Courage and treachery during World War II

August 30, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism.

World War II continues as a touchstone of our thinking about such concepts as courage and treachery, even though the war ended 76 years ago. Two recently published books that I have encountered (but have not had a chance to read) demonstrate that. One is a tale of courage of heroic proportions. The second is • Read More »

Music, courage, treachery, and the spark for modern genealogy research: newsletter, August 27, 2021

August 29, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,290) on Friday, August 27, 2021. One of the great mysteries of our lives—one that in some sense I hope we do not “solve” is the effect that music has on our intellect, our emotions, and our general well-being. No one that I know of • Read More »

Alex Haley and the roots of modern genealogy (part 2)

August 27, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism.

During the mid 1970s and before, genealogy was a pretty hard slog, not to mention a lonely one. The few people who took an interest in researching their family’s history found that family stories didn’t square with the facts (they rarely do), family records often did not go beyond a few entries in the family • Read More »

Abraham Lincoln, mystery writer

August 24, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism, writers, writing.

One of the things we know about Abraham Lincoln is that he could tell a good story. He was famous for that. But could he write one? He tried that once, and what he wrote was interesting, if not completely compelling. Before he was elected president in 1860, Lincoln was a lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, • Read More »

Jeeves: P. G. Wodehouse’s enduring character

August 23, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers.

Jeeves, the omniscient valet of P. G. Wodehouse’s Bertie Wooster stories, began life in the author’s mind as a one-off character. He appeared in a 1915 story titled “Extricating Young Gussie” and was supposed to have only two lines: “Mrs. Gregson to see you, sir,” and  “Very good, sir. Which suit will you wear?”  Had • Read More »

Alex Haley’s pre-Roots success, the everlasting Jeeves, and Abe as mystery writer: newsletter, August 20, 2021

August 22, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, fiction, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,293) on Friday, August 20, 2021. A friend of mine who is, unfortunately, no longer with us used to express a personal theory concerning public personages. They were, he contended, cosmic clowns. Cosmic clowns, he would explain, are people that the Almighty placed on earth • Read More »

Lytton Strachey blazes a new trail in writing biography

August 16, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers, writing.

If you tried to read a biography during the late 19th or early 20th century, chances are it was pretty rough going and very possibly not very enlightening. Biographies during that time adhered to strict Victorian standards of propriety and subservience to the rich and famous. The good qualities and achievements of the subject were • Read More »

Hugh Edwards – two Gold Medals in one hour

August 15, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism.

Hugh Edwards loved two things in life: rowing and flying. One nearly got him killed, but the other probably saved his life. Edwards went to Oxford at the age of 19 in 1925 and discovered rowing. He was a big guy—  bigger than the average rower—and that earned him the nickname of Jumbo. As a • Read More »

A new approach to biography and writing and dying in public view: newsletter, August 13, 2021

August 15, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,294) on Friday, August 13, 2021. In the three or so days during and before this section has been written, the New York Times has published the following sentences:  – Mr. Trumka’s approach did not appear to be resolving an existential crisis for the U.S. • Read More »

Mercy Otis Warren, the anonymous writer who helped spark the Revolutionary War

August 9, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

When the heavy hand of the British crown grew more onerous on the American colonists in the 1760s and early 1770s, a satirical play appeared in the Massachusetts Spy lampooning Thomas Hutchinson, the crown-appointed governor of Massachusetts. The title of the play was The Adulateur,  and one of the main characters was Rapatio, who was • Read More »

The soldier poet, the woman who helped make the Revolutionary War, and ideas for writers: newsletter, August 6, 2021

August 8, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, newsletter, Women writers and journalists, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,313) on Friday, August 6, 2021. Writers are often asked where they get their ideas on what to write about. Fiction writers probably field this question more than non-fiction writers, but the question seems to be universally on the minds of readers. Many writers like • Read More »

Pierre-Augustin Beaumarchais: a leading French supporter of the American Revolution

August 7, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism.

The French name most associated with the American Revolution is Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, of course. Dozens of places around the U.S. bear that name, and rightly so. La Fayette crossed the ocean and joined the Continental Army, commanding troops in several battles. He was present at Yorktown when the British army • Read More »

Midnight Cowboy, all these years later

August 4, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism.

Where were you when you first saw Midnight Cowboy? What do you remember about the movie? I was spending a Saturday night in Charlottesville, Virginia, the last stop before going to Washington, D.C. It was late February 1971, and I was on two weeks’ leave in the Navy. I had just finished boot camp and • Read More »

The second generation of American leaders: Clay, Calhoun, and Webster

August 2, 2021 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, history, journalism, writers, writing.

Here is something odd and overlooked about the history of the American republic. The second generation of leaders―with one notable exception―is completely devoid of any close relatives, mainly sons, of the people we consider the Founding Fathers. None of the relatives of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, or almost any others that • Read More »