The mean streets of Baltimore, the theology of work, June giveaways, and truckin’ bees: newsletter, June 10, 2022

June 10, 2022 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, fiction, journalism, journalists, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,241) on Friday, June 10, 2022.

What if Shakespeare didn’t write Shakespeare? Seriously, what if there was evidence that William Shakespeare was not the author of Hamlet or MacBeth or Richard III or Henry V or any of the other plays that we attribute to him? What if William Shakespeare was not, in fact, the single most important person in the development of the English language?

I have been putting myself through that mental experiment lately, wondering how I would structure my thinking about a whole raft of subjects surrounding the language if, suddenly, William Shakespeare were to be dethroned. It has not been an easy journey.

I have been doing that since reading an article by investigative reporter Michael Blanding, who has been looking into the possibility that William Shakespeare might not be the author of the plays attributed to him. It is no wonder that scholars are resistant to a Shakespeare alternative. It is not an easy thing to contemplate.

Blanding has gone from being an objective investigator to a partisan on this subject. The evidence that someone besides or in addition to William Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare is not yet irrefutable, but it is piling up.

Have a great weekend.

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David Simon: life on the mean streets of Baltimore and the fading power of journalism

In 1983, David Simon had finished at the University of Maryland and was trying to make it onto the metro staff of a big city newspaper. He was stringing—writing as a freelancer—for the Baltimore Sun, covering stories around College Park and the UM campus.

Simon had cut his teeth as a student journalist on The Diamondback, an independent student newspaper at Maryland, and then he got a break.

Maryland’s high-profile basketball coach, Lefty Driesell, got upset that one of his players was disciplined by the campus judicial board for sexual impropriety. Driesell called the young woman who had made the complaint repeatedly, screamed at her, and threatened to ruin her reputation if she didn’t withdraw the complaint. A university administrator listened to the call on an extension in the student’s dorm room.

Simon wrote a story about the incident for The Diamondback, a story that today would have gotten the coach fired immediately. Back in 1983, however, after a low-key investigation, Driesell was given a five-year extension to his contract, a raise, and was later inducted into the Atlantic Coast Conference Hall of Fame.

The story netted Simon a job offer from the Baltimore Sun, but he got something else from it—a belief about the value of journalism and honest storytelling:

The world will be the world. Corruptions may abide. Deceits may prevail. Reform may descend to farce. And the response to the best journalism might be for someone to rush into the breach and pass the worst law. All of that may be true, but in the end, I still get to come to the campfire and tell you a story. And if the story is true, if I know most of what I need to know and if I write it well enough, then, OK, the rest of you motherfuckers can never say you didn’t know. I’ll take that much and run with it. Source: David Simon: It might not have mattered, but at least we had fun – The Diamondback

Simon went on to become high-profile in his own right.

Simon worked for the Baltimore Sun until 1995. He had mostly worked covering police and crime in the city, and in 1990, he took a year’s leave of absence and embedded himself with the homicide unit of the Baltimore police department. That resulted in the book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, which was published in 1991.

That book became the basis for a popular NBC series, Homicide: Life on the Street, which ran from 1993 to 1999. Simon was a chief writer and producer for the series.

During that same time, he co-wrote with Ed Burns another book chronicling street life in Baltimore. The book was titled The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood and was published in 1997.

All of those experiences led Simon into developing a long-running series for HBO that many critics and viewers believe is one of the best things that has ever been on television. That series, of course, is The Wire, which began its five seasons in 2002. Simon was creator, executive producer, and head writer of The Wire

During its development and production, Simon worked with a number of famous writers including George Pelecanos, whose novel The Sweet Forever was recommended to him by his mystery-writing wife, Laura Lippman, and Dennis Lehane, another best-selling novelist.

The Wire has won numerous awards for its writing and production. The success of the series has since led Simon into many other television writing projects, including Generation Kill, Treme, Show Me a Hero, and The Plot Against America.

Throughout his writing career, Simon has maintained that journalism “matters very little. The world now is almost inured to the power of journalism. The best journalism would manage to outrage people. And people are less and less inclined to outrage.”

The Theology of Work

A University of California-Berkeley sociologist contends that work is replacing religion as the thing that gives structure to our thinking and meaning to our lives. This is especially true, she contends, in a place like Silicon Valley where work takes up almost every waking hour and provides a pseudo-religious context—such as, “We’re going to change the world”—for devotion to its demands.

