Helen Kirkpatrick, Bookshop.org, Paul Revere’s long ride, and the short digit of the engineer: newsletter, August 5, 2022

August 5, 2022 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, newsletter, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2, 491) on Friday, August 5, 2022.

The item concerning independently-owned bookstores that appeared in last week’s newsletter needs a follow-up. If you enjoy ordering books online and receiving them without having to travel, and if you also want to support your local independent bookstore, the place to do that is Bookshop.org.

This is an organization where you, as a customer, can sign up and order your books just as you might from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or other online booksellers. The difference is this: when you sign up, you are asked to identify a local bookstore (if any) that you would like to support. If that store is an affiliate of bookshop.org, part of the profits that the website makes on the sale of your book will go to that bookstore.

If you don’t have a local bookstore to support, part of the profit from your sale will go into a general pool of money that is used to support all of its affiliated independent bookstores. Bookshop.org began in early 2020 with 88 affiliates. By the end of that year, there were more than 1,000 affiliates. Today there are around 1,400.

From now on, whenever possible, we will be using bookshop.org links to the book titles that we list in this newsletter. (Be forewarned: Bookshop.org does not have as extensive a listing of books as Amazon. If you don’t find what you are looling for the first, try again with your next book.) If you are seeking an alternative to Amazon, this sounds like a good one.

Have a great and literate weekend.


Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,487 subscribers and had a 37.2 percent open rate; 8 persons unsubscribed.

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.


Helen Kirkpatrick covered the before and after of World War II

When Helen Kirkpatrick finally got a job as the London correspondent for the Chicago Daily News in 1939, she gave herself a seemingly impossible first assignment. She suggested to her editors that she try to get an interview with the Duke of Windsor, the former King Edward.

The assignment seemed impossible because it was well known that the Duke never gave interviews to reporters. Kirkpatrick knew some of the people with whom the Duke was staying, and she prevailed upon them to get her access to the former king.

Exactly what she had in mind is not clear, but the Duke politely explained to her that he had sworn off giving interviews. Then he made an unusual suggestion. He suggested that he himself should interview Kirkpatrick.

Thus, Kirkpatrick’s first byline for the Chicago Daily News was a story in which the Duke of Windsor interviewed her.

Kirkpatrick’s journalism career was filled with such creative and enterprise reporting.

At the time she got the job with the Chicago Daily News, she was no wide-eyed cub reporter. She had already spent several years in Europe, and she had been in London long enough to develop many friends and many sources of information.

Kirkpatrick was born in Rochester, New York in 1909, and she graduated from Smith College in 1931. She worked in New York City for a time at Macy’s but the job did not satisfy her desire for travel and adventure. She set out for Europe in 1935, working as a reporter for the New York Herald Tribune in France, and she moved to the United Kingdom in 1937 where she was a freelancer for a number of newspapers.

While in London, she teamed up with two other journalists to publish a weekly newspaper titled the Whitehall News. It was an avidly anti-appeasement publication and regularly took to task Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and anyone in the British government who believed that Hitler and the Nazis could be stopped with diplomacy rather than military force. Kirkpatrick had even written two books about the British position with regard to Germany: This Terrible Peace and Under the British Umbrella: What the English are and how they go to war.

When she applied to become a reporter on the staff of the Chicago Daily News, the editor told her that the paper did not hire women as reporters. She replied, “I can’t change my sex. But you can change your policy.” She was hired, not as a change of policy but as an exception to it.

When war finally came, she reported the London blitz and all of its terror. After the United States entered the war, she went to Algiers where she reported on the North African campaign, including the surrender of the Italian fleet at Malta.

Kirkpatrick was with the Allied forces when they invaded France in June 1944 and attached herself to the Free French forces with whom, in August 1944, she rode on one of the tanks that liberated Paris. 

She then followed American forces as they slowly and painfully conquered Germany.

Kirkpatrick left the Chicago Daily News in 1946 to become a reporter for the New York Post. During that time she covered the Nuremberg trials. She also worked as an information officer for the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe.

Returning to the United States in the early 1950s, she worked for a time with the U.S. State Department. Eventually, she left to become the secretary to the president of Smith College. In 1954, she married Robbins Milbank, a trustee of Smith College, and they remained together until his death more than 30 years later.

