A legacy that began with veterans, a giant in the land of Sherlock, and GKC on what makes a good detective story: newsletter, Nov. 9, 2018

November 12, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: journalism, newsletter.

 This newsletter was emailed to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,020) on November 9, 2018

My reading and browsing bring me into contact with so many good stories, unknown (to me) items, and interesting people that I don’t have time to write about them all (and to test your patience and indulgence) in this newsletter. Consequently, I am trying out something new this week: Points and Clicks. These are short items about things and people I have encountered that you might be interested in, and I’ll try to include a link if you would like additional information. We’ll see how that works.

Our remembrance of veterans and Veterans Day continues this week with the story of Josephine Herrick, whose work with veterans lasted far beyond her lifetime.

Meanwhile, I hope, too, 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.

Josephine Herrick: her World War II legacy for veterans continues today

When it comes to paying a lasting tribute to veterans, few people can match the work of Josephine Herrick.

Herrick was a professional photographer in the 1930s and 40s with a successful studio in New York City when the United States went to war in 1941. She organized a group of 35 fellow-photographers to take pictures of soldiers who passed through New York; these snapshots, more than 900 in all, were then sent back to the soldier’s family with a hand-written note to help maintain the connections as the soldiers and their families faced the difficulties of separation and uncertainty.

It was a small act of kindness that elicited many expressions of gratitude from the soldiers and their families.

Herrick then spent a good part of her war photographing the part of the Manhattan Project, the effort to make the atomic bomb, that took place in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. But she did not forget about the soldiers

Once the soldiers were engaged in combat, casualties returned to the U.S., and Dr. Howard Rusk, a rehabilitation pioneer, invited Herrick to the army hospitals to photograph the veterans. He had an idea that went beyond just the picture-taking, however. He believed that teaching the wounded veterans photography could be a therapeutic rehabilitation tool.

Herrick bought into the idea, and so did the War Department.

Portable darkrooms were set up at veterans hospitals around the country, and volunteers were recruited as teachers. Veterans everywhere got the chance to learn photography. The program morphed into the War Service Photography and after that to the Volunteer Service Photographers. Herrick became its executive director and was determined to keep the program going after the war.

The therapeutic value of photography was so well established that requests came to the VSP to start programs for the terminally ill and physically and mentally challenged. Herrick spent nearly three decades after the war as executive director of the VSP as it expanded into all sorts of areas where learning photography would be helpful.

Herrick died in 1972. She received a very short obituary notice in the New York Times; she never married and left no immediate heirs. What she left, however, was a massive legacy for photography and for veterans that continues today. Check out the Josephine Herrick Project website.

Additional information on Josephine Herrick can be found here.


A seven-foot guy and his co-author wander into Sherlockandia

Writers who would venture into the land of Sherlockandia — using the characters, time, place, or story construction created by Arthur Conan Doyle — must understand and practice these two principles:

— Nothing much can change.

Something must change.

That is, fans of Sherlock Holmes will be ready to pounce if you change or remove any key element that they feel defines the original characters. But, if you don’t change something, they’ll dismiss you as a pale imitator — and undoubtedly not nearly as good as the original. Sherlock Holmes and his circle are tightly bound constructions of Conan Doyle’s genius. Yet, their ability to fire the imagination with possibilities is almost without equal in modern literature.

It’s a fascinating challenge, but many writers have taken it up.

Some of the most recent are co-authors, Anna Waterhouse and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. They’ve recently published their second novel in the pastiche of Sherlock Holmes titled Mycroft and Sherlock. Their first, Mycroft Holmes, was published in 2015 and gathered some rave reviews. The books use Sherlock’s brother Mycroft as the central character and send him off in some directions that Sherlock never went.

And, yes, that’s Kareen Abdul-Jabbar, the basketball hall-of-famer. Abdul-Jabbar retired from basketball in 1989 and has been devoting himself to causes he favors and to writing ever since. Waterhouse is a professional scriptwriter, and they make an excellent combination according to this recent interview with author Lyndsay Faye in CrimeReads.com (a site well worth visiting):

As both of us have expressed before, we have different strengths. I am a history aficionado. She likes research. I like storytelling in terms of plot. She likes writing dialogue. We both like interpersonal stories, and we’re both interested in making a bit of social commentary when and if we can. It also allows us to show how societal problems and successes had their roots in earlier societies. For example, Dr. Watson was wounded in Afghanistan, and right now American, British and Canadian troops are still fighting there. As for “easy”….no, it’s never easy, not then, and not now. But there’s a lot of joy in it.

Focusing on Mycroft gives the authors plenty of room to operate by selecting what characteristics the two brothers share (deductive powers for one, although Mycroft doesn’t show them off as much as Sherlock) and where they differ (Mycroft is more empathetic with those around him than Sherlock). It also lets the authors view Sherlock through Mycroft’s eyes — the eyes of an older, more mature brother.

These are books that open-minded Sherlock fans will likely enjoy. The authors have taken their responsibilities to “keep things the same but change some significant” seriously and have pulled it off with panache.


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”


The detective story, according to G.K. Chesterton

G.K. Chesterton, the great British author of the early 20th century, liked detective stories, read them, and wrote them.

