Channeling Phillip Marlowe, libraries on donkeys, and All About Agatha; newsletter, September 28, 2018

October 1, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: newsletter.

This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (x) on September 28, 2018

Prepping for a self-publishing workshop this week has pushed me over the edge on a project that has been hanging fire for several weeks now. I am finally getting around to publishing the second volume of The Writing Wright. Volume 2 carries the subtitle of Interesting Stories.

The Writing Wright is a project I started a while ago during my teaching years. I was collecting a lot of information and ideas, particularly stories about writers and writing, that were not going to fit into the books I was writing at the time. So, the idea of a “collection” occurred to me, and that’s what The Writing Wright is — a collection of stories, tips, advice, and techniques. Volume 2 is particularly influenced by this newsletter and its readers. It emphasizes interesting stories.

I am in the process of publishing it now, and I will let you know when it’s ready.

Meanwhile, I hope you’ve had a wonderful week and are looking forward to a great weekend.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.


What to do when you’re writing a Phillip Marlowe sequel

Raymond Chandler died in 1959, leaving the fans of his detective anti-hero Phillip Marlowe wanting more. In the ensuing years, two excellent writers, Robert Parker and John Banville, have attempted to satisfy those desires.

Parker took up Chandler’s unfinished novel and finished it as Poodle Springs in 1989. Then he wrote a second Marlowe novel, Perchance to Dream, published in 1991. John Banville’s The Black Eyed Blond (under the pen name Benjamin Black) came out in 2014.

Now Lawrence Osborne has taken up the Marlowe sequel challenge, and he tells how that came about in an article in the New York Times. His book, Only to Sleep, came out earlier this year (reviewed by the Times here). Osborne recalls his days as a newspaper reporter on the California-Mexico border and the experiences that he integrated into the novel:

I was surprised by how little I remembered writing any of “Only to Sleep.” Had it come out so automatically, without the usual torments, as if channeled not by the ghost of a dead American writer but by the ghost of my own failed and pathless younger self? Apparently so.

The article is a fascinating read and a great insight into the mind of a top-rank author.

Source: Impersonating Philip Marlowe – The New York Times


All about Agatha: the podcast

The Agatha Christie fans out there — and they are legion — will want to join in on this weekly podcast, All About Agatha, that is devoted exclusively to the author whose popularity remains undiminished even 40 years after her death.

The podcast features Linda Brobeck and Kemper Donovan, and here’s the way they describe what they are doing:

Every month we revisit one of (Christie’s) novels in the order they were first published in the UK. Discussions range from plotting and interpretation to the impact of the beloved adaptations to an attempt at ranking them all. On the weeks in between, we take a breather to discuss one of her many (100-plus) short stories, plays, non-mystery novels, and notable periods in her life.

Christie wrote sixty-six novels and more than 100 plays, short stories, non-mystery novels, and commentaries. She also lived an interesting and somewhat mysterious life. Despite this huge output, some people can’t get enough. Brobeck and Donnovan give you a lot, however. In many of the podcasts, they take her novels apart piece by piece, often explaining and expanding based on their extensive and close reading of Christie’s books.

If you are a Christiephile, this podcast is for you.


Giveaways and offers

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


Leonardo and the “fleeting quality of imagination”

Procrastination is a sin.

That’s what we’re taught anyway. Putting things off, not getting things done — those things mark you as a slacker, a ne’re-do-well, a skylarker (military), a goldbrick (also military), a bum. And around the part of the country where I live, you’re just plain “sorry.”

W. L. Pannapacker, an associate professor of English at Hope College, has a different take on the whole procrastination thing and lays it out in a perceptive essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education (subscription required).

According to the E-prof, the patron saint of us academic procrastinators is none other than Leonard da Vinci:

If Leonardo seemed endlessly distracted by his notebooks and experiments — instead of finishing the details of a painting he had already conceptualized — it was because he understood the fleeting quality of imagination: If you do not get an insight down on paper, and possibly develop it while your excitement lasts, then you are squandering the rarest and most unpredictable of your human capabilities, the very moments when one seems touched by the hand of God.

The fire of imagination and creativity doesn’t respond to the tick of the time clock. It comes when it comes — and sometimes leaves without a finished product.

Leonardo ended his life with about 20 finished paintings and lots of jobs un-done. Yet he left more than 500 pages of notes and drawings (that we know of), and they show us the essence of his genius and how his mind flitted to a subject, bore into it for as long as it interested him, and then flitted to another one.

Those are not the habits, as Pannapacker points out, that would get him tenure or promotion in a modern university. What we reward instead, he says, is completed mediocrity, not incomplete genius.

