John Creasey, Constitutional what-ifs, the second Black MLB player, and a package of bees: newsletter, April 21, 2023

April 21, 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 21, 2023.

Someone pointed out once that the American Constitution guarantees its citizens many legal rights such as the right to a fair trial and protection against undo government intrusion. The reason it does so, it is said, is because the Constitution was written mainly by lawyers, and those lawyers were concerned with the legal processes of the government that they were creating.

But what if the constitution had been written mainly by doctors and people concerned with the good health and physical well-being of its citizens? What rights would we have been endowed with? It might’ve been that the Constitution would have guaranteed medical care for all of its citizens. Or there might be protections, or at least the acknowledgement that personal safety was something that the government should make efforts to ensure.

Imagining our constitution in a different way makes for an interesting thought experiment. Had the constitution been written by teachers, for instance, might we have the right to an education, to public libraries, to music and the arts, and to freedom of inquiry as part of our basic laws?  What if the Constitution had been written by farmers? Or environmentalists?

I have enjoyed occasionally turning this idea over in my head. What do you think? If you have thoughts about any of this, I would love to hear them.

Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.


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John Creasey

When John Creasey was in grammar school, in the second decade of the 20th century, he was asked by his teacher to write an essay on what he had done during the previous summer. Creasey had shown no aptitude for writing. He was the seventh of nine children from a working-class family, and a career in letters seemed as far-fetched as a trip to the moon.

But the young Creasey put whatever literary skills he had to work and produced an essay that so impressed his teacher that the man suggested to him that he could make a career of writing when he grew up.

The idea of becoming a writer lodged itself inside his brain, and it remained intense in his young adulthood. He wrote, and he wrote, and he wrote. Without success. In fact, he accumulated more than 700 rejections before his first novel was published in 1930.

Creasey had supported himself during the years of his rejections with menial jobs of one type or another. The fact that he had published a novel did not mean that he could quit working—not just yet anyway. He continued to write, and in 1932, his first crime novel, Seven Times Seven, was published.

Those two books launched what can only be described as an astonishingly prolific career. Creasey authored more than 700 novels, writing under 28 different pen names. From 1932 to 1972, he published on average 14 novels a year.

Someone once asked Creasey how many words he produced every day. It was somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 words, he said. How long does it take to do that? “Three hours if it’s a good day,” he said. “And 13 hours if it’s not.”

The British literary establishment is not particularly kind to authors who write too much. If you are highly productive, as Creasey undoubtedly was, then, by definition you can’t be very good. That was the verdict that many critics had about the books of John Creasey.

The reading public had something of a different verdict. A large number of readers simply enjoyed the characters that Creasey created, including Inspector West of Scotland Yard and the aristocratic Toff. They also enjoyed his plot-driven stories that were both clever and surprising.

Creasey was born in 1908 in Surrey, England. His father was a coach maker, but the family always struggled economically. Creasey suffered from a bout of polio at the age of two, and he did not learn to walk until he was six years old. He left formal schooling at the age of 14, and for the next two decades supported himself with temporary factory or clerical jobs. At night, he wrote.

In 1935, he left all of those jobs behind and wrote full time. In addition to his writing, Creasey took a deep interest in politics, and was a member and supporter of the Liberal party. For many years, he actually stood as the Liberal party candidate for parliament in 1950.

Creasey not only gained an audience for his work, but he won, and eventually gained recognition and respect from fellow writers. In 1962 he won an Edgar Award for the Best Novel from the Mystery Writers of America for the novel, Gideon’s Fire. In 1969 he received the MWA’s highest award, the Grandmaster Award. Several of his books were adapted for movies or television.

While Creasey’s work occasionally came under fire from critics, New York Times reviewer, Allen J. Hubin once wrote, “I never cease to be amazed at John Creasey’s versatility—he can handle the widest diversity of fictional situations with astonishing ease.”

Today, nearly 50 years after his death, Creasey’s reputation has faded, and his books are not as widely available as they should be.


A package of bees

The easiest way to start a hive of honeybees is to order a package of bees.

That’s what I have done almost every year for the decade-and-a-half that I have been keeping bees. A package of bees consists of 3 pounds of bees, approximately 10,000 individual bees, and comes with a queen, which, at the time the package arrives, exists in her own separate cage.

A beekeeper can open up this package and pour—literally pour—the bees into the hive. I made a video about this process several years ago, and you can see it here on YouTube.

Once the bees have been poured into the hive, the beekeeper will then take the queen’s cage and place it carefully inside the hive with the queen still in the cage. The reason for the queen being in the cage is that the group of bees that surround her may not yet have accepted her as the queen. If she is not accepted as the queen, the bees will kill her. Consequently, she needs protection for the first three or four days that the bees are in the hive.

After that time the bees will accept her, and she can come out of her cage and begin laying eggs to build up the hive.

This spring I ordered four packages of bees, and have recently received those and have installed them into their hives. They are now working colonies of bees. They are doing all of the things that bees should be doing at this point: building comb, cleaning out the hive to their satisfaction, and foraging for nectar, pollen, and water. The queen should be busy laying eggs into the individual cells of the comb.

Once an egg is laid, the “nurse bees” of the hive takeover, and will eventually cover the cell with wax. In 21 days, if all goes well, that egg will hatch out as a new member of the colony.

