The Golden Age of Sports Writing, the non-extinction of bees, and the Father of American illustration: newsletter, April 14, 2023

April 14, 2023 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, fiction, history, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,845) on Friday, April 14, 2023.

There is an essential fact about honeybees that has been obscured by more than a decade of reporting in the news media about them. That fact is this: Honeybees are not dying, and we are nowhere close to losing them.

Okay, colony collapse syndrome (CCD) is real. It is more and more difficult to keep colonies of bees alive these days. My own experience attests to this. The main cause—though not the only one—is the varroa mite, a destructive force that has invaded every colony of bees in America. Keeping bees in domesticated hives the way we have done for more than 150 years is much more challenging than it was 40 years ago. The statistics of domesticated colonies dying each year are stark.

But wild colonies of bees are living, reproducing, and thriving. And there are far more of these colonies than there are domesticated colonies. And, yes, these wild colonies also have varroa. The difference is that they have learned how to manage the mite so that it doesn’t necessarily destroy the colony.

We do, indeed, have a crisis with bees. But it is not one of extinction. Bees have been around for millions of years. They will continue to be with us for a while.

Have a great and literate weekend.


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Grantland Rice and the Golden Age of Sports Journalism

No sportswriter in American history has ever reached the fame, the range, the influence, and the fortune that Grantland Rice accumulated during his early 20th century career.

Rice is duly famous for the opening paragraph of his story describing the Notre Dame-Army game of 1924 in which he described the Notre Dame backfield with a biblical reference to the four horsemen of the apocalypse:

Outlined against a blue-gray October sky the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. Their real names are: Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden. They formed the crest of the South Bend cyclone before which another fighting Army team was swept over the precipice at the Polo Grounds this afternoon as 55,000 spectators peered down upon the bewildering panorama spread out upon the green plain below.

The paragraph, though superior in quality, was typical of the style of writing with which Grantland Rice approached almost every subject in his sports world. To him, sports figures, particularly those who performed at higher than average quality levels, were heroic. Rice consciously set out to depict them as such to his ever-widening audience of readers.

Rice dominated the world of sports journalism for the better part of three decades. It was his ubiquitous coverage of sports, such as baseball, football, tennis, boxing, and golf that gave the 1920s the moniker “The Golden Age of Sports.” Rice was its chief promoter, its chronicler, and its poet laureate.

Rice, in addition to being eloquent, was also prolific. By one estimate, he wrote more than 22,000 daily columns, and his total output exceeded 67 million words. He published numerous biographies, was occasionally found in the broadcast booth, had his own news-video production company, and penned eight volumes of poetry.

When he died of a heart attack in 1954 at the age of 73, he had just finished writing his column that focused on Willie Mays’ performance and that year’s All-Star game.

Grantland Rice was born in 1880 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He was the son of a cotton dealer, and his grandfather had been an officer in the Confederate army during the Civil War. Rice attended Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville as a young man and later entered Vanderbilt University. He was a member of Vanderbilt football and baseball teams. Academically, he specialized in English literature and Greek courses. 

Sports and sports writing came naturally to him, and he had jobs at the Atlanta Journal and Cleveland News. His big break came as a sportswriter for the Nashville Tennessean, and his style of writing drew the attention of newspaper editors in New York City.

In 1914, he began a sports column for the New York Tribune, and he also wrote the Grantland Rice Sportlights, which was a part of Paramount newsreels. 

When America entered World War I in 1917, Rice joined the army. By that time, he had amassed a fortune of $75,000, money that he entrusted to a friend while he was in service in America and France. When he returned home, he found that his friend had invested the money unwisely, had lost everything that Rice had accumulated, and had committed suicide. Rice held himself responsible for the suicide, and throughout the rest of his life, he made monthly contributions to his friend’s widow.

Resuming his journalism career, Rice deliberately set out to make heroes out of the sports figures that he encountered—people such as Jack Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Bobby Jones, Bill Tilden, Red Grange, Babe Didrikson, and Knute Rockne.

Rice was part of the first radio broadcast of baseball’s World Series in 1922, but he quickly found that the broadcast booth was not where he was most comfortable. That place was behind a typewriter.

Not only was his prose captivating, but his poetry was memorable. Rice is responsible for these lines among many others:

For when the One Great Scorer comes

To mark against your name,

He writes – not that you won or lost –

But HOW you played the Game.

Or this:

Play ball! Means something more than runs 

Or pitches thudding into gloves! 

Remember through the summer suns 

This is the game your country loves.

Grantland Rice spawned many sports journalism imitators but none has ever reached the heights of his literary glory.


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


From the archives: The father of American illustration: F.O.C. Darley

Illustrators deserve a more prominent place in the history of American art—and in our own minds—than they have been given. This is especially true in America, where we have a rich cadre of great artists who have made their living, and their fame, by being illustrators.

Chances are, with just a little thought, you can name some of them, such as:

Thomas Nast, the great cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly, whose political fights were legendary.

Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the “Gibson girl,” the quintessential beauty who graced magazine pages for years.

Howard Pyle, whose talents lay in the writing field as well as the field of illustration. Pyle put together the legends of Robin Hood that form the character with which we are so familiar today.

Alfred Waud, the great “special correspondent” for Harper’s Weekly, who gave us eyewitness pictures of the battles of the Civil War with his masterful drawings.

N.C. Wyeth, whose prolific book illustrations put boys like me into the world of pioneers, pirates, and Indians.

Reginald Birch, the man whose drawings told us what Little Lord Fauntleroy looked like and set off a fashion trend in the 1880s that we still feel today.

The list could go on and on. Those are simply the ones I could think of off the top of my head. You can undoubtedly think of others. (If so, let me know.) This rich tradition began with a man named Felix Octavius Carr Darley in the first half of the 19th century. Darley could not be called the greatest American illustrator—although his work is on par with many of the fine artists who came after him—but he has been called the “father of American illustration.” And rightly so.

Darley was born in 1822 in Philadelphia, and when he was 21 he signed a contract with Edgar Allan Poe to create illustrations for Poe’s planned literary magazine The Stylus. The magazine was never produced, but Darley did provide illustrations for Poe’s award-winning story The Gold-Bug. He went from there to illustrate books for many prominent authors such as Washington Irving, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Darley’s prolific work set the standard for images we have of the American revolution, folklife in the new republic, American Indians, and a raft of other iconic figures.

One of the best places to start looking at Darley’s work is his Sketches Abroad with Pen and Pencil, which you can find on Google books here. Once you start looking at this stuff, it will be hard to stop.

Illustration above: Frontispiece for Washington Irving‘s Diedrich Knickerbocker’s A History of New-York


Group giveaways for April 

Kill the Quarterback and Murder Most Criminous are part of several group giveaways this month:

Killer Thrillers

Wicked Reads

You Can Run But You Can’t Hide – Thriller and Suspense Giveaway (April 3 – May 8)

Murder and Mayhem Mailing List

April YA Sports Romance

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.


Check out last week’s newsletter

Vince V.: A home-grown tomato is truly a miracle. I just wish it didn’t have to do combat with the miracle of a thirsty squirrel.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Mountain snowy hike

Best quote of the week:

Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart. Washington Irving, writer (1783-1859)

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.

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 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

Earthquakes in Turkey, fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee: 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: The ‘Mother of True Crime,’ the Grand Review, a Lenten devotional and more: newsletter, April 7, 2023



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