Napoleon’s height, the final volume of Vietnam Voices, and a plea to stop reading the news: newsletter, October 13, 2023

October 13, 2023 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, fiction, history, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,070) on Friday, October 13, 2023.

One of my favorite bloggers, Shane Parrish, has recently made the argument that people would be much better off if they simply stopped reading the news. Here’s part of his argument:

Like a drug, the news is addictive. Once you get hooked, it’s hard to stop. Not only does it alter your mood, but it keeps you wanting more. Once you start consuming news, it’s hard to stop. The hotels, transportation, and ticketing systems in Disney World are all designed to keep you within the theme park rather than sightseeing elsewhere in Orlando. Similarly, once you’re on Facebook,

You can read the entire argument here on his Farnham Street blog.

Sometimes, I feel exactly like he does and believe that I would be better off with less news. I am convinced of that when I see journalists spending their time and talent on trivialities.

But Parrish’s overall argument, made with his customary verve and elan, falls short of the second and third level thinking that he espouses. He make some over-the-top statements that simply do not hold up to close scrutiny. Still, I have enough respect for his work to recommend it for your consideration, and I would be interested to know your reaction to it.

Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.


Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 3,116 subscribers and had a 34.9 percent open rate; 11 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.


Vietnam Voices, the fourth and final volume

Vietnam Voices is a project that began more than four years ago when I was beginning my term as writer-in-residence at the Blount County Public Library. My colleague and good friend Ed Caudill and I started with the idea of doing audio interviews with as many people as we could find who had served in Vietnam. We quickly included Billy Minser in our discussions. Billy is a Vietnam veteran and knew many others who had had the same experience.

The original idea was to create an audio archive for the library.

As we began listening to the stories that we were recording, it occurred to me that we could make the interviews more accessible if they were in book form. So, we began transcribing and editing them, and a few months after we began, we published our first volume of Vietnam Voices.

Last week, I am happy to say, we published our fourth and final volume of Vietnam Voices. During those four years, we conducted more than 50 interviews with veterans living in East Tennessee. The project is now complete. The books are available on Amazon, and the audio interviews are available online through the library’s website and can be heard by anyone with Internet access.

My personal gratitude goes out to Ed, Billy, and all of the veterans who took the time to tell us their stories. I am also grateful to Sarah Webb, who proofread all of our volumes with care, precision and intelligence, and to Sheri McCarter, the library’s current writer-in-residence who helped usher this last volume into existence.

I come to the end of this project with a deep sense of relief and satisfaction.

During the next weeks in this newsletter, I will be reviewing some of the aspects of this project.

Here is the Amazon description of the fourth volume of Vietnam Voices:

In this fourth and final volume in the Vietnam Voices series, the editors have taken a somewhat different tact in presenting the experiences of those who served in Vietnam. While the first three volumes contained transcripts of the interviews conducted with veterans who had served in-country, this volume presents a variety of different material about Vietnam and those who serve there.

One of our editors, William Minser, is a combat veteran of Vietnam, and he has written a memoir of his life before, during, and after Vietnam. The memoir is an extensive and personal view of his experiences, and readers will find themselves caught up in all of the things that happened to him: his life as a young boy in East Tennessee, his college experience, his time on the frontline in Vietnam, and the joy and freedom he experienced once that part of his life had been left behind.

This volume also presents the transcripts of the interviews that we have continue to conduct with Vietnam veterans in Blount County and East Tennessee.

Finally, and most importantly, we have included the information about those who died in Vietnam and were associated with Blount County, either having been born there, or having lived there at some point in their lives.

This volume, like the previous three volumes of Vietnam Voices, is meant to honor those who experienced that long-ago war, and whose stories very often have never been asked about or told. Our goal has been to put that part of Vietnam on the record so the generations to come may understand what that service was all about and some of the sacrifices of the people who were there.

