Helen Kirkpatrick, ethical behavior, the fountain pen, and more Father Brown: newsletter, June 30, 2023

June 30, 2023 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, fiction, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,845) on Friday, June 30, 2023.

And here I was thinking that some things would be pretty obvious to any reasonably intelligent person:

One of the big news stories of the spring was that two Supreme Court justices had accepted money from an individual for private travel for themselves and their wives. Why would they do that? Associate justices of the Supreme Court are paid more than $250,000 a year. That seems to me to be enough money to pay for any trips a reasonable person would want to take.

Is it not obvious what a conflict of interest this is? Is a free trip to wherever worth the damage to the appearance of ethical behavior? Have we forgotten the concept of “Caesar’s wife”? The justices in question are still on the Supreme Court, still hearing cases, and still pretending that they are above reproach.

And I am still shaking my head.

Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.


Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,987 subscribers and had a 36.0 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.


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 Helen Kirkpatrick.

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

Helen Kirkpatrick: Assignment No. 1: Get the impossible interview

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 VIII.

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 stayed, and she prevailed upon them to get her access to the royal prince.

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 enterprising reporting.

When 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 department store. 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 in 1937 she moved to the United Kingdom 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.

When she applied to become a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, the editor told her 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 because of 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.  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, which was the blueprint for rebuilding Europe.

Returning to the United States in the early 1950s, she worked for a time with the 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 in France during World War II. She distinguished herself time and again with boldness, tenacity, and dedication to journalism.


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


From the archives: The fountain pen: the first portable pen

(Originally posted in 2019)

For the first time in many months, I decided last week to make a fountain pen—not a ballpoint, which is what I usually do—on my lathe. During much of my working life, I used a fountain pen because I liked the feel of it and because I felt the writing was more legible.

But what I liked most about a fountain pen is the look.

A well-designed fountain pen is a small piece of art that you can carry around in your pocket.

I found some spalted maple when I picked up a small limb that had fallen from a tree in our yard. You never know how wood like that is going to hold up on the lathe since turning a piece of wood on the lathe puts a lot of pressure on it.

Fortunately, the whole project turned out well, as the accompanying pictures will attest.

Then, a few days later, I found an article by John Kelly, a local columnist for the Washington Post, who visited a small shop on F Street in D.C. that deals almost exclusively in fountain pens.

I went to Fahrney’s Pens on F Street NW last week expecting to find cobwebs and tumbleweeds. I mean, come on. Fountain pens? They’d be better off selling buggy whips and whale oil, right? Wrong.

The place was packed. It was one of Fahrney’s biannual pen fairs, and sales reps from two dozen of the world’s leading writing implement companies were displaying their wares to crowds of eager pen lovers.

Spread out on the counters before them were pens in a rainbow of colors, each a tiny magic wand looking for its perfect owner. Source: Believe it or not the fountain pen is back. – The Washington Post

Kelly quotes one of the store’s employees, who was showing off one of the first modern fountain pens, a 1901 Crescent Filler, as saying the fountain was the first portable writing instrument. With a fountain pen, you no longer had to carry a bottle of ink around with you.

“It was the first pen that could go with you,” (Ross) Cameron said. “It was basically the iPhone of its day.”

Interesting point.


G.K. Chesterton: The Incredulity of Father Brown: The Doom of the Darnaways

G.K. Chesterton’s retiring, priestly detective, Father Brown, is well-known to modern readers and viewers mainly through a series of television adaptations of his character. Chesterton, who died in 1936, was one of the chief public intellectuals of his day, and his output as an author is astounding: 4,000 essays, 80 books, several hundred poems, and numerous plays. (See the JPROF post: G.K. Chesterton: Everything about him was big, including his ‘colossal genius’.)

Many of his Father Brown stories first appeared in magazines and then were gathered into several volumes of collections. During these weeks of the long summer months, we are presenting you with easy access to the Father Brown stories in one of the collections, The Incredulity of Father Brown.

These stories take about an hour to read or listen to.

This week’s story is “The Doom of the Darnaways.”

The Doom of the Darnaways

Listen to this story here on LibriVox.org

Two landscape-painters stood looking at one landscape, which was also a seascape, and both were curiously impressed by it, though their impressions were not exactly the same. To one of them, who was a rising artist from London, it was new as well as strange. To the other, who was a local artist but with something more than a local celebrity, it was better known; but perhaps all the more strange for what he knew of it.

Continue reading “The Doom of the Darnaways


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)

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

Chelle B.: Thanks for this.  I’m Iowa born and bred, and a true crime junkie, and didn’t know about Susan (Glaspell)!

Deborah M.: Just wanted to drop you a note to tell you that I find your newsletter to be very entertaining. I love the little bits of knowledge that are salted throughout. 

Vince V.: In addition to the health aspects, I can think of three more good reasons why one should seek out distant parking spaces:

1. Your vehicle will suffer fewer parking lot dings.
2. You’ll know where you parked when you’re through with your shopping.
3. It will slow you down in this sped-up world.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor (from the archives): USS Yorktown

Best quote of the week:

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia, author, speaker and professor (1924-1998)

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: Susan Glaspell, The Resurrection of Father Brown, and the value of exercise: newsletter, June 23, 2023



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