lineman, NFL Hall of Famer, and actor (Father Murphy and Little House on the Prarie) Merlin Olsen was on the other. He had been the college roommate of our Professor of Military Science and was our commissioning speaker. Merlin Olsen had actually also been one of the top 5 Cadets in the country. He was the ROTC Battalion Commander. He actually wanted to forego the NFL Draft and become a Lieutenant. The military at the time did not accept him since there was a regulation that did not apply when he joined the ROTC, that he was too big to be in the Army. He had grown and filled out as a college defensive lineman and would not fit in a regulation size uniform (Now you can be super tall or wide, as long as you are under the body mass index (BMI) and meet the height weight guidelines.
Thanks to all who participated in our Christmas Spree Giveaway. This month’s giveaway was Bernie Berber. We’ll do another one in January
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery/
Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway.This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.
Crimes against English (continued)
A couple of weeks ago, I asked you to let me know your pet peeve about misuse of English. This came in from Eugene in Rhinebeck, N.Y., this week:
One of my pet peeves about words being misused: the misuse of the contraction “it’s” as the 3d person, singular possessive pronoun “its.” Example: The cat licked it’s fur…WRONG! The cat licked its fur…CORRECT!
Hint: substitute “it is” for “it’s” to see if the sentence makes sense. “The cat licked it is fur”…WRONG!..
If you have a pet peeve about English usage (I know that you do), let me know what it is.
Sandi Scott: Murder on the Movie Set: A Pet Portraits Cozy Mystery (Book 3)
Last week, I told you about Sandi Scott, an independent author with whom I am working. She and I have agreed to introduce our newsletter readers to each other’s books. Sandi writes “cozy mysteries,” and I’m sure that some of you out there are into those. Even if you’re not, here’s a free one if you have Kindle Unlimited and $2.99 if you’re not: Murder on the Movie Set.
Here is Sandi’s Amazon author page.
More from The Devil’s Dictionary
More entries from The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, these from the letter H:
HABEAS CORPUS. A writ by which a man may be taken out of jail when confined for the wrong crime.
HABIT, n. A shackle for the free.
HATRED, n. A sentiment appropriate to the occasion of another’s superiority.
HONORABLE, adj. Afflicted with an impediment in one’s reach. In legislative bodies it is customary to mention all members as honorable; as, “the honorable gentleman is a scurvy cur.”
HOPE, n. Desire and expectation rolled into one.
Delicious Hope! when naught to man is left—
Of fortune destitute, of friends bereft;
When even his dog deserts him, and his goat
With tranquil disaffection chews his coat
While yet it hangs upon his back; then thou,
The star far-flaming on thine angel brow,
Descendest, radiant, from the skies to hint
The promise of a clerkship in the Mint.
You can get a free copy of The Devil’s Dictionary in a variety of formats through Project Gutenberg.
Finally . . .
This week’s watercolor: The private eye
I have been practicing portraits during the last few weeks of watercoloring.
Best quote of the week:
It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers. James Thurber, cartoonist and writer (1894-1961)
Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.Keep reading and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
True crime podcasts recommendations so far:
S-town. The makers of This American Life and Serial have done it again. They have created a podcast series that begins in one direction and zigs and zags through a variety of fascinating scenes, situations and characters. You think it’s about murder or small-town corruption, but by episode 3, it’s headed off somewhere else. The story comes from Woodstock, Alabama — just up the road from Tuscaloosa where I used to live — and begins with John B., an unhappy resident there, calling reporter Brian Reed and asking him to investigate the cover-up of a murder that has occurred in Woodstock. Once you have listened to episode 1, you’ll be on the roller coaster and won’t be able to get off.
Casefile, a well written and well delivered podcast from Australia, deals with stories of real crime under the moniker: “Fact is scarier than fiction.” Casefile is this week’s true crime podcast recommendation. Casefile deals with crimes from all over the world, not just Australia, but their native cases are often the most interesting and intriguing. The narration is delivered by Anonymous Host, an unnamed voice whose Australian accent is positively charming. The podcasts are well-researched and tightly written and are a pleasure to listen to. Casefile has a large following around the world and has gathered a number of prestigous awards. After listening to a few episodes, it’s easy to see why. Start with Episode 66: The Black Widow and get hooked.
True Crime All the Time , hosted by Mike Ferguson and Mike Gibson, or “Gibby,” presents some fascinating cases, and the hosts are well informed (though not experts of any sort). Both have engaging personalities, and a big part of the fun is just hearing them play off of each other. Try episode 45, the case of Adolpho Constanzo and Sara Aldrete. It’s typical of Mike and Gibby’s approach. (Be careful; some of this episode is graphic and hard to take.)
Real Crime Profile, with three excellent hosts, have discussions of criminal cases that are riveting and insightful. The link provided above is to a list of some of the recent podcasts. Start anywhere. You will be fascinated. (Real Crime Profile on Facebook.)
Dirty John: Christopher Goffard, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has written and narrates a series called Dirty John. It’s the story of Debra Newell and John Meehan and is a true crime podcast of the highest order. It will take you a while to get through it, but once you start, you’ll likely be hooked. The reporting is thorough, the interviews are fascinating, and the story is full of twists, turns, and surprises. The ending is well worth the journey. Here’s a link to part 1, “The Real Thing.”
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. It was an hour well spent.
Do you have any true crime podcast recommendations to share with fellow readers?
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Tags: Ambrose Bierce, Casefile, crimes against English, Crimetown. Gimlet Media, detective fiction, Detnovel.com, grammar, James Thurber, Kris Kristofferson, Leonardo da Vinci, Marc Smerling, Merlin Olsen, Movie Set, Murder on the Movie Set, podcasts, private detective, private eye, Providence Rhode Island, real crime, Real Crime Profile, Sandi Scott, Sword and Scale, The Devil's Dictionary, Trouble is My Business, True Crime All the Time, Walter Isaacson, watercolor