Carolyn Chen, an associate professor of ethnic studies at U.C. Berkeley and co-director of the Berkeley Center for the Study of Religion, writes in a recent New York Times article:

But as I discovered during my research, the gospel of work is thin gruel, an ethically empty solution to meet our essential need for belonging and meaning. And it is starving us as individuals and communities. New York Times, May 24, 2022 

Chen says that the theology of work is constricting social interactions and starving other institutions such as churches, social organizations, unions, and political parties, just to name a few, where people of different backgrounds and experiences can come together to hash out problems together. 

The number of people who say they have no traditional religious affiliation is on the rise in this country and elsewhere. Yet, of human necessity, people must “believe in” something. Increasingly, what they believe in is their work.

Chen writes:

Across different faith traditions, clergy members in Silicon Valley say that their congregations are dwindling because people are too busy working. A few decades ago, a pastor told me, the typical member attended Sunday service and Sunday school most weeks. Today that member attends only Sunday service once a month, he said. And he is scraping for volunteers as never before.

Worshiping work is also weakening our democracy, as well-paid professionals — historically among the most politically engaged demographics in America — check out politically. Silicon Valley politicians I talked to lamented the political apathy of busy rank-and-file tech workers who live in a bubble. (The Musks and Thiels are a different story.) “They don’t get involved,” a public official told me. “They don’t vote. They don’t know their local representatives.”

This tendency to make a religion out of our work is a disturbing direction for our society to take.

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

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Truckin’ bees down the highway

Most people encounter honeybees through pictures of bees buzzing around flower blooms or possibly driving through the countryside and seeing hives in the middle of a field. More and more, people can see bees in urban areas, often atop tall buildings.

But bees on tractor-trailer trucks rolling down an interstate highway?

That is exactly where millions of bees spend a good deal of their working lives these days. They are part of a vast system of pollination services that provide bees to places such as the California almond groves and apple trees in Idaho.

Loading hundreds of hives onto trucks and keeping them alive and inside the hives for a cross-country trip is not a job for the faint-hearted.

A recent article on the FreightWaves.com website lays out some of the difficulties and challenges faced by these truck drivers:

“This is not like a load of steel or lumber. These are live creatures. This is those beekeepers’ livelihoods, so we do everything possible to keep them alive,” Earl Warren (the owner of a freight company that handles bees) said.

Some beekeepers estimate that every time you move a truck of bees, up to 5% of the queens die, Sharah Yaddaw, communications director at Project Apis m. (PAM), told FreightWaves. Founded by commercial beekeepers and almond growers in 2006, PAM is the largest honeybee nonprofit organization in the U.S. (A Day in the Life of a Honeybee Trucker, FreightWaves.com)

This article will give you a totally different view of beekeeping from any that you are likely to see elsewhere. For those who say they are concerned about the long term health of bees, the article is a valuable view into the way in which we use the honeybee.

Group giveaways

Kill the Quarterback is part of a group giveaway, June’s Mystery Giveaway, a BookFunnel giveaway that runs through the month of June. 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 https://books.bookfunnel.com/pka-mystery-giveaway/ef8mrjw7cz.

A second BookFunnel.com giveaway also includes Kill the Quarterback. This one is the Summer Reads Giveaway. There are more than 50 books in this one, so it is well worth the look. The link for this giveaway is https://books.bookfunnel.com/pka-free-mysteries/uq6xhhcecm.

Finally, a third giveaway that you might be interested in is the Thrillers for FREE, also from BookFunnel.com. 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 https://books.bookfunnel.com/audreywalker/jy619cj67p.

All of these giveaways are open through the month of June. It helps me if you use one of the links above to take a look at the offerings even if you don’t select any of these books.

Reactions

Check out last week’s newsletter

Vince V.:  Nichola Walker has turned into the grande dame of British TV, starring in BBC shows such as “Unforgotten,” “Spooks” and “Last Tango in Halifax.” Her range is amazing and has been described as the “Meryl Streep of the UK.”

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Baby Bluebird

Best quote of the week:

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion, it is easy in solitude to live after your own; but the great man is he who, in the midst of the world, keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude. Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

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 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, 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 (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

Jim Stovall
www.jprof.com

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 Morgan’s extraordinary librarian, the origins of Annika, and the words of John F. Kennedy: newsletter, June 3, 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 contain

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.

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