The donkey libraries – Biblioburros – of Colombia

Colombia is not all drugs and drug lords and gangs and violence.

There are people like Luis Soriano, a Spanish teacher in rural La Gloria Colombia, who loves books, understands their value, and wants the young people of his region to have access to them.

Soriano put his dream on the back of two donkeys, Alfa and Beto (alphabet), and created what this BBC story calls — BBC – Culture – Biblioburro: The amazing donkey libraries of Colombia — biblioburros, a mobile library.

By adapting the packsaddles of his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto, from carrying water to carrying books, Luis created a makeshift mobile library and set off to take his books to children who otherwise wouldn’t have access to reading materials. With that the ‘Biblioburro’ was born.

If you love libraries, your heart will be warmed by this wonderful tale.


A member of the Dutch resistance and an assassin – at 14 years old

The world weighed in on Freddie Oversteegen when she was barely a teenager. Freddie, along with her sister Truus and a  friend, Hannie Schaft, fought back against that world.

It was the world that Nazi Germany imposed on The Netherlands when it invaded and brutally opposed that country in 1940.

The girls began engaging in minor anti-Nazi activities — reporting on troop movements and pasting up posters — when they come to the attention of the Dutch resistance. They were invited to join and up the level of their activities.

According to the New York Times:

The three staged drive-by shootings from their bicycles; seductively lured German soldiers from bars to nearby woods, where they would execute them; and sheltered fleeing Jews, political dissidents, gay people and others who were being hunted by the invaders.

It was serious business — and, of course, dangerous. Just before their country was liberated in 1945, Hannie was arrested, tortured, and executed by the Nazis. The sisters survived.

Truus married a fellow resistance fighter and became a sculptor and painter. She wrote a memoir of her experiences, Not Then, Not Now, Not Ever, (which, unfortunately, is out of print in English at present) and died in 2016.

Freddie also married after the war but never sought or received much attention for what she had done.

The Dutch government was slow to recognize and honor the girls because of their affiliation with Communist-leaning organizations before the war. Finally, in 1982, a sculpture of Hannie Schaft by her friend Truus was unveiled by Princess Juliana in Haarlem. Truus and Freddie were honored by the Dutch government with the Mobilization War Cross. Freddie died earlier this month; here’s her obituary in the New York Times: Freddie Oversteegen, Gritty Dutch Resistance Fighter, Dies at 92 – The New York Times

The story of Freddie, her sister, and her friend should be remembered and retold.

See also Kathryn J. Atwood’s book “Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue” (2011).

Photo: By Familieman [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons



Marilyn H.: Jim, wow, you packed a lot of info in this week!  I’ve not read all the books on the list they are endeavouring to censor but I worry about anyone who thinks it appropriate to stop others from reading The Kite Runner or To Kill A Mockingbird.  Both certainly have disturbing, vastly uncomfortable content, but they also raise important questions and points for discussion.  I agree with you that just because one is uncomfortable with, or disagrees with, something in a book is no cause to try to stop others from reading it (with the exception of illegal child pornography books/materials).  Thanks, again, for putting together such thoughtful and informative newsletters for us each week.

Ann H.: Thank you for making the Bob Woodward interview available ,it was very interesting what he had to say about reporting and sources.

Diana R.: Thank you for your enlightening information.


Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Anderson Hall, Maryville College


Best quote of the week:

In hatred as in love, we grow like the thing we brood upon. What we loathe, we graft into our very soul. Mary Renault, novelist (1905-1983) 

Helping those in need

This is my weekly reminder to all of us (especially me) that there are many people who need our help. It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here). When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), 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: Banned books, strongly held opinions, the oldest drawing, and what libraries are about: newsletter, September 21, 2018



Self-publishing workshop at Blount County Public Library, Oct. 6, 2018

My duties and responsibilities as writer-in-residence at the Blount County Public Library (Maryville, Tennessee) continue to evolve. On the first Saturday of October, I will be offering a half-day workshop on getting started with self-publishing.

If you’re in the area and are interested in this topic, sign up here:

Here’s the description:

The workshop will be held Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Sharon Lawson Room. You will learn the basics of self-publishing in this half-day workshop conducted by Jim Stovall, the Blount County Public Library’s current writer-in-residence ( The workshop will cover everything you need to know about getting started in the world of independent publishing and how to make your book available on Amazon, Kindle, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and other book-selling forums. Advance online registration is required as is a $10 registration fee which includes a box lunch from the library’s Bookmark Café. Lunch is not optional, and lunch order options are on the registration form below. Seating is limited to 30. For more details, call Adult Services (Reference Desk) at 865-273-1428 or 865-982-0981, option 3.

Remember, the $10 fee includes lunch!

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