He had the formula down pat. It went like this:

The bones and structure of a good detective story are so old and well known that it may seem banal to state them even in outline. A policeman, stupid but sweet-tempered, and always weakly erring on the side of mercy, walks along the street; and in the course of his ordinary business finds a man in Bulgarian uniform killed with an Australian boomerang in a Brompton milk-shop. Having set free all the most suspicious persons inthe story, he then appeals to the bull-dog professional detective, who appeals to the hawk-like amateur detective. The latter finds near the corpse a boot-lace, a button-boot, a French newspaper, and a return ticket from the Hebrides; and so, relentlessly, link by link, brings the crime home to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

– G.K.Chesterton
Illustrated London News May 6, 1911. Source: Chersterton.org: The Detective

The above quotation comes from the website of the American Chesterton Society, a deep and intensive repository of material by and about the man that George Bernard Shaw labeled “a colossal genius.”

Chesterton, most famously for modern minds, is the author of the Father Brown detective series, but he also wrote detective novels outside the series. He even wrote an article on how to write a detective story. It starts out like this:

Let it be understood that I write this article as one wholly conscious that he has failed to write a detective story. But I have failed a good many times. My authority is therefore practical and scientific, like that of some great statesman or social thinker dealing with Unemployment or the Housing Problem. I do not pretend that I have achieved the ideal that I set up here for the young student; I am, if you will, rather the awful example for him to avoid. None the less . . . (https://www.chesterton.org/how-to-write-detective/)

That’s what you get when you start to read Chesterton.


Points and Clicks: Bill Mauldin, Laura Ingalls, and others of note

Bill Mauldin

Cartoonist Bill Mauldin gathered up many of his World War II cartoons in a book titled Upfront, which was published in 1946 (as noted in a previous post). In 1947, he published another collection that was far more acerbic about the experiences of many of the former GIs when they returned home. Mauldin again gave voice to the feelings and the frustrations of the enlisted men — the guys who really fought the war — as they faced being ignored, disrespect, and general lack of understanding about what they had been through. The book is Back Home and worth a look. Americans tend to forget about their wars — and their warriors — quickly after they are finished.

Laura Ingalls

Laura Ingalls, the aviatrix (not her distant cousin Laura Ingalls Wilder, the writer), was the toast of the aviation world in the mid-1930s. By late 1941, however, she was in jail, convicted of being an unregistered German agent. Ingalls set many records and achieved many firsts in her flying career. In 1934 she had completed a 17,00-mile solo flight, then the longest ever made by a woman.

Ingalls used her fame to advance her political views, which were deeply sympathetic to Nazi Germany. She joined the America First campaign and then approached the German head of the Gestapo in the U.S. to find out what she could do to help the Nazi cause. She received payments from Germany, and after the fall of France in 1940 planned to go to Europe to help the Nazis there.

She was rabidly anti-Semitic and often ended her speeches with a Nazi salute. She continued her activities after Germany declared war on the U.S. She served 20 months in jail but staunchly kept to her views. In 1950 she applied for a presidential pardon but was denied. She died in 1967. You can read more about her in Women of the Far Right by Glen Jeansonne.


Recently on JPROF.com

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Mike P.: Jim, not to overuse a common phrase but well-deserved THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE even though it was in the navy. Your shout out for Veterans Day could not have been better for recognizing two of the best examples of military service that are recognized by so many veterans. Bill Mauldin hit home with so many grunts in the foxholes doing the everyday jobs that kept the military running. The story of Winston Churchill shows the life of a soldier who experienced both victory and failure. They both made him a stronger man and a better soldier. Thank you. Have a good Veterans Day.

A.J.N.: Thank you for another fascinating newsletter.  I’m forwarding a copy to my friend Sabrina, who is very interested in WWII history, especially all things Churchill.  We went together to see the recent movie about Churchill, and also the one about D-Day … she said I’m the only one of her family & friends who will go to “those boring historical movies” with her.  Of course, I don’t think they’re boring at all, and always enjoy spending the afternoon with her.  We’ve been friends since seventh grade.  My personal favorite movie of the past few years is Hidden Figures, also historical, but about the early days of NASA.  I’ve always been a science nerd and sci-fi fan, & would have loved to be an astronaut … or, better yet, a crewman on the Enterprise.

Dan C.: Two things. First, Thank you for your service. Second, my condolences for your choice of branch.  

You may think we overdo it a bit now but it is a far cry over the reception we received in the 60’s and 70’s. It was mostly negative (except for the odd WWII or Korean Vet who would buy me a drink in NYC bars) back then. I’ll take the overdone over what we experienced back then. 


Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (caricature)

Best quote of the week:

Those who compare the age in which their lot has fallen with a golden age which exists only in imagination, may talk of degeneracy and decay; but no man who is correctly informed as to the past, will be disposed to take a morose or desponding view of the present. Thomas Babington Macaulay, author and statesman (1800-1859

Helping those in need

Hurricanes on the coasts and a tsunami in the Pacific. All over and in between, people in this world need help. This weekly reminder to all of us (especially me) that the needs are never completely met takes on special urgency.

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 (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or 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: The predecessor to Austen, Eliot, and the Brontes; Bill Mauldin; and why bees exist: newsletter, Nov. 2, 2018




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