The tale of journalists Duranty and Jones, the obvious alternative to eugenics, group giveaways, and decapitating the British government: newsletter, May 20, 2022

May 20, 2022 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, history, newsletter, reporters, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,404) on Friday, May 20, 2022.

About a century ago, eugenics was all the rage. The basic idea of eugenics was that you could identify the “better” parts of society by race, geographic origin, or social class. If we could do that, then we could improve society by encouraging birth rates among the better classes and discouraging them among the lesser classes. People from Winston Churchill to W.E.B. Du Bois subscribed to this idea.

Since then, eugenics has been thoroughly discredited, at least in name. As those who study eugenics will tell you, the idea of eugenics keeps resurfacing in various and currently-acceptable forms. The white nationalist movement that we hear so much about these days has its basis in the eugenics-like idea that certain types of people should be in charge and other types of people should be reduced to servanthood, at best, or even elimination.

I had been listening to an interview with a journalist who had studied the eugenics movement, and he said the basic idea, “improving society,” was a worthy one. The problem, he said, was that we ignore what we know will indeed improve society. “What’s that?” the interviewer asked.

“Build more libraries,” he said without any hesitation. That’s how you improve society. You educate people. You give them more opportunities. You will provide them with intellectual and emotional support so that they can be their very best.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Have a great weekend.


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Walter Duranty and Gareth Jones: one told the truth, the other did not

The contrast between Walter Duranty and Gareth Jones is stark and ultimately tragic.

Duranty was the correspondent for the New York Times and covered the Soviet Union and the rise of Joseph Stalin for more than a dozen years in the 1920s and 1930s. He interviewed Stalin a number of times and always wrote favorable pieces that showed the Soviet Union making progress even though occasionally harsh measures against the populace were required.

Originally from England, Duranty was hired by the Times during World War I.

Duranty covered the Paris Peace Conference for the Times, and his reports brought him good notices. After the conference, he moved to Latvia, and from there to the Soviet Union. During a holiday in France in 1924, he was involved in a railway accident and eventually had his leg amputated. When he recovered, he returned to the Soviet Union.

Stalin’s first five-year plan to transform Soviet agriculture and industry caused widespread disruption and hardship for the Soviet people. Duranty paid little attention to all of that in his reports, and Stalin granted him an exclusive interview, which enhanced his reputation as a journalist.

The Times submitted a series of reports from the Soviet Union to the Pulitzer Prize committee in 1931, and early the next year Duranty was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for foreign reporting. Duranty’s point of view was that the Soviet Union was a place where individuality and private enterprise were and would always be alien ideas. A country such as that needed communism and strong, even tyrannical, leadership to survive. 

One of the dissenting voices to Duranty’s reports was Gareth Jones.

Born in 1905, Jones was from Wales and grew up with a natural bent for languages. Eventually, he became fluent in German, French, and Russian, all of which naturally equipped him for some kind of foreign service. As an adult, Jones first taught languages but was also hired as a foreign affairs adviser to British MP and former prime minister David Lloyd George.

By the late 1920s, he was writing for newspapers as a freelance journalist. In the 1930s, he was in Germany, covering the rise of Nazism. He rode on the airplane with Adolph Hitler and Joseph Goebbels when they flew to Frankfurt a few days after Hitler had been appointed chancellor.

Before going to Germany, however, Jones had been to the Soviet Union to witness the Stalinization of that vast country. The articles that he produced were published anonymously by the Times of London and were explicit with the details of the human cost that Stalin’s plan was exacting from his nation.

In October 1931, another article by Jones reported on the starvation of peasants in southern Russia and in the Ukraine.

In March 1933, Jones visited the Soviet Union for a third and final time. He managed to elude authorities and slip into the Ukraine. He kept diaries of what he witnessed there, and when he returned to Berlin at the end of that month, he issued a press release that was published in the Manchester Guardian and the New York Evening Post. The article he wrote included the following:

I walked along through villages and twelve collective farms. Everywhere was the cry, ‘There is no bread. We are dying’. This cry came from every part of Russia, . . . I stayed overnight in a village where there used to be two hundred oxen and where there now are six. The peasants were eating the cattle fodder and had only a month’s supply left. They told me that many had already died of hunger. Two soldiers came to arrest a thief. They warned me against travel by night, as there were too many ‘starving’ desperate men.

New York readers finally had a different view of the Soviet Union than what had been given to them by Walter Duranty and the New York Times. It was so different that the newspaper and the journalist felt they needed to respond. Duranty wrote that there was no mass starvation in the Soviet Union and described what was happening there in terms that Soviet officials themselves used.

In May the New York Times published a scathing rebuttal article by Jones himself. He took Duranty and other journalists to task, calling them “masters of euphemism and understatement.”

The Soviet government, of course, was incensed by Jones’s reporting, and Jones was banned from ever visiting the Soviet Union again.

Jones’s quest for the truth wherever he could find it was not finished. In late 1934 he left Britain to travel to the Far East on a “fact-finding tour,” during which he spent six weeks in Japan interviewing politicians and generals. He then went to China and Inner Mongolia, traveling with a German journalist. The two were detained by Japanese forces, and they were subsequently captured by bandits and held for ransom. The German journalist was released to arrange for a ransom, and it appeared for a few days that Jones would also be released.

In the middle of August 1935, Chinese authorities found Jones’s body. There were three bullet wounds, and it appeared that he had been killed around August 12th, the day before his 30th birthday. There was a strong suspicion that his death had been perpetrated by Soviet NKVD agents.

