Tag Archives: Baseball Joe

The unfair fate of Bulwer-Lytton; Margaret Drabble and Benjamin Disraeli; the week of the Brits: newsletter, January 25, 2019

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,918) on Friday, January 25, 2019.

 

The newsletter this week has a decidedly British flavor to it. That was not deliberate, but I’m pretty pleased with the way that things have turned out. How can you go wrong with Margaret Drabble, J.K. Rowling, Benjamin Disraeli, and the man many people believe was the worst writer in Christendom — but who really wasn’t.

Again, a couple of items of shameless self-promotion are repeated from previous newsletters and appear below the signature. They’re about Baseball Joe, where we have a new title listed, and Seeing Suffrage. Thanks for checking them out.

I hope you’ve had a great week and are looking forward to a wonderful weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,927 subscribers and had a 27.5 percent open rate; 8 people 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.


Amnesty for 19th century British author Edward Bulwer-Lytton

After being consigned by several generations to literary purgatory, Edward Bulwer-Lytton deserves to be free — if not for his sake then for our own. He is a far more interesting man than simply being the author of the most famous first line in all of English literature:

It was a dark and stormy night.

Ok, not very good, I’ll admit, but I have read much, much worse (and so have you). It certainly doesn’t deserve the scorn that has been heaped upon it and its author for lo these many years.

Bulwer-Lytton was by no means a great writer. He is today classified as a minor 19th-century English author. So be it. But he was a pretty good phrase-maker. For instance, the following are his:

The pen is mightier than the sword.
. . . the pursuit of the almighty dollar.
. . . the great unwashed (although some keen-eyed literary detectives have found this phrase in use before Bulwer-Lytton came up with it)
. . . dweller on the threshold.

So, give the man some credit. He was a serious writer doing the best he could, and his works were quite popular in his day.

Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) began his literary career with a book of poems in 1820, but the publication of his novel Pelham in 1828 brought him fame and money. Pelham was a humorous novel of pre-Victorian high society that had readers talking and guessing who the characters in the book were based on. Bulwer-Lytton was also involved in the politics of his day, rose to be Secretary of State for the Colonies, and had much to do with the founding of the province of British Columbia in Canada. At one point in his life, he left politics for a time because his literary career took precedence.

Bulwer-Lytton married Rosina Wheeler in 1827, but the marriage was anything but ideal. His devotion to politics, a literary career, and other women embittered Rosina, and they separated in 1833. The acrimony of that separation led Rosina to write a novel that satirized her husband mercilessly, and the disputes between them were carried on for many years. Twenty-fives after the separation, she denounced him publicly when he ran for Parliament. He had her committed to a mental asylum but after a public outcry had her released.

The writer himself suffered from many ills, both physical and mental, but through it all he kept writing. His 1830 novel Paul Clifford is the one we remember, however. Here’s the full opening paragraph:

It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.

As I said, not great. But the man deserves better.

It should be noted that Edgar Allan Poe also used the phrase “dark and stormy night,” but he never began anything with it.

***

Illustration: A caricature of Bulwer-Lytton for Vanity Fair by APE (Carlo Pellegrini). See below.

***

To prove, to some extent, that Bulwer-Lytton was not as bad a writer as some think, below the signature of this email is the first chapter of his popular novel, Pelham. It’s very short, so read and enjoy.

Margaret Drabble on the books she’s read, and the ones she hasn’t

British novelist and non-fiction writer Margaret Drabble, aka Dame Margaret Drabble, aka Lady Holroyd, loves Lee Child and his Reacher novels, has never read any of the Harry Potter books, and takes a lot of comfort in Anthony Trollope.

Those are just a few of the gems in this short and delightful interview in the Guardian, in which she says:

The book I wish I’d written:
Anything by Lee Child. What page turners, what prose, what landscapes, what motorways and motels, what mythic dimensions! He does all the things I could never do, and I read, awestruck, waiting impatiently for the next. Source: Margaret Drabble: ‘Lee Child does all the things I could never do. I’m awestruck’ | Books | The Guardian

Drabble says she doesn’t laugh a lot, but Muriel Spark’s Symposium made her laugh.

Drabble was once an actress in the Royal Shakespeare Company but gave that up for literary pursuits. Much of her early education took place in America, but she became sharply anti-American when George W. Bush invaded Iraq in 2003. Her work includes more than 20 novels and several biographies and non-fiction works on British literature.


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


Benjamin Disraeli, another dream-come-true for the caricaturist – especially APE

Some years ago, the BBC produced a 90-minute documentary on the parallel lives and careers of Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone titled Gladstone and Disraeli: Clash of the Titans. (You can watch it on YouTube, irritatingly divided into six 15-minute segments with the first here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_4CHsWMV3Es)

When it comes to 19th-century British politics, the title is apt.

The two men dominated London’s political scene for more than 40 years, and they were bitter rivals. It’s fair to say that they hated each other, so much so that when Disraeli died, Gladstone would not attend his memorial service.

It occurred to me as I was watching it that while the two men had distinct physical appearances, Disraeli’s was by far the more unusual and interesting. Just as Disraeli and Gladstone were making politics into something modern, so too were caricaturists evolving the modern forms that we see today. And Disraeli, inadvertently, was a big part of that evolution.

Disraeli’s face had sharp, easily distinguishable features. His hair fell from the sides of his head in ringlets. He often had a droll, sleepy-eyed countenance. While others of his age sported beards or sideburns, Disraeli usually had only a whisp of whiskers on his upper and lower lips.

One artist in particular, Carlo Pelligrini, made a name for himself by drawing Disraeli for Vanity Fair, the British society publication. Pelligrini drew a caricature of Disraeli that appeared on an 1869 cover of the magazine as the first full-color lithograph the magazine presented. It was immensely popular, and that issue of the magazine sold out immediately.

Pelligrini contributed caricatures to Vanity Fair for 20 years and became one of its most important and popular artists.

