This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,234) on Friday, April 15, 2022.
One of my personal rites of April—in addition to observing Opening Day and National Poetry Month (see below)—is having to restart my beehives, which for the past several years have died out during the fall. Fortunately, this task is fairly easy. It is not hard to order a “package of bees” (about three pounds of bees, about 10,000 in each package) and to install them into the hives.
Easy as it is, restarting the hives has become a regrettable necessity. When folks ask about the hives and I have to tell them that they died out in the fall, they always want to know why they died. That’s not an easy question to answer. Bee colonies die for lots of reasons, and a single cause cannot always be identified. The major culprit may be the environment itself. Our general environment is becoming less and less friendly toward bees.
Four hives were restarted last weekend, and now we have to hope that this area has a good blooming season. Such are the vagaries of nature.
By the way, several years ago I made a short video about installing bees in a hive. If you want to take a look, it’s here on YouTube: https://youtu.be/hmHFjyYO0cE.
Have a great weekend.
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To celebrate Opening Day and April as National Poetry Month: Casey at the Bat
The confluence of Opening Day and National Poetry Month seems to be part of the divine workings of the universe, so we celebrate both with the following:
The most famous baseball poem in history is “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Lawrence Thayer. Its subtitle is “A Ballad of the Republic Sung in the Year 1888.” The poem was first published in the San Francisco Examiner and tells the story of one game of the baseball team of Mudville and its mighty hitting star Casey. With Mudville behind by two runs and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the crowd believes that if Casey could bat, he could save the game. Unfortunately, there are two batters ahead of Casey, and as the poem says, one is a “lulu” and the other is a “cake.”
Miraculously, both batters get hits, and Casey comes to the plate, cool and confident—so confident that he allows the pitcher to throw two strikes without trying to hit them. On the third pitch, Casey swings and strikes out—thus prompting the most famous line in the poem: “There is no joy in Mudville, the mighty Casey has struck out.”
One of the obvious inspirations for Casey was Mike “King” Kelly, the best and most famous baseball player of the day. Once he left baseball, Kelly had a vaudeville career in which he occasionally recited the poem. The poem might have faded from public memory except for DeWolf Hopper, another vaudevillian who recited the poem to such acclaim that it became a permanent part of his act. By his own count, Hopper recited the poem more than 10,000 times during his career.
The poem has become a permanent part of the culture, appearing in books, films, television shows, animated cartoons and much more.
The latest iteration is a five-and-a-half minute video where I recite the poem as a voiceover for painting this watercolor. You can see that video on Facebook or here: http://bit.ly/Thayer-CaseyattheBat.
The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce: Self-esteem, Self-evident, Selfish, Senate, Serial
SELF-ESTEEM, n. An erroneous appraisement.
SELF-EVIDENT, adj. Evident to one’s self and to nobody else.
SELFISH, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.
SENATE, n. A body of elderly gentlemen charged with high duties and misdemeanors.
SERIAL, n. A literary work, usually a story that is not true, creeping through several issues of a newspaper or magazine. Frequently appended to each installment is a “synposis of preceding chapters” for those who have not read them, but a direr need is a synposis of succeeding chapters for those who do not intend to read them. A synposis of the entire work would be still better.
The late James F. Bowman was writing a serial tale for a weekly paper in collaboration with a genius whose name has not come down to us. They wrote, not jointly but alternately, Bowman supplying the installment for one week, his friend for the next, and so on, world without end, they hoped. Unfortunately they quarreled, and one Monday morning when Bowman read the paper to prepare himself for his task, he found his work cut out for him in a way to surprise and pain him. His collaborator had embarked every character of the narrative on a ship and sunk them all in the deepest part of the Atlantic.
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
Manly Wade Wellman, the author with many occupations and many genres
Many authors, if not most, have a second or third job that produces income and helps support themselves and their families while they are writing. Few authors, however, can claim as many different jobs and professions over as long a period of time as Manly Wade Wellman.
During his 83-year life, Wellman was a harvest hand, cowboy, roadhouse bouncer, and newspaperman for The Beacon and The Wichita Eagle newspapers. When the Great Depression hit, Wellman’s newspaper work dwindled, so he moved to New York where he became Assistant Director of the WPA’s New York Folklore Project. During the war he served in New Jersey as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army.
Throughout his many careers, Wellman wrote in a variety of genres and ultimately published about 500 articles and short stories and as many as 80 novels. His range of writing was almost unbelievable covering fantasy and science fiction as well as non-fiction and stage plays.
He married Frances Obrist “Garfield” (her pen name), who was a noted and well-published horror writer. She sold her first yarn to Weird Tales magazine in 1939. Wellman’s brother, Paul Wellman, was also an acclaimed author.
Wellman was born in Angola, then Portuguese West Africa, in 1903. His family moved to London for a time and then to America. He attended school in Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City, Utah, and eventually graduated from Wichita State University in 1926. He then gained a law degree from Columbia University Law School in New York City.
Wellman wrote for science fiction and fantasy magazines, always tailoring his work to the needs of the editors. He became interested in his own ancestry and claimed both Native American blood and relationships to Southern Confederates. Among his non-fiction works are biographies of Wade Hampton and Robert E. Lee.
After World War II, Wellman became fascinated by the Appalachian Mountains and the stories that were told among its inhabitants. He traveled widely through the mountains, listening to those tales—especially those of magic and ghosts—and adapting many of them to his own writing.
Wellman even wrote county histories after his move to North Carolina in the early 1950s.