His friend Lloyd George said Jones “knew too much of what was going on. He had a passion for finding out what was happening in foreign lands wherever there was trouble. . . . I had always been afraid he would take one risk too many.”

Duranty left the Soviet Union in 1934, and for the rest of his life he defended the reporting that he had done when he was there. He was the author of several books, and he died in retirement in Florida in 1957.

Since that time, there have been repeated calls for the Pulitzer Prize committee to rescind its 1931 award. Those calls have been renewed because of the recent invasion of Ukraine by Russia.

A website devoted to Gareth Jones and his work can be found here

The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce: Rime, Rimer, Riot, R.I.P., Rite, Ritualism, Road, Robber

RIME, n. Agreeing sounds in the terminals of verse, mostly bad. The verses themselves, as distinguished from prose, mostly dull. Usually (and wickedly) spelled “rhyme.”

RIMER, n. A poet regarded with indifference or disesteem.

  The rimer quenches his unheeded fires,

  The sound surceases and the sense expires.

  Then the domestic dog, to east and west,

  Expounds the passions burning in his breast.

  The rising moon o’er that enchanted land

  Pauses to hear and yearns to understand.

Mowbray Myles

RIOT, n. A popular entertainment given to the military by innocent bystanders.

R.I.P. A careless abbreviation of requiescat in pace, attesting an indolent goodwill to the dead. According to the learned Dr. Drigge, however, the letters originally meant nothing more than reductus in pulvis.

RITE, n. A religious or semi-religious ceremony fixed by law, precept or custom, with the essential oil of sincerity carefully squeezed out of it.

RITUALISM, n. A Dutch Garden of God where He may walk in rectilinear freedom, keeping off the grass.

ROAD, n. A strip of land along which one may pass from where it is too tiresome to be to where it is futile to go.

  All roads, howsoe’er they diverge, lead to Rome,

  Whence, thank the good Lord, at least one leads back home.

Borey the Bald

ROBBER, n. A candid man of affairs. It is related of Voltaire that one night he and some traveling companion lodged at a wayside inn. The surroundings were suggestive, and after supper they agreed to tell robber stories in turn. “Once there was a Farmer-General of the Revenues.” Saying nothing more, he was encouraged to continue. “That,” he said, “is the story.”


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


The Cato Street Conspiracy

Even if you are well-versed in British history, it is unlikely that you know very much, if anything at all, about an event in 1820 known as the Cato Street Conspiracy. The conspiracy consisted of a cabal of a few underemployed working class men who hoped, without any reasonable chance of success, to decapitate the British government and to replace it with one that would value all of the people and the rights to which they were entitled.

The conspiracy was so outlandish and so wild in its conception and execution that it appears from a 200-year perspective to be comical.

But the times of the second and third decades of the 19th century in Great Britain were anything but comical for those who were not of the Jane Austen-like privileged classes. Getting steady work and food for one’s family was a daily struggle, and the government seemed to do little except to protect those who already had more than enough shelter, food, money, and opportunity.

So while the Cato Street Conspiracy was a complete failure and five of its organizers were executed and five more deported to Australia, the conditions and times that provoked the conspiracy should be taken seriously.

That is what historian Vic Gatrell has done in his recently published book, Conspiracy on Cato Street: A Tale of Liberty and Revolution in Regency London, about the conspiracy. Gatrell’s research is the subject of a recent podcast on, Dan Snow’s ubiquitous website and network of podcasts. The story is one that I highly recommend.


Murder Most Criminous (Volume 1): see below the signature of this email



Group giveaways

Kill the Quarterback is part of a group giveaway, May’s Free Mystery and Suspense, a BookFunnel giveaway that runs through the month of May. This giveaway is exclusively for all sorts of crime-related books and novels.

The giveaway includes more than 40 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

A second giveaway also includes Kill the Quarterback. This one is the Free Crime Thrillers-Fiction Giveaway. There are more than 50 books in this one, so it is well worth the look. The link for this giveaway is

Finally, a third giveaway that you might be interested in is the Crime and Police Procedurals, also from This giveaway has more than 40 books in this genre, so have a look and download anything that looks interesting. Remember: they’re all free; the price is your email address. The link for this one is

Both of these giveaways are open through the month of May. 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.


Check out last week’s newsletter

Eric S.: Barbara Kingsolver’s quote about her love of libraries proves that even the finest writers need them for reasons that go far beyond books, CDs, DVDs, computers, etc. Today’s libraries also lend musical instruments, sporting goods, and carpentry tools. A cross section of humanity comes to the library just because it’s safe and peaceful. Without community support, however, our sanctuaries disappear.

Vince V.: I came to Ray Bradbury too late because of my distaste for science fiction. I had always boldly proclaimed that writing science fiction was like playing tennis without a net, but I missed some good writing along the way. I did read “451” and “The Martian Chronicles” and consider them classics. 

I still may be one of a very few who have never watched an episode of Star Trek. I wear as a badge of honor the fact that I do not understand any Mister Spock jokes.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Piccolo player

Best quote of the week:

Politeness is the art of choosing among your thoughts. Madame de Staël, writer (1766-1817)

Pray-as-you-go podcast

If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try 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, and now coronavirus — 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 ( 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: Ray Bradbury’s zest for writing, the story of the grand marshal, and May’s ebook giveaways: newsletter, May 13, 2022


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:

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.

For a short time, 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.

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