Other bees are looking for the aforementioned nectar, pollen, and water. The pollen will be used as food for the bees. The nectar and water will be transformed by the bees into honey and will be stored in the other cells that the bees built.

It is all a fascinating process and one that keeps beekeepers like me watching intensely.


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


Larry Doby: Everything that happened to Jackie Robinson except the accolades

Each year around this time, Major League Baseball gives a day to honoring Jackie Robinson. Rightly so. But that compels me to repeat a post from last year about the man who integrated the American League at just about the same time as Robinson was playing in the National League.

Almost everyone knows the name of Jackie Robinson, and most people know his story. He began playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers in April 1947, thus becoming the first African-American player to break into Major League Baseball in the 20th century.

His playing ability and his legendary courage in facing down the taunts and ignorance of teammates, opposing players, umpires, and abusive fans are legendary. Major League Baseball has done much to honor him, including retiring his uniform number, 42, so that no player for any team can ever wear it again.

Robinson certainly deserves all the accolades that he has received.

But in honoring Robinson, we have forgotten the name of Larry Doby and his story, which mirrors Robinson’s almost precisely.

In July 1947, four months after Robinson made his debut in baseball’s National League, Larry Doby began his playing career in the American League with the Cleveland Indians. He faced the same cold shoulders, taunts, and discrimination that Robinson had endured. Robinson was first, but his entry into the major leagues did almost nothing to ease the path for Doby and a number of other Black players who followed him.

Doby was born in Camden, South Carolina, in 1923, and like many young men of his time, both Black and white, he played many sports. He loved baseball and wanted to make it a career.

He got his chance in 1942 when he broke in with the Newark Eagles of the Negro National League. He also played professional basketball and was the first African-American to play both in the American Basketball League and in Major League Baseball.

Doby served in the Navy for two years during World War II and returned to baseball after the war. It was common knowledge at the time that a number of baseball owners were planning to integrate the league, Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers being the most prominent. Bill Veeck, who owned the Cleveland Indians, also made it known that he was looking for a good young Black player with the talent and the demeanor to handle the difficult task that he would be facing. A reporter suggested to Veeck that he take a look at Larry Doby of the Newark Eagles.

After seeing Doby play and observing him off the field, Cleveland Indian scouts reported to Veeck that he was someone who could handle being the first Black player in the American League. Thus, he joined the team on July 5, 1947.

Doby entered the Indians locker room and tried to introduce himself to his teammates. That did not go well as many of the players either turned their backs on him or gave him a cold handshake. When he came out onto the field for team warm-ups, he stood by himself for several minutes because no one would engage with him. Finally, Joe Gordon, a second baseman, came over and asked Doby to toss and catch a few balls with him. Gordon befriended Doby, and the two became close companions and good friends for the rest of their lives. (Gordon was one of the outstanding players of his time, and he was eventually inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.)

Doby struggled during his first year with the Indians, and he did not get much playing time. In addition, he had to endure all of the expected taunts and challenges, including having to stay in a separate hotel from the rest of the team while the Indians were on the road.

Doby’s ability to play baseball, however, was never in doubt. In 1948, it was clear that despite his experience as an infielder, Doby would get more playing time if he learned to play the outfield. That’s what he did, and by mid-season, Doby was making significant contributions to what would become the Indians’ championship season.

The Indians made it to the World Series that year. Against the Boston Braves in Game 4, Doby hit a home run, the first by an African-American in World Series history. All the doubts about his playing ability and his acceptance by the team had, by then, been erased. In 1949, Doby was one of the five members of the Indians team to be selected to play in Major League Baseball’s All-Star game.

Doby ended his 13-year major league career in 1959. His batting average was .287, he had hit 273 home runs, and he had more than 1000 runs batted in.

Doby stayed with baseball and eventually became a batting coach for several teams. In 1974, he rejoined the Cleveland Indians. When the Indians fired their manager at the end of the season, the team named Frank Robinson as the first Black manager in the league.

In 1978, at the age of 53, Doby became the second Black manager of a major league team, taking over the reins of the Chicago White Sox. His managerial career lasted less than one season, however.

After leaving Major League Baseball, Doby held several positions in the National Basketball Association and retired from sports in 1990. He died in 2003 at the age of 79.

In 2012, Dave Anderson, sports columnist for the New York Times, wrote of Doby:

In glorifying those who are first, the second is often forgotten … Larry Doby integrated all those American League ballparks where Jackie Robinson never appeared. And he did it with class and clout.


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

Glenn S.: I especially enjoyed the piece this week on Grantland Rice. I wonder how that kind of prose would be met in today’s world. 

My first job after finishing at Florence State College early in 1965 was as a sportswriter at The Tennessean, where Rice remained, of course, a legendary figure. 

 The paper’s outdoors editor was called on to cover a football game at the University of the South—Sewanee—on a particularly busy weekend. He turned in a story that led with the spectacular scenery of a fall afternoon in the mountains of the Cumberland Plateau. It was four or five paragraphs into the story before he got around to the fact that a football game was being played that afternoon. 

The guy running the sports desk that day joked that the reporter was doing his best Grantland Rice imitation, but that he failed to pull it off.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Shadows of summer 1

Best quote of the week:

Joy is the best makeup. Anne Lamott, writer (b. 1954)

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.

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

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



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