His standing among readers of fantasy and science fiction was such that in 1980 he received the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Wellman developed several distinctive characters that he used in his fiction and then became favorites of his readers. One of those was John Thunstone, who was always ready to undertake some mystery or adventure that his creator had in store for him. According to the description in one of his books, Thunstone was “a hulking Manhattanite playboy and dilettante, a serious student of the occult and a two-fisted brawler ready to take on any enemy. Armed with potent charms and a silver sword cane, Thunstone stalks supernatural perils in the posh nightclubs and seedy hotels of New York, or in backwater towns lost in the countryside—seeking out deadly sorcery as a hunter pursues a man-killer beast.”
Weldman’s work was popular among the readers who knew about him, but he never gained a large following beyond the genres in which he wrote. One of his fiction pieces, however, did manage to raise the ire of literary icon William Faulkner. In 1946 the Ellery Queen mystery magazine award went to Wellman for one of his Native American detective stories. Faulkner had also written a story that was entered into that competition, and he did not appreciate the fact that he had come in second place to someone who wrote science fiction and horror. He fired off an angry letter to the magazine saying that he was the father of the French literary movement and the most important American writer in Europe. The magazine, of course, did not rescind the award.
In 1985, Wellman, then age 82, suffered a serious fall and became an invalid. He developed a case of gangrene in his legs and died at his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1986.
Thanks to my good friend Lisa M. at Southland Books for turning me on to Manly Wade Wellman.
Murder Most Criminous (Volume 1): resurrecting the father of true crime writing
The father of modern true crime writing is back.
William Roughead, the Scottish barrister who attended and reported on every major British murder trial for nearly six decades and wrote about each of them in detailed and yet interesting accounts, is returning from obscurity. Roughead died in 1952 but not before he built a huge following for his work both in America and Great Britain.
His name and work, unfortunately, have fallen into obscurity. First Inning Press is bringing him back to life.
Murder Most Criminous: The Cases of William Roughead, Father of Modern True Crime Literature (Volume 1) has just been published. It is the first of several anticipated volumes of Roughead’s work. The editors, Jim Stovall and Ed Caudill, have worked not only to reproduce this great writer’s work but also to give it new life for modern audiences.
The first volume of this series includes four of Roughead’s cases, all from a time before he was able to attend their trials. They include:
- Mackcoull and the Begbie Mystery
- The Secret of Ireland’s Eye: A Detective Story
- The Ghost of Sergeant Davies
- The Parson of Spott
Each case has unique features that Roughead interprets with his unique and fascinating writing style. The links above will take you to a JPROF page that contains the editors’ introduction and the first few pages of the chapter.
We have done a lot of work with editing these cases and trying to make them presentable to modern readers.
We have introduced some typographical innovations that include footnotes, more readable paragraphing, and subheads—all of which we believe will aid the reader. The essential Roughead is still there, and we believe the reader will be captured by his exquisite phrasing and point of view.
During March and April, the first volume of this series is being offered to readers at a special ebook price of $1.99. It can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other ebook platforms. Paperback and hardback editions of this work are also available.
Volume 2 in this series, which will include the Oscar Slater case, is due out later this spring.
Kill the Quarterback is part of a group giveaway, April Crime Thriller Giveaway, a BookFunnel giveaway that runs through the month of April. This giveaway is exclusively for all sorts of crime-related books and novels.
The giveaway includes more than 30 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors. The link for this giveaway is https://books.bookfunnel.com/pka-crime-thriller-giveaways/glkpa6m4vw.
It helps me if you use this link to take a look at the offerings even if you don’t select any of these books.
Kill the Quarterback is also part of another group giveaway over at ProlificWorks.com. This one is the Secret Messages: Mystery and Thriller Group Giveaway that can be found at this link: https://claims.prolificworks.com/gg/r1RhPp6D3mtgFgYQp5At.
Take a look at this one as soon as possible. It runs from April 12 through April 26 and includes about 30 books.
Jo P.: On the subject of “trialling”, I offer the following:
* Over here (Great Britain), the word definitely has two Ls.
* There is a difference between the words “trialling” and “trying”.
* “Trialling” would indicate a more formal test with data being collected etc. “Trying” just means having a go at something, although it also refers to someone being tried in court. “Trialling” is not used in that context, although of course “trial” is. “Trying” comes up again in the context of something being tedious, with “trialling” not being used in that sense. I could go on, but you know all this anyway.
Phyllis P.: Jim, this week’s newsletter is a gem. I loved reading about Handel, because I am obsessed with stories of resilience and have been revisiting many such histories lately. My most recent favorite is about how the Brooklyn Bridge got built.
Vince V.: I existed a good 60 years on this earth without hearing a coach, player or sports commentator say: “So-and-so can really score the basketball.” And now it’s all I hear. What else would a basketball player score?
Does one score the baseball or the football? I certainly hope not, but I wouldn’t bet against it.
Finally . . .
In honor of National Poetry Month; watch this painting being created and listen to a reading of “O Captain, My Captain” on YouTube.
Best quote of the week:
Good fiction creates empathy. A novel takes you somewhere and asks you to look through the eyes of another person, to live another life. Barbara Kingsolver, novelist, essayist, and poet (b. 1955)
If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try pray-as-you-go.org. The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.
Helping those in need
Fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee, coronavirus, and now war in Ukraine — disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them 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 (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.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: Handel’s comeback, ebook giveaways, bee swarms, and a preview of William Roughead: newsletter, April 8, 2022
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