Johann Arndt: Rules for a Holy Life

Study to overcome and to pacify thine enemies, by bestowing upon them tokens of love and kindness. No man will ever be reconciled by wrath, or revenge, or returning evil for evil, for victory consists in virtue, not in vice. And as one devil does not drive out another, so it cannot be expected that one evil should be subdued by another; or that enmity against thee should be extinguished by affronts and provocations offered by thee. A man that is full of sores and bruises, is not likely to be healed by the addition of more blows; and if he be so mad as to beat and to cut himself, he is to be pitied, and to be treated with the greater kindness and lenity. In like manner, if a man be full of spiritual distemper, and of hatred, he is to be handled with the more love and gentleness; if, perhaps, by such lenient means as these, he may be softened into a better temper. 

Read more in Plough magazine.


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


How tall was Napoleon Bonaparte?

We think of Napoleon as being shorter than average (the implication of a “Napoleon complex”), but was he really? Multiple records show that Napoleon stood about five-feet six inches tall. That was the average height of a Frenchman in the late 18th century.

Napoleon was neither shorter nor taller than most of his contemporaries.

So why do we think of him as short?

Mainly because that’s the way the English pictured him. In other words, propaganda. The message was, “Make you enemy look small.” After all, didn’t Napoleon refer to the English as “a nation of shopkeepers.”

One of the most famous and effective pieces of English propaganda was James Gillray’s famous cartoon “The Plumb-pudding in danger.” The 1805 cartoon caricatured British Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger and Napoleon at a table dividing up the world, which is represented by a large plum pudding. Pitt is slender and confident, while Napoleon is startled and seated, thus looking a good bit shorter.

Gillray is one of the first modern political cartoonists and probably produced more than 1,000 of these caricatures during his lifetime. King George III and Napoleon were two of his favorite targets, and he is largely responsible for the idea we have today of Napoleon being short.



Group giveaways for October

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

October Crime Thriller Giveaway

Crack the Case: Exclusive Giveaway of Top Crime Fiction and Thrillers

Dark and Chilling Thrillers (Oct. 1- Oct. 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.

Repeated from last week: Vince Vawter: Manboy

One of the great privileges that has come to me over the last few weeks is that of helping my good friend Vince Vawter publish the third volume of his Paperboy trilogy, this one titled Manboy.

The books in the series are Paperboy, Copyboy, and now Manboy.

The books are autobiographical historical fiction that trace the growth of Vic Vollmer from a paperboy with a worrisome stutter to a budding journalist caught up in one of the biggest news stories of the 20th century and at the same time dealing with a complicated relationship with Philomene, a young lady from Louisiana who visits him with burdens of her own.

Vince’s Paperboy won numerous awards, including a Newberry when it was published in 2014. Copyboy collected its own set of honors when it came out in 2018.

Manboy is just as likely to win over readers and critics.

Vince is a veteran of 40 years in the newspaper business, serving as a reporter, editor, and publisher in places like Memphis, Knoxville, and Evansville (Indiana). He is an exceptionally good writer whose fiction is full of characters you will care about deeply.

During this first month of publication, Manboy is offered at an introductory price, but that is likely to change in November. Buy your copy today, and urge your local library and bookstore to stock these wonderful books.



Check out last week’s newsletter

Marcia D.: This banned books is ridiculous, started by right-wing conservatives. They’re out to try governing, but they have proved that they can’t! Banning books reeks of Hitler and Fascism!

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Girl with a flute

Best quote of the week:

Learning is acquired by reading books; but the much more necessary learning, the knowledge of the world, is only to be acquired by reading man, and studying all the various editions of them. Lord Chesterfield, statesman and writer (1694-1773)

Grace for All: A daily devotional podcast

One of the great privileges I have had over the last few months is working with a dedicated group of folks to produce a daily devotional podcast series for 1st United Methodist Church in Maryville, Tennessee.

Our first season (15 episodes, plus maybe a bonus one or two) is up and running now and can be heard at or wherever you get your podcasts (Apple, Spotify, Google, etc.). The episodes are about five minutes and are meant to enlighten and inspire.

The episodes are also on YouTube, if that is your preferred way of receiving these things.

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: Banned Book Week, Nancy Drew, the ‘Boy’ trilogy, and the modern inverted mystery: newsletter, October 6, 2023



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