Pelligrini was an odd character himself, openly homosexual when that was a dangerous admission according to British law. He signed his work APE, and that is how he is known. He was full of eccentricities, such as sleeping with a cigar in his mouth. He tried to establish himself as a portrait painter on the order of John Singer Sargent, whom he knew fairly well, but he was never as successful as he wished to be.

He died in 1889, two months short of his 50th birthday. Today, original prints of his work are highly valued by collectors. The National Portrait Gallery has an extensive online collection of his work, which is a lot of fun to look at.

Do you have a book to recommend?

For the past couple of weeks, I have been immersed in the C.B Strike detective series by Robert Galbraith, and I have thoroughly enjoyed them. There are four books in the series: The Cuckoo’s CallingThe SilkwormCareer of Evil, and Lethal White. Cormoron Strike is the grizzled detective who lost part of a leg in Afghanistan and now haunts the mean streets of London for clients willing to pay. Robin Ellacott shows up in his office as a temporary secretary but soon discovers that she has a gift — and a desire — for finding out information, and Strike eventually takes her on as a junior partner.

Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, who uses this pen name to make sure the novels are not classified as young adult books. As you might expect, her writing is straightforward and the storylines are easy to follow. I recommend them.

And that led me to thinking: what have you been reading lately that you would recommend? I haven’t asked that for a long while and would like to hear from any and all who have books to commend. Fiction, nonfiction — it doesn’t matter. Just let me hear from you. Many thanks.

Reactions

T.C.: I’ve been receiving your newsletter for perhaps a year now, and truly enjoy it. I often save it in a file to read later. However, when I read your “30.9 percent open rate”, I felt guilty – you see, I often read the whole newsletter in the preview pane! A habit of mine that I didn’t realize would have consequences on your end (and others). So – is there a way for you to discern or estimate a higher number of readers who are actually using the preview pane to read your emails? Just thought you’d like to know!

Vince V.: Your point about paying for journalism is well made. For the first time in my life, I subscribe to no printed newspapers or news magazines. However, I do subscribe and read 5 online news publications. Print products are gutting their offerings and increasing their prices exponentially. Vulture capitalists are buying once-respected news outlets, milking their good names dry and then casting them aside. I hope responsible journalism in the digital age soon finds its footing. It can’t come soon enough for me.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Baseball Joe

This watercolor is being used for the covers of the new editions of the Baseball Joe series that First Inning Press has recently published on Amazon and elsewhere. See more below.

Best quote of the week:

“I consider myself kind of a reporter — one who uses words that are more like music and that have a choreography. I never think of myself as a poet; I just get up and write.” Mary Oliver (1935-2019), poet. The winner of the Pulitzer and National Book Award.

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — 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


Jim Stovall 

www.jprof.com

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: Beginning the modern idea of the American West, the real target of Prohibition, and forensic science reform: newsletter, January 18, 2019

 


New edition of the Baseball Joe series (repeated from last week)

The newsletter last week carried an item about the incomparable Edward Stratemeyer whose publishing syndicate produced for us young 20th-century readers series of books like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. One of those series was titled Baseball Joe, and Stratemeyer published 14 volumes between 1912 and 1928. The “author” of the series was Lester Chadwick, but they were actually written by Howard Garis and John Duffield.

I promised a big announcement about Baseball Joe last week, so here it is: First Inning Press is publishing new editions of some of the volumes of the Baseball Joe series. So far, we have four Kindle (ebook) editions out and about on Amazon:

Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars or The Rivals of Riverside

Baseball Joe on the School Nine or Pitching for the Blue Banner

Baseball Joe at Yale or Pitching for the College Championship

Baseball Joe in the World Series or Pitching for the Championship

Baseball Joe Home Run King or The Greatest Pitcher and Batter on Record

The Baseball Joe series follows Joe Matson as he starts on the local sandlot and ascends to the top of the baseball world. These new editions contain more illustrations than were found in the originals. The new illustrations are by me.

The first of the volume listed above (Silver Stars) is currently $ .99 on Amazon. The others are $2.99. We will be bringing out paperback editions before long and will also be publishing other volumes in the series.

Seeing Suffrage (repeated from last week)

Several years ago I wrote a book about the 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade that was held on March 3, 1913, in Washington, D.C. It was the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated. Not only did this event turn out to be a pivotal one in the history of the suffrage debate, but it also was one that was well-covered by the newspapers of the day — particularly photographers. In my research, I had discovered a trove of photographs in the Library of Congress and in the library of the Sewell-Belmont House, the historic headquarters of the National Woman’s Party. Many of these photographs had never been published before and were included in the book.

The book, Seeing Suffrage: The 1913 Washington Suffrage Parade, Its Pictures, and Its Effect on the American Political Landscape, was published by the University of Tennessee Press. The press published it only in a hardback edition, however, and has never brought it out as an ebook. Since I hold the copyright, I decided that it was time for that to change. That project was completed just two days before Christmas and is now available on Amazon (free if you are a Kindle Unlimited member). If you have a chance to look at it, I’d like to know what you think.

Pelham, chapter 1

Ou peut-on etre mieux qu’au sein de sa famille?—French Song. [Where can one be better than in the bosom of one’s family?]

I am an only child. My father was the younger son of one of our oldest earls; my mother the dowerless daughter of a Scotch peer. Mr. Pelham was a moderate whig, and gave sumptuous dinners; Lady Frances was a woman of taste, and particularly fond of diamonds and old china.

Vulgar people know nothing of the necessaries required in good society, and the credit they give is as short as their pedigree. Six years after my birth, there was an execution in our house. My mother was just setting off on a visit to the Duchess of D_____; she declared it was impossible to go without her diamonds. The chief of the bailiffs declared it was impossible to trust them out of his sight. The matter was compromised—the bailiff went with my mother to C___, and was introduced as my tutor. “A man of singular merit,” whispered my mother, “but so shy!” Fortunately, the bailiff was abashed, and by losing his impudence he kept the secret. At the end of the week, the diamonds went to the jeweller’s, and Lady Frances wore paste.

I think it was about a month afterwards that a sixteenth cousin left my mother twenty thousand pounds. “It will just pay off our most importunate creditors, and equip me for Melton,” said Mr. Pelham.

“It will just redeem my diamonds, and refurnish the house,” said Lady Frances.

The latter alternative was chosen. My father went down to run his last horse at Newmarket, and my mother received nine hundred people in a Turkish tent. Both were equally fortunate, the Greek and the Turk; my father’s horse lost, in consequence of which he pocketed five thousand pounds; and my mother looked so charming as a Sultana, that Seymour Conway fell desperately in love with her.

Mr. Conway had just caused two divorces; and of course, all the women in London were dying for him—judge then of the pride which Lady Frances felt at his addresses. The end of the season was unusually dull, and my mother, after having looked over her list of engagements, and ascertained that she had none remaining worth staying for, agreed to elope with her new lover.

The carriage was at the end of the square. My mother, for the first time in her life, got up at six o’clock. Her foot was on the step, and her hand next to Mr. Conway’s heart, when she remembered that her favourite china monster and her French dog were left behind. She insisted on returning—re-entered the house, and was coming down stairs with one under each arm, when she was met by my father and two servants. My father’s valet had discovered the flight (I forget how), and awakened his master.

When my father was convinced of his loss, he called for his dressing-gown—searched the garret and the kitchen—looked in the maid’s drawers and the cellaret—and finally declared he was distracted. I have heard that the servants were quite melted by his grief, and I do not doubt it in the least, for he was always celebrated for his skill in private theatricals. He was just retiring to vent his grief in his dressing-room, when he met my mother. It must altogether have been an awkward rencontre, and, indeed, for my father, a remarkably unfortunate occurrence; for Seymour Conway was immensely rich, and the damages would, no doubt, have been proportionably high. Had they met each other alone, the affair might easily have been settled, and Lady Frances gone off in tranquillity;—those d—d servants are always in the way!

I have, however, often thought that it was better for me that the affair ended thus,—as I know, from many instances, that it is frequently exceedingly inconvenient to have one’s mother divorced.

I have observed that the distinguishing trait of people accustomed to good society, is a calm, imperturbable quiet, which pervades all their actions and habits, from the greatest to the least: they eat in quiet, move in quiet, live in quiet, and lose their wife, or even their money, in quiet; while low persons cannot take up either a spoon or an affront without making such an amazing noise about it. To render this observation good, and to return to the intended elopement, nothing farther was said upon that event. My father introduced Conway to Brookes’s, and invited him to dinner twice a week for a whole twelvemonth.

Not long after this occurrence, by the death of my grandfather, my uncle succeeded to the title and estates of the family. He was, as people justly observed, rather an odd man: built schools for peasants, forgave poachers, and diminished his farmers’ rents; indeed, on account of these and similar eccentricities, he was thought a fool by some, and a madman by others. However, he was not quite destitute of natural feeling; for he paid my father’s debts, and established us in the secure enjoyment of our former splendour. But this piece of generosity, or justice, was done in the most unhandsome manner; he obtained a promise from my father to retire from Brookes’s, and relinquish the turf; and he prevailed upon my mother to take an aversion to diamonds, and an indifference to china monsters.

Beginning the modern idea of the American West, the real target of Prohibition, and forensic science reform: newsletter, January 18, 2019

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,927) on Friday, January 11, 2019.

 

 

You may have heard this story already. When the newspaper in Portland, Maine, announced it would no longer pay freelancers to book write reviews, the most famous author among their readership — Stephen King, no less — went onto Twitter complaining about the decision. The newspaper publisher promptly issued this challenge to King: come up with 100 new subscribers, and we’ll rescind the decision. King has a following in the hundreds of thousands, and when he urged people to subscribe, the newspaper picked up 200 subscribers. Happy ending all around. (You can read the New York Times article here.)

The real point here, however, is that you should be supporting the journalism — the news websites — that you read and use. Journalism is not free. It’s difficult, and it’s expensive, and you should be doing your part to support it. You won’t agree with everything your news organization produces. That’s not the point. The point is journalism, and it needs your help. When you read it regularly, you should be subscribing. It’s the honorable thing to do.

A couple of items of shameless self-promotion are repeated from last week’s newsletter and appear below the signature. They’re about Baseball Joe and Seeing Suffrage. Thanks for checking them out.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,941 subscribers and had a 30.9 percent open rate; 10 people 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.


Capt. Mayne Reid and the beginnings of the modern idea of the American West

“Go West!” has been the clarion call for Americans since the days of the early Republic.

West across the Alleghenies, west across the Mississippi River, west across Texas and the Great Plains — whatever is west of where we are has represented openness, wonder, opportunity, and adventure. In more modern times, writers like Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour took advantage of these ideas to build an image of the American West that was akin to life itself.

But before there was Louis L’Amour or Zane Grey, there was Thomas Mayne Reid — more popularly known as Capt. Reid.

Reid (1818-1883) was an Irish immigrant who first settled in Pittsburgh and later in Philadelphia, and graced the newspapers of both cities with his stories, reviews, essays, and poems. In Philadelphia, he was a drinking companion of Edgar Allan Poe. When the war with Mexico broke out in 1846, Reid joined a New York infantry unit and found himself at the battle of Chapultepec, where he fought courageously and was badly wounded. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. (There is no evidence he was ever a captain, the rank he adopted as the author of his later adventure books.)

In 1849, Reid sailed back to Europe intending the participate in the Bavarian revolution, but he changed his mind and instead returned to Ireland. Then he moved to London and in 1850 published his first novel, The Rifle Rangers, which was soon followed by another, The Scalp Hunters. In these novels and many that followed, he vividly described the landscape that he had viewed while traveling through Texas and Mexico and constructed exciting and adventuresome stories of the people there.

His books were highly popular with boys with the ear — one of whom was Theodore Roosevelt, a sickly, asthmatic child, who in his autobiography credits Reid with sparking his desire to be part of the adventures of the American West. Another of Reid’s young readers was Arthur Conan Doyle

Reid’s adventure novels were much in the genre of Robert Louis Stevenson. Indeed, Reid did not confine himself to the American West but also wrote books set in South Africa, Jamaica, and the Himalayas.

Reid’s works were popular into the 1860s, but that popularity faded. He returned to America in 1867 and tried to restart his career as a writer, but he could never capture the magic of his early work. He returned to England and lived the last decade of his life wracked with melancholia and poverty. He died in London in 1883.

CrimeReport: Forensic science reform at a ‘crossroads’ 

A forensic science expert testified that a bite mark on a victim matched the bite of the man accused of the crime. The accused was convicted and given a 60-year sentence.

That was 18 years ago. Now the expert has recanted his testimony, and the accused man has been released from prison.

That’s only one example of the failings of forensics in the last generation. Many legal experts are taking a hard look at forensic evidence — how it is acquired and how it is used.

In this article in CrimeReports, writer Megan Hadley cites the work of UCLA law professor Jennifer Mnookin in our changing view of forensic evidence:

Mnookin suggested the case (of the bite mark evidence) indicated a potential sea change for the use of bite mark evidence,  and noted there is a growing consensus among judges that the forensic science community should scale back exaggerated and overconfident assertions of knowledge and authority by forensic scientists.Source: Forensic Science Reform at ‘Crossroads’ | The Crime Report

We fell in love with forensics when the CSI craze became so popular on television nearly two decades ago. As depicted by the many televisions shows that followed, forensic science offered us objective certainty in determining the guilt or innocence of people accused of crimes.

It was good television. It wasn’t particularly good law.

In reality, not on television, forensic evidence currently offers us little more than an educated guess, if that. It’s a good thing that we are finally recognizing that truth.

 


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


 

Nazis burned books, certainly, but they stole even more

The images are indelible: large bonfires fueled by books with Nazi soldiers and citizens tossing them into the flames.

Flames, of course, do not destroy information or ideas, and the Nazis understood this as well as anyone. That’s why the Nazis stole far more books than they burned.

Libraries of Jewish families who fell under the Nazi terror were major targets of this massive theft, but they were not the only ones. Nazis looted the libraries of dissenters and occupied countries. Many Nazis understood the value of books. Many, such as Heinrich Himmler, were book collectors.

Getting those books back to their rightful owners or to places that deserve them has been a multi-generational task that is continuing today. This recently published New York Times article by Milton Esterow outlines some of those efforts:

Given the scope of the looting, the task ahead remains mountainous. In Berlin, for example, at the Central and Regional Library, almost a third of the 3.5 million books are suspected to have been looted by the Nazis, according to Sebastian Finsterwalder, a provenance researcher there.

“Most major German libraries have books stolen by the Nazis,” he said. But researchers say there are signs they may be on the brink of making measurable progress in restitutions.

In the last 10 years, for example, libraries in Germany and Austria have returned about 30,000 books to 600 owners, heirs and institutions, according to researchers. In one instance in 2015, almost 700 books stolen from the library of Leopold Singer, an expert in the field of petroleum engineering, were returned to his heirs by the library of the Vienna University of Economics and Business. Source: The Hunt for the Nazi Loot Still Sitting on Library Shelves – The New York Times

Much has been made in recent years about the efforts to restore artwork stolen by the Nazis. More attention should be paid to the work in restoring stolen books to their rightful places. This article is a good start.

 

The real target of Prohibition: the brewers, not the drinkers

We’ve begun the 100th anniversary year of the beginning of the era of Prohibition in the United States — an era that gave rise, ironically, to an unprecedented rise in crime and in the consumption of alcohol. It’s an era that is almost universally characterized as a “mistake,” if not worse.

And who is to blame for the fiasco that was Prohibition?

According to political scientist Mark Lawrence Schad, writing in Politico Magazine, the blame is often laid at the feet of women — particularly those of the Carrie Nation ilk who were hellbent on curtailing liberties. (Thanks to newsletter reader and good friend John N. for pointing me to this article.)

Contrary to popular description, prohibitionists weren’t hellbent on taking away the individual’s “right to drink.” From its very inception, the temperance movement targeted not the drink, or the drinker, but the drink seller. Just as abolitionists objected to the slave trader who profited from subjugating others, prohibitionists aimed at a predatory liquor traffic of wealthy capitalists and saloonkeepers who—together with a state that, before the income tax, relied disproportionately on liquor revenues—got rich from the drunken misery of the poor. The 18th Amendment doesn’t even outlaw alcohol or drinking. It prohibits the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” This wasn’t some oversight; the target was the traffic, not the booze. Source: Why Do We Blame Women For Prohibition? – POLITICO Magazine

Professor Schad makes a good point. The prohibitionist movement reaches far back into American history — to the 1830s, in fact — and was begun by men, and men, rather than vote-less women, were its driving force.

But figures such as Carrie Nation and her ax-welding expeditions took over the public perception of the movement, and they have maintained a tight grip on our historical memories.

Schad’s article seeks to remedy that:

Ultimately, we need to stop vilifying prohibitionists as “antidemocratic” simply because our understanding of liberty has changed. In fact, prohibitionists championed the right of self-determination, and the right of the community to defend itself against extortionate businesses and government corruption. Prohibitionists encouraged grassroots power—especially for communities, counties and states to vote themselves dry at the ballot box. 

This is an excellent article that takes just a few minutes to read: Why Do We Blame Women For Prohibition? – POLITICO Magazine

Reactions

Dan C.: Since you have been doing some Writing Tips, I thought you might like this: https://www.writingclasses.com/toolbox/tips-masters/

Tod: With respect to your notes about Erwin Rommel, the movie “Five Graves to Cairo”  is a great 1943 film that has Erich von Stroheim playing Rommel.  Not exactly an award winner but definitely worth watching.  https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Graves_to_Cairo

Jim D.: Love your blog, Jim. Every week it’s a desultory ramble, but any ramble that includes stops along the way with Thackeray, Rommel, and Vonnegut is just fine with me. Keep up the good work!

Dale T: Yes, I’m taking this out of context but the thought jumped at me when I read your comments. “Rommel’s image is no longer as heroic as it was in the first generation after the war, but it is still largely positive thanks not only to his achievements but also to the deliberate plans of those who want him as a hero.” This is why I think Trump has so many defenders: Your last line on motive and reality over Rommel. Trump’s defenders refuse to see him as a damaged human being because it ruins their perspective of him being a hero.I fear our country is about to find out how damaged he really is. And how damaged our country is by him and his defenders.

 

Finally . . .

This week’s pen and ink: Thomas Mayne Reid (caricature)

 

Best quote of the week:

In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. Albert Schweitzer, philosopher, physician, musician, Nobel laureate (1875-1965) 

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — 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


Jim Stovall 

www.jprof.com

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: Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for writing, the Rommel myth, Becky Sharp and Baseball Joe: newsletter, January 11, 2019

 

 

New edition of the Baseball Joe series (repeated from last week)

The newsletter last week carried an item about the incomparable Edward Stratemeyer whose publishing syndicate produced for us young 20th-century readers series of books like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. One of those series was titled Baseball Joe, and Stratemeyer published 14 volumes between 1912 and 1928. The “author” of the series was Lester Chadwick, but they were actually written by Howard Garis and John Duffield.

I promised a big announcement about Baseball Joe last week, so here it is: First Inning Press is publishing new editions of some of the volumes of the Baseball Joe series. So far, we have four Kindle (ebook) editions out and about on Amazon:

Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars or The Rivals of Riverside

Baseball Joe on the School Nine or Pitching for the Blue Banner

Baseball Joe at Yale or Pitching for the College Championship

Baseball Joe in the World Series or Pitching for the Championship

The Baseball Joe series follows Joe Matson as he starts on the local sandlot and ascends to the top of the baseball world. These new editions contain more illustrations than were found in the originals. The new illustrations are by me.

The first of the volume listed above (Silver Stars) is currently $ .99 on Amazon. The others are $2.99. We will be bringing out paperback editions before long and will also be publishing other volumes in the series.

 

Seeing Suffrage (repeated from last week)

Several years ago I wrote a book about the 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade that was held on March 3, 1913, in Washington, D.C. It was the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated. Not only did this event turn out to be a pivotal one in the history of the suffrage debate, but it also was one that was well-covered by the newspapers of the day — particularly photographers. In my research, I had discovered a trove of photographs in the Library of Congress and in the library of the Sewell-Belmont House, the historic headquarters of the National Woman’s Party. Many of these photographs had never been published before and were included in the book.

The book, Seeing Suffrage: The 1913 Washington Suffrage Parade, Its Pictures, and Its Effect on the American Political Landscape, was published by the University of Tennessee Press. The press published it only in a hardback edition, however, and has never brought it out as an ebook. Since I hold the copyright, I decided that it was time for that to change. That project was completed just two days before Christmas and is now available on Amazon (free if you are a Kindle Unlimited member). If you have a chance to look at it, I’d like to know what you think.

 

Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for writing, the Rommel myth, Becky Sharp and Baseball Joe: newsletter, January 11, 2019

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,941) on Friday, January 11, 2019.

 

 

The first full week of the New Year has been notable around here (East Tennessee) for what it wasn’t: It WAS NOT “a dark and stormy night.” For the first time since just about anyone can remember, we have not had rain this week. That’s a real contrast from this fall when we have had an overabundance of rain. It’s been a good thing to see the sun shine for a few days.

And speaking of “a dark and stormy night,” those are the famous words of Edward Bulwar-Lytton, a 19th century British author who used that phrase to begin one of his novels and thus went down in literary infamy. We’ll get to him in a subsequent newsletter, possibly when the nights get dark and stormy again.

Within this week’s newsletter are a special announcement and two Amazon giveaways. Read on.

Meanwhile, I hope that your new year has started well and that you have a great weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,940 subscribers and had a 29.3 percent open rate; 8 people 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.


Kurt Vonnegut’s rules for writing fiction – especially rule number 4

For those of us coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s and seeking a voice to articulate the absurdities we were seeing and experiencing, Kurt Vonnegut was a God-send.

Vonnegut (1922-2007), a World War II veteran and a survivor of the Dresden fire-bombing as a prisoner of war, wrote in a light, delicate prose that satirized the pompous pronouncements that were being bandied about to explain — or obscure — the lack of logic that we were tempted to accept. In his 14 novels, including Slaughterhouse-5 and Cat’s Cradle, and numerous plays and short stories, he cut through the fog and allowed us to see more clearly.

Vonnegut is still worth reading, and if you haven’t had a taste of him, you should.

Just as Elmore Leonard had his rules for writing in general, Vonnegut had his rules of writing, but these applied to fiction more than non-fiction. They are listed below.

I was reminded of these rules after reading a disappointing novel that violated rule number 4: Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action. The novel had a good storyline, but early on it was weighted down by too much explanation and not enough plot advancement. The author is well-respected and well-reviewed, but in this instance he didn’t have enough faith in his plot or his audience to weave the explanations into the action.

It occurred to me that Vonnegut’s rules are good ones to have in mind even if you aren’t writing fiction, just trying to evaluate what you are reading. So here they are:

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

And so it goes.

Erwin Rommel, the Desert Myth

One of the luckiest men of the 20th century in terms of having a continuing and positive public image is Erwin Rommel.

Rommel was “Adolph Hilter’s favorite general.” He was the Desert Fox, a moniker applied to him by British journalists. He was a chivalrous soldier who fought a “clean” war and refused Hitler’s orders to execute prisoners of war. He was part of a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, although how much of a part he played in it has been debated since the end of the war.

The Nazi propaganda machined loved Rommel and built him into a hero because of his successes in North Africa. Rommel returned that love, repeatedly posing for the cameras as he directed tank divisions or studied strategic maps. The Germans needed a soldier-hero and Rommel fit the bill.

The Allies, too, loved Rommel for much the same reason. Rommel was touted by the British as a brilliant commander, which made the British victories against him so much more thrilling.

When Rommel died in 1944 — a forced suicide because he was implicated in the assassination conspiracy — the Nazis gave him a hero’s funeral and burial.

After the war, Rommel’s family reinforced this heroic image by authorizing an adoring biography, The Desert Fox by British author Desmond Young. That biography became the basis for the mega-hit movie, The Desert Fox, starring James Mason, that appeared in 1951 to great reviews and is still considered a classic rendition of his life.

Thus, the myth of Rommel, the good German, was cemented.

As time has passed, however, a more balanced view of Erwin Rommel has come into view. As historian Niall Barr has written:

Rommel possessed many military talents, but his flaws as a commander doomed him to failure. His lack of staff training meant that, for all his tactical success, he never properly understood the broader context of ‘his’ war in North Africa – or the fact that the campaign was essentially defensive for the Axis. Most importantly, his failure to understand the complex logistics of the North African theatre meant that his daring advances were never sustainable. Source: BBC – History – World Wars: Rommel in the Desert

Not only is his military prowess in question, but his role in the conspiracy to kill Hitler has been questioned. Rommel’s attitude toward Hitler, who had elevated him far more quickly that he would have been promoted through regular channels, was decidedly mixed.

Rommel’s image is no longer as heroic as it was in the first generation after the war, but it is still largely positive thanks not only to his achievement but also to the deliberate plans of those who want him as a hero.

 


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


 

Time once again to pay attention to Becky Sharp — and her creator, W.M. Thackeray

Becky Sharp is at it again — this time in an original, multi-episode, lavish production of Vanity Fair that you can watch on Amazon Prime if you are a member.

Becky and the screen are made for each other, even though William Makepeace Thackeray made Becky about a half-century before motion pictures came about. She is one of those characters that audiences can’t seem to get enough of — an underdog who is bright, resourceful, and ready to make of the world what she can, but only on her terms.

In writing about the many times that Becky has appeared on the screen, John Dugdale in the Guardian says:

Appearing at 10-or 20-year intervals, TV adaptations of Vanity Fair tend to come towards the ends of decades and inevitably find parallels with their own times. In a 1967 BBC production, Susan Hampshire’s Becky was a proto-60s chick, resembling the liberated protagonists of contemporary films. Twenty years on, at the height of the Thatcher era, Eve Matheson’s spunky redhead “who will stop at nothing” (as the publicity proclaimed) could hardly fail to embody the spirit of the age.

In 1998, Natasha Little was the anti-heroine in an Andrew Davies-scripted serial that epitomised the “harsh” approach. Her Becky too (as a complementary BBC documentary invoking 90s celebrities like Madonna underlined) reflected her decade, but could also be seen as encapsulating the ethos of the 18-year Tory reign that had just ended. Source: False conceit: why is Vanity Fair’s scheming heroine misread on screen? | Books | The Guardian

Always, however, Becky Sharp is great fun to watch, and good actresses have relished the role.

So, in enjoying Becky Sharp yet again, we should also pay some attention to the complex and multi-talented man who mad her. William Makepeace Thackery (1811-1863) didn’t set out to be a writer. In fact, he didn’t set out to be much of anything at all. He inherited a tidy sum from his father when he was 21 but lost a good bit of it on gambling on other vices. He tried his hand at being a bohemian artist and at practicing law, but he didn’t seem suited for either life.

What he was suited for was being a writer, and that came by fits and starts — mostly with hackwork to earn money. He contributed both articles and caricatures to the satirical magazine Punch, and there in the 1830s and 40s he began to find a voice, a style, and an audience. Thackeray became one of the best caricaturists of his day. The appearance of Vanity Fair, first serialized in January 1847, put him at the “top of the tree,” in his words, in the London literary world. Thackeray made two profitable lecture tours of America in the 1850s and continued to produce books, often illustrated by the author.

Thackeray’s personal life was not so successful. His wife, Isabella, suffered from depression, and this worsened over the years, despite many efforts to find a cure. His youthful dissipations caught up with him, and he fell victim to a variety of ills in the last decade of his life. He died of a stroke in 1863.

But his work, and particularly his heroine Becky Sharp, continue to live and be revived. If you have a chance to watch the latest version on Amazon Prime, you should give it a try.

Illustration 1: The cover of the first edition of Vanity Fair. It was indeed yellow, which became a Thackeray hallmark, and the author did the illustrations for the book, including the one on the cover.

Illustration 2: Becky and Mr. Joseph Sedley, from chapter 1 of Vanity Fair. (Image scanned by Gerald Ajam and captions by Tiaw Kay Siang and Sabrina Lim.)

 

The Worst Thing We’ve Ever Done

The issue of race is the one that continues to divide America more than any other. The issue goes back to before we were a republic and is all-too-present with us today. Confronting it has never been easy.

That’s why listening to reasonable voices is important. One of the most reasonable and intelligent voices to come out of the South — Alabama, even — in recent years is Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who has helped create the  The Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, a new museum and memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, created by the Equal Justice Initiative that aim to bring America’s history of segregation and racial terror to the forefront.

On the Media devoted its entire show to this issue earlier this year, and the folks there rebroadcast it last Sunday. Listen to it — all or part of it. It’s challenging and thought-provoking.

The Worst Thing We’ve Ever Done | On the Media | WNYC Studios

 

New edition of the Baseball Joe series

The newsletter last week carried an item about the incomparable Edward Stratemeyer whose publishing syndicate produced for us young 20th-century readers series of books like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. One of those series was titled Baseball Joe, and Stratemeyer published 14 volumes between 1912 and 1928. The “author” of the series was Lester Chadwick, but they were actually written by Howard Garis and John Duffield.

I promised a big announcement about Baseball Joe last week, so here it is: First Inning Press is publishing new editions of some of the volumes of the Baseball Joe series. So far, we have four Kindle (ebook) editions out and about on Amazon:

Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars or The Rivals of Riverside

Baseball Joe on the School Nine or Pitching for the Blue Banner

Baseball Joe at Yale or Pitching for the College Championship

Baseball Joe in the World Series or Pitching for the Championship

The Baseball Joe series follows Joe Matson as he starts on the local sandlot and ascends to the top of the baseball world. These new editions contain more illustrations than were found in the originals. The new illustrations are by me.

The first of the volume listed above (Silver Stars) is currently $ .99 on Amazon. The others are $2.99. We will be bringing out paperback editions before long and will also be publishing other volumes in the series.

Amazon giveaway: I have organized an Amazon giveaway for Baseball Joe on the School Nine that is going on right now. I’m giving away five copies. If you are interested in getting a free copy ($2.99 value), head over to this link on Amazon and enter the contest. Good luck!

 

Seeing Suffrage (repeated from last week)

Several years ago I wrote a book about the 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade that was held on March 3, 1913, in Washington, D.C. It was the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated. Not only did this event turn out to be a pivotal one in the history of the suffrage debate, but it also was one that was well-covered by the newspapers of the day — particularly photographers. In my research, I had discovered a trove of photographs in the Library of Congress and in the library of the Sewell-Belmont House, the historic headquarters of the National Woman’s Party. Many of these photographs had never been published before and were included in the book.

The book, Seeing Suffrage: The 1913 Washington Suffrage Parade, Its Pictures, and Its Effect on the American Political Landscape, was published by the University of Tennessee Press. The press published it only in a hardback edition, however, and has never brought it out as an ebook. Since I hold the copyright, I decided that it was time for that to change. That project was completed just two days before Christmas and is now available on Amazon (free if you are a Kindle Unlimited member). If you have a chance to look at it, I’d like to know what you think.

Amazon giveaway: I have organized an Amazon giveaway for Seeing Suffrage that is going on right now. I’m giving away five copies. If you are interested in getting a free copy ($4.99 value), head over to this link on Amazon and enter the contest. Good luck!

 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Baseball Joe

 

Best quote of the week:

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. E. M. Forster, novelist (1879-1970) 

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — 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


Jim Stovall 

www.jprof.com

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: Fighting poets, the public domain, the genius behind what you read as a kid, and the American cult of ignorance: newsletter, January 4, 2019

 

 

 

New edition of the Baseball Joe series and an Amazon giveaway

A recent newsletter of mine carried an item about the incomparable Edward Stratemeyer whose publishing syndicate produced for us young 20th-century readers series of books like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. One of those series was titled Baseball Joe, and Stratemeyer published 14 volumes between 1912 and 1928. The “author” of the series was Lester Chadwick, but they were actually written by Howard Garis and John Duffield.

First Inning Press is publishing new editions of some of the volumes of the Baseball Joe series. So far, we have four Kindle (ebook) editions out and about on Amazon:

Baseball Joe of the Silver Stars or The Rivals of Riverside

Baseball Joe on the School Nine or Pitching for the Blue Banner

Baseball Joe at Yale or Pitching for the College Championship

Baseball Joe in the World Series or Pitching for the Championship

The Baseball Joe series follows Joe Matson as he starts on the local sandlot and ascends to the top of the baseball world. These new editions contain more illustrations than were found in the originals. The new illustrations are by me.

The first of the volume listed above (Silver Stars) is currently $ .99 on Amazon. The others are $2.99. We will be bringing out paperback editions before long and will also be publishing other volumes in the series.

Amazon giveaway: I have organized an Amazon giveaway for Baseball Joe on the School Nine that is going on right now. I’m giving away five copies. If you are interested in getting a free copy ($2.99 value), head over to this link on Amazon and enter the contest. Good luck!

Fighting poets, the public domain, the genius behind what you read as a kid, and the American cult of ignorance: newsletter, January 4, 2019

This newsletter was sent to all of the subscribers on Jim’s list (2,940) on Friday, January 4, 2019.

 

For me, the new year has seen the completion of at least one project, the continuation of several others, and the beginning of a new one. Here I’ll just talk about what’s been completed.

Several years ago I wrote a book about the 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade that was held on March 3, 1913, in Washington, D.C. It was the day before Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated. Not only did this event turn out to be a pivotal one in the history of the suffrage debate, but it also was one that was well-covered by the newspapers of the day — particularly photographers. In my research, I had discovered a trove of photographs in the Library of Congress and in the library of the Sewell-Belmont House, the historic headquarters of the National Woman’s Party. Many of these photographs had never been published before and were included in the book.

The book, Seeing Suffrage: The 1913 Washington Suffrage Parade, Its Pictures, and Its Effect on the American Political Landscape, was published by the University of Tennessee Press. The press published it only in a hardback edition, however, and has never brought it out as an ebook. Since I hold the copyright, I decided that it was time for that to change. That project was completed just two days before Christmas and is now available on Amazon (free if you are a Kindle Unlimited member). If you have a chance to look at it, I’d like to know what you think.

I hope that your new year has started well and that you have a great weekend.

Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,951 subscribers and had a 30.2 percent open rate; 6 people 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.


The pugilistic poets of the 1840s: Poe and English come to blows

Edgar Allan Poe once wrote of Thomas Dunn English that he is “a man without the commonest school education busying himself in attempts to instruct mankind in topics of literature.” This after they had once been friends — or at least on friendly terms (although some in the Poe camp dispute even that).

In the 1840s, English was a well-known poet, essayist, and editorialist. His most famous work is a poem titled, “Ben Bolt,” written in 1843 for the New York Mirror. It was a ballad that was later set to music by Nelson Kneass, and the first stanza is this:

Oh don’t you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt
Sweet Alice whose hair was so brown
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile
And trembled with fear at your frown.

The song, and the phrase “Oh don’t you remember Sweet Alice, Ben Bolt” became one of the most widely popular and sung tunes of the 19th century. It was turned into a political tune at one point and was sung nightly on steamboats and other popular venues.

Poe and English fell out with each other in 1845 when Poe was asked by a woman to return letters that she had written to him that she believed contain indiscretions. Poe said he had returned the letters, and the story is that he asked English for a pistol to defend himself against the brother. English expressed some doubt that Poe was actually telling the truth about the letters and suggested that he make a public statement about the controversy. This infuriated Poe, and the two men came to blows with Poe later claiming that he administered to English  “a flogging which he will remember to the day of his death.”

