The Dreyfus affair, more Chesterton, and plenty of reader reaction: newsletter, July 21, 2023

July 21, 2023 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, fiction, journalism, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,845) on Friday, July 21, 2023.


A couple of Saturdays ago, I made the “supreme sacrifice.” Saturday is my day to meet some of my friends for breakfast, and we get there as soon as the restaurant opens at 7 a.m. But on this particular Saturday, I decided to forego breakfast.

The reason was that, where I live, the daylight begins shortly after 6 a.m. I had plenty of outdoor work—including weeding our long row of tomatoes in the garden—scheduled for that day. If I did my normal breakfast routine, I would not get started until well after 8 a.m., thus giving up two of the coolest hours of the day. Temps that day were predicted to be near 90 degrees, and it would probably be past 80 by noon.

I’m no moral paragon. I was just doing the practical thing. I am reading story after story about this being the hottest summer ever, and heat kills more people than any other of nature’s forces, including hurricanes and blizzards. My strategy worked. I got my chores done in the relative cool of the early morning.

As the old police sergeant on TV used to tell his officers at the end of their roll call meeting, “Be careful out there.”

Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.


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Alfred Dreyfus and the controversy that divided France

Sometime close to the moments when the 19th century turned into the 20th, a family in France sat down to dinner. It was a husband and a wife, and they were eating with her parents. The conversation ranged into the public issues of the day.

The dinner participants expressed various opinions, and those opinions began to diverge. The discussion became heated, and the whole affair ended with the man slapping his mother-in-law across the face.

Predictably, a divorce ensued.

What could have possibly caused such a division in a family?

The discussion that evening centered around Captain Alfred Dreyfus, an officer in the French army who had, several years before, been convicted of spying for the Germans.

Even though his initial court martial and conviction had occurred in secret, Dreyfus had become known to every man, woman, and child in France, and his case had drawn international attention.

Alfred Dreyfus was born in the Alsace region of France in 1859. His family was Jewish, which seemed to present him with few problems as he matured. He was a top student in the French military school, École Supérieure de Guerre, in Paris and joined the army in 1892.

Two years later, in October 1894, Dreyfus was accused of treason. He was court martialed for spying for the Germans, and he was convicted on evidence that was very flimsy. Many believed then, as they do now, that Dreyfus’s only “crime” was that he was Jewish.

Dreyfus was sentenced to “permanent deportation,” but before that happened he was made to go through a “degradation” ceremony in which he was stripped of his rank in the courtyard of the École Militaire in Paris. This was done in front of several companies of soldiers and was meant to publicly humiliate him. He was then shipped off to Devil’s Island off the coast of South America and had to live in a stone hut in solitary confinement.

Dreyfus’s family never abandoned him. His brother Mathieu lobbied incessantly on his behalf.

In 1896, more than a year after Dreyfus’s confinement, Lieutenant Colonel Georges Picquart became the new Director of the Statistics Section of the Ministry of War, and he began examining the evidence that had been presented against Dreyfus. Picquart became convinced that Dreyfus was innocent, and that the real spy was Major Charles Marie Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy.

By this time, the public had become aware of what had happened to Dreyfus. While his family continued a drumbeat of support outside the military establishment, Picquart took up his case within the military. The army, of course, was slow to move, but it finally brought Esterhazy up on charges of espionage in January 1898. His court martial acquitted him.

The day after his trial ended, novelist Émile Zola published a strident defense of Dreyfus, famously, titled “J’Accuse,” as an open letter to the president of France. Zola’s standing as an author in the first rank of French literature gave considerable weight to Dreyfus’s cause. It was clear that the army’s cover-up had not settled the case.

Eventually, Esterhazy admitted his perfidy to the army and immediately fled to England.

By this time, Dreyfus had been confined on Devil’s Island for more than three years. His health deteriorated, and all of the news that was causing such controversy in France had been kept from him. As far as he knew, he was without any hope of redemption. His fate at that point seemed unbelievably cruel.

It took another year of controversy and lobbying, but in June 1899, a court overturned his court martial and ordered that he be brought back to France for a new trial. That happened, and Dreyfus was given a new trial, but again—incredibly—he was convicted, this time with “extenuating circumstances.”

Dreyfus appealed his conviction, but then withdrew his appeal when he was offered a presidential pardon. Dreyfus accepted the pardon, and re-joined his family, but many of the public were not satisfied, since the pardon did not exonerate him completely.

In 1902 after three years with his family and his health restored, Dreyfus petitioned for a retrial to clear his name completely. That finally happened in 1906 when the Court of Appeals annulled his conviction and Parliament voted to reinstate him as a captain in the army. A week later, he was named a chevalier (knight) of the Legion of Honour in a ceremony at the École Militaire.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. In 1908, at a ceremony honoring Émile Zola who had died in 1902, Dreyfus was shot and wounded by a right-wing journalist. The journalist went on trial and was acquitted after using the incredible defense that he had not meant to kill Dreyfus but just to wound him.

Dreyfus recovered and continued to serve in the army. When World War I broke out, he led a combat unit that saw heavy and sustained fighting, particularly at Verdun. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel. His son also served as an army officer in the war.

Dreyfus died at the age of 75 in 1935.

Despite the general acceptance of his innocence, the Dreyfus affair has continued to cause controversy in France. In 1994, an army colonel was dismissed for publishing an article suggesting Dreyfus was guilty of treason.



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


G.K. Chesterton: The Incredulity of Father Brown: The Miracle of Moon Crescent

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 Miracle of Moon Crescent.”

The Miracle of Moon Crescent

Listen to this story here on

MOON CRESCENT was meant in a sense to be as romantic as its name; and the things that happened there were romantic enough in their way. At least it had been an expression of that genuine element of sentiment—historic and almost heroic—which manages to remain side by side with commercialism in the elder cities on the eastern coast of America. It was originally a curve of classical architecture really recalling that eighteenth-century atmosphere in which men like Washington and Jefferson had seemed to be all the more republicans for being aristocrats. Travellers faced with the recurrent query of what they thought of our city were understood to be specially answerable for what they thought of our Moon Crescent.

Continue reading “The Miracle of Moon Crescent”


Group giveaways for July

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

Mystery, Crime & Suspense July 2023

July Chills for the Beach (July 10-28)

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.

Women With Words promotional campaign extended

We have extended the special promotional campaign for Women With Words, begun last month, into July. 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 July, but is it really too early to start your Christmas shopping?)

Don’t wait to make your purchase. Prices will soon be back to normal.



Check out last week’s newsletter

Mary Ellen R.: Thank you so much for your special rate on your book Women with Words: Female Journalists and Writers, Heads and Tales, Volume 2! I bought it and look forward to reading it.

Eric S.: If diversifying a university’s student body is really important, school administrators must rein in their exorbitant tuition for students of all races, particularly those from lower economic backgrounds. The fact many universities make multi-millionaires of their football coaches reveals how morally bankrupt higher education has become.

Kate M.: Great blog! I enjoy these tremendously. As for your thoughts on admissions policies, I feel that decades of conscientious work on the parts of college admissions officials was cast aside in a very uncaring way. This court is altering American life in areas we will have to live in for decades. The lower courts too, have been packed with idealogues whose decisions will make life more difficult for Blacks, Latinos, Asians and, yes, certainly women of child-bearing age. Thanks for writing! 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: A cathedral moment

Best quote of the week:

The influence of each human being on others in this life is a kind of immortality. John Quincy Adams, 6th president of the U.S. (1767-1848)

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 NYC Shakespeare riot of 1849, Alan Furst, and a bit on college admissions procedures: newsletter, July 14, 2023



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