She died in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1997 at the age of 88.

Kirkpatrick was one of only a small handful of female reporters who covered the European front of World War II. She distinguished herself time and again for her boldness, her tenacity, and her dedication to journalism.

One of the 10 digits of the engineer

Quick, Sherlock Holmes experts: what was the only case that Dr. Watson brought to the famous detective’s attention?

Got it yet?

The answer, of course, is “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb.”

If you like Holmesian trivia such as this, you will probably enjoy Olivia Rutigliano’s series on Crimereads.com where she does a close-reading each week of one of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

About “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb,” she writes:

But it is also particularly unusual for occupational reasons. In “The Engineer’s Thumb,” people are doing the wrong jobs, at the wrong hours, in the wrong places. Watson learns about a giant hydraulic press inside a country farmhouse that can only be operated at night?

The story features just as much, if not more, of an emphasis on Watson’s medical work—cleaning and bandaging Mr. Hatherley’s hand wound early in the morning in his home—than it does of Holmes’s deductive work, which is relatively meager. 

Enjoy the series.


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


From the archives: The long ride of Paul Revere’s Ride

When Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” in 1860 and published it in The Atlantic in the January 1861 issue, he had a goal in mind. He wanted to create a clarion call to his fellow citizens to recognize the danger to the Republic by the secession of Southern states and for those citizens to take up arms to prevent it.

He accomplished that. The poem was wildly successful and reprinted in newspapers throughout the North.

But Longfellow accomplished far more than that, according to David Hackett Fischer in the historiography note in his book, Paul Revere’s Ride.

That poem:

– raised Paul Revere from being a merely local hero in the New England area to the pantheon of national figures associated with the American Revolution—figures such as George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson;

– latched onto and added to the American myth of the lone individual who can make a difference in shaping the great events of the day;

– itself became a national anthem, read and memorized by generations of school children, who were acculturated into the myths of the American Revolution.

Ever since its publication, critics and historians have made a cottage industry of pointing to the many inaccuracies in the poem. The main one—not the only one, by any means—was that Revere acted alone. He had plenty of help at every stage of the story. He was not even the only rider to alert “every Middlesex village and farm.” William Dawes and Samuel Prescott also rode that night, partly with Revere and partly alone. Their names are unfamiliar to us because Longfellow excluded them from the narrative.

Longfellow was part of an abolitionist movement in Boston and was horrified at the potential breakup of the Union. His purpose was to create a hero—a symbol that would enlist the minds of the fighting men and remind them why they had taken up arms. In that, he succeeded admirably.

A final point: Much of the criticism of Longfellow’s shortcomings as a historian have been transferred to Revere himself. That is, many commentators have tried to diminish Revere’s role in the American Revolution altogether. That is both unfair and inaccurate. Paul Revere was a central figure in the revolutionary politics of Boston in the 1770s. A previous post discussed his travels to Philadelphia and other venues to carry news about the independence movement in Boston. In a coming post, we’ll talk about another role he undertook: that of artist to the movement.


Group giveaways for August

Kill the Quarterback is part of three group giveaways during the month of August:

August Crime Giveaway

Free Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense Books

Free Crime Thrillers by Fiction Gateway

Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 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.

It helps me a great deal if you use these links to take a look at the offerings even if you don’t select any of these books. Many thanks.


Check out last week’s newsletter


Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Trombone girl

Best quote of the week:

It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die. Nelson Mandela, activist, South African president, Nobel laureate (1918-2013)

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.


If you are interested in reading scripture, either the Old Testament, the New Testament, or both, you might be interested in the videos, commentary, and podcast of the BibleProject.com. The people who work on this site have done some deep and thoughtful reading of the Bible, and the videos they have produced (generally shorter than 10 minutes) are both entertaining and enlightening. They view the Bible as a single entity with a single purpose, and their approach is both delightful and refreshing.

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 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: Independent bookstores, Monty’s double, and Margaret Fuller: newsletter, July 29, 2022



Get a FREE copy of Kill the Quarterback

Get a free digital copy of Jim Stovall's mystery novel, Kill the Quarterback. You will also get Jim's newsletter and advanced notice of publications, free downloads and a variety of information about what he is working on. Jim likes to stay in touch, so sign up today.

Powered by ConvertKit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *