Jim Bouton’s Ball Four, Ann Radcliffe and Women With Words, and the importance of writing: newsletter, June 16, 2023

June 16, 2023 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: baseball, books, newsletter, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,845) on Friday, June 16, 2023.

The public discourse these days has created an equivalent to “climate change.” It’s “doom.”

But what if climate change doesn’t mean doom. What if it’s something different, something we never seem to consider. Author and historian Rebecca Solnit has considered that, and she has come to a different and refreshing conclusion:

Much of the reluctance to do what climate change requires comes from the assumption that it means trading abundance for austerity, and trading all our stuff and conveniences for less stuff, less convenience. But what if it meant giving up things we’re well rid of, from deadly emissions to nagging feelings of doom and complicity in destruction? What if the austerity is how we live now — and the abundance could be what is to come? How to meet the climate crisis? Redefine ‘abundance.’ – The Washington Post

It’s a good thought and one worth holding onto.

Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.


Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,968 subscribers and had a 36.5 percent open rate; 10 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.


Women With Words

June is a special promotional month for Women With Words, the title that I published earlier this year. The book is now widely available (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu, and on a number of other platforms) and can be purchased as a hardback, paperback, or ebook. During this month, I have reduced the price as much as possible wherever it was possible to do so. Now is the perfect opportunity to purchase a copy.

Perhaps you know a young woman who loves to read and write and needs some inspiration. This would make a great gift and a perfect birthday or Christmas present. (I know, it’s June, but is it really too early to start your Christmas shopping?)

As a special for newsletter readers, I will post a chapter from the book in each of the June newsletters. This week’s story is that of Ann Radcliffe.

Don’t wait to make your purchase. By July, prices will be back to normal.


Ann Radcliffe: Creating the “trash of the circulating libraries”

Gothic romance has never been a favorite of literary critics of any age, and that was especially true in the late 18th century. And yet, even then they loved the work of Ann Radcliffe, one of the genre’s founders and chief perpetrators. As Dale Townshend has written in an article for the British Library website:

Even as critics and reviewers in the 1790s castigated Gothic fiction as the “trash of the circulating libraries”that is, as a cheap and tawdry form of popular entertainment that, in its formulaic and highly repetitive nature, fell foul of the emphasis that emergent Romantic aesthetics placed upon the category of “original genius”  — (Ann) Radcliffe was consistently singled out an exception, as the one writer who was deservedly exempt from the general condemnation of Gothic writing in Romantic-period culture. (Source: An introduction to Ann Radcliffe – The British Library)

Radcliffe should be better known than she is today, although there has been a revival of interest in her among 21st century scholars. One of the problems with Radcliffe is that we really don’t know much about her.

Radcliffe was born (née Ann Ward) in 1764, coincidentally the same year that Horace Walpole published The Castle of Otranto, which is considered to be the first Gothic novel. In 1787 she married William Radcliffe, an Oxford graduate and part-owner of the journal the English Chronicle.

It is said that her husband often worked late into the night, and to relieve her loneliness and boredom, Radcliffe began writing novels. She would read what she had written to him, and apparently he liked what he heard and encouraged her in her writing.

She rarely appeared in public and had no significant friendships outside of her marriage. Beyond that, we know little about her personal life.

She published five novels during her lifetime. The first, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne, was published anonymously in 1789. Her third novel, The Romance of the Forest, published in 1791, was her first success.

A measure of that success was the advances she received from her publishers for her subsequent novels. Normally during that time novelists got about 10 pounds for their novels. In 1794 her London publishers bought the copyright for The Mysteries of Udolpho for 500 pounds. Three years later she was paid 800 pounds by a different set of publishers for her novel The Italian.

That kind of money made her the highest-paid writer of her day.

Not only was Radcliffe highly paid, she was also highly influential on a subsequent generation of authors. Sir Walter Scott praised her work (“She led the way in a peculiar style of composition, affecting powerfully the mind of the reader, which has since been attempted by many, but in which no one has attained or approached the excellencies of the original inventor. . .”), as did Edgar Allan Poe, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas.

Jane Austen paid so much attention to her that she wrote a parody of Radcliffe’s novel The Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey in 1817. 

The money Radcliffe made from her writing allowed her and her husband to travel extensively. In addition to her novels, she wrote poetry and travel articles for contemporary journals. In her later years, she retired completely from society and was rarely seen. She died in 1823.


Why writing is important to writers

Shane Parrish of the Farnam Street blog has written a short (two-minute read) essay on why writing is important. It is packed with insights about writing. It is also a powerful argument against the so-called “artificial intelligence” writing software we hear about so much these days.

He says:

Writing about something teaches you about what you know, what you don’t know, and how to think. Writing about something is one of the best ways to learn about it. Writing is not just a vehicle to share ideas with others but also a way to understand them better yourself. Why Write?

Read this, and you will be thinking about it for a while.


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


From the archives: Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” afflicted the rich and comfortable of baseball

When someone writes a book that thoroughly offends and discomfits people who are well off, in positions of influence, rich, and comfortable, it should merit our attention.

That was the case when Jim Bouton, briefly a star pitcher for the New York Yankees, wrote his tell-all memoir Ball Four that centered on stories from inside the locker room of the then most successful team in Major League Baseball.

When it was published in 1970, “Ball Four,” which reported on the selfishness, dopiness, childishness and meanspiritedness of young men often lionized for playing a boy’s game very well, was viewed by many readers, either approvingly or not, as a scandalous betrayal of the so-called sanctity of the clubhouse. Source: Jim Bouton, Author of Tell-All Baseball Memoir ‘Ball Four,’ Dies at 80 – The New York Times

Bouton was thoroughly excoriated by the likes of Bowie Kuhn, commissioner of Major League Baseball, and Dick Young, baseball columnist for the New York Daily News and dean of Baseball Writers at the time. Young wrote:

People like this, embittered people, sit down in their time of deepest rejection and write. They write, oh hell, everybody stinks, everybody but me, and it makes them feel much better.

Not everyone was offended.

Some astute reviewers recognized the ardor and the poignant tension in Bouton’s tale; in The New Yorker, for instance, Roger Angell described “Ball Four” as “a rare view of a highly complex public profession seen from the innermost inside, along with an even more rewarding inside view of an ironic and courageous mind. And, very likely, the funniest book of the year.”

Bouton took Dick Young’s criticism and turned it, somewhat, to his advantage. After the book was published, Bouton saw Young at spring training and decided to approach him in a gentlemanly fashion. They shook hands, and Young said, “Well, I’m glad you didn’t take it personally.” Bouton took that line and used it as the title of his next book, I’m Glad You Didn’t Take It Personally, which chronicled the reactions to Ball Four.

Ball Four has since risen to the level of a classic tale, named as one of the 100 best sports books of all time by Sports Illustrated in 2002 and the only sports book in the New York Public Library’s centennial exhibition in 1995.

Bouton died at the age of 80 this week. In addition to his authorship, Bouton lived an interesting and varied life that is chronicled in his New York Times obituary (Jim Bouton, Author of Tell-All Baseball Memoir ‘Ball Four,’ Dies at 80 – The New York Times).


Group giveaways for June

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

Dark Reads

Trilling Page Turners

June Mystery/Thriller Giveaway (begins June 12)

Summer Thriller Giveaway (through June 20)

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

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Ready to deliver

Best quote of the week:

When an individual is protesting society’s refusal to acknowledge his dignity as a human being, his very act of protest confers dignity on him. Bayard Rustin, civil rights activist (1912-1987)

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

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 (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: Nellie Bly, Women With Words, and the first Wild West adventure stories: newsletter, June 9, 2023



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