English denied that, but no hatchets were buried. English wrote a prohibitionist novel titled 1844 or the Power of the S.F., in which he included a character named Marmaduke Hammerhead, the famous author of a poem The Black Crow. It was a clear parody of Poe. After the New York Mirror published a letter in 1846 about Poe by English, Poe sued for libel and won a $200 judgment.

The two highly-strung writers had several other literary confrontations, and the feud did not end with Poe’s death in 1949. English continued to jab at Poe even though he outlived Poe by more than 50 years.

Today we remember Poe and his body of work as being among the best of American literature, and few people know of Thomas Dunn English. His Ben Bolt, which captures the romantic longing of the age, is still sung and recorded. The entire poem is below the signature of this email.

Thousands of works entered the public domain this week

The intellectual property dam that has withheld thousands of copyrighted works — books, art, plays, films, etc. — from the public domain is about to burst.

It’s about time.

Copyright is a useful concept that helps protect an author or artist from having others benefit unduly from the work he or she has created. But a creative word is not just an object. It is an idea as well.

Because of that, the nation’s founds granted to Congress the right to set copyrights “for a limited time.” The obvious idea behind that phrase is that it would not be forever, and the hope was that the “limited time” would be reasonable.

Because of intense lobbying through the decades, that reasonable, limited time grew longer. It became unreasonable in 1998 when all copyrights were extended for 20 years. The extension was passed, for the most part, because the Disney corporation wanted to maintain its money-making control over its chief icon, Mickey Mouse.

That extension expires today, January 1, 2019, and the public will benefit enormously from the expiration. Thousands of works will come into the public domain, and entrepreneurs will be able to use them at will.

Yes, there will be some misuses. But there will be some creative uses that will add to our intellectual environment. The biggest misuse — the manipulation of copyright law to benefit corporations, stockholders, heirs, and estates — will finally come to an end.

You can read more about the specifics of this issue in these two articles:

A Mass of Copyrighted Works Will Soon Enter the Public Domain – The Atlantic

New Life for Old Classics, as Their Copyrights Run Out – The New York Times

Caricature: Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Scott’s most famous book, The Great Gatsby, will lose its copyright protection in 2021 because of the expiration of this copyright extension.

 


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


 

Becoming George Eliot (part 2): the progress of Mary Anne Evans

When Mary Anne Evans published her first work under the pen name of George Eliot in 1856, there is no evidence that she ever planned to reveal her identity. She was successfully hiding behind the general rumor that George Eliot must be some country parson because the next of her writings, Scenes from a Clerical Life, captured the community life of the villages of England so well.

She had adopted the name of George Eliot because

— she didn’t want the reception of her writing to have to deal with the prejudices against women writers;

— she was living with a man who was married and not her husband;

— the essay where she first used George Eliot as a nom-de-plume was titled “Silly Novels by Lady Novelists.”

If no one ever knew that George Eliot was really Mary Anne Evans, that was fine with Mary Anne. Her work would be judged on its merits, not on the gender of the authors. Anonymity and obscurity were preferable to fame and recognition.

But the outcome was predictable. Her work was well-received, and the reading public became curious about this “country parson.” Some who read it closely began to guess that it might not have been written by a man after all. Some of the speculation spilled into Mary Anne Evans’ lap. She was well known in London intellectual circles, and her writing style distinct.

Then, the unpredictable happened. A man, unknown to everyone, claimed to be George Eliot. After the publication of the novel Adam Bede in 1859 and its generally glowing reviews (which brought on more speculation about the author’s identity), Liggins announced that he was the author. To Evans’ consternation, he developed a following and even advocates among London’s literary elite. Word was seeping out from people who knew who the real author was, but Evans continued to issue denials for a time.

But the denials, in some sense, were just confirmation that Liggins was the real George Eliot, and Mary Anne (or Marian, as she preferred) could not have that. She finally admitted her identity and provided proof that she was who she said she was.

That admission caused some embarrassment and some hurt feelings on the part of friends to whom she had lied. All that was mitigated by the fact that in addition to her works being well reviewed, the books were selling well, and she was making money — more than she expected. The income over the next few years provided her and George Lewes, whom she referred to as her husband, the freedom to live where they wanted to live and to travel at will.

Eliot went on to produce an impressive body of work (Silas Marner, The Mill on the Floss, Daniel Deronda), and to emerge as one of England leading writers of the 19th century. About Middlemarch, Virginia Woolf famously said that it was “one of the few English novels written for grown-ups.”

 

Edward Stratemeyer, the genius behind the series you probably read as a kid

If you were a child in the 20th century, chances are that you owe a great deal to Edward Stratemeyer.

Chances are, too, that you have never heard of Edward Stratemeyer.

But as a young person, you probably did read books like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, the Rover Boys, Baseball Joe, the College Sports Series, the Bobbsey Twins or any number of other series of books. They were cheap, and they were accessible. They weren’t great literature, by any means, but they taught us to love stories and to love reading.

The genius behind all of these books was Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930), a New Jersey born writer who was creative, prolific, and first-in-his-class book producer and marketer.

As a teenager, Stratemeyer had his own printing press and understood the printing and distribution process intimately. He began writing stories then but didn’t sell his first story to a magazine until he was 26. 

In 1899, Stratemeyer published the first of his Rover Boys series, which became widely popular. Stratemeyer did not invent the series formula, but he recognized its potential, and in 1905, he formed the Stratemeyer Literary Syndicate through which he hired journalists to write stories based on his ideas and outlines. He would pay his writers a flat fee and keep the copyright for himself. Thus was born series such as The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, and Nancy Drew. 

While clothbound books at the time could sell for as much as two dollars each (a princely sum), Stratemeyer convinced his publisher to sell them for fifty cents. The profit margin on these books would be just a few pennies, but Stratemeyer was convinced that the volume of sales would more than compensate for these small profits. He was right. His books sold millions of copies and in turn made him many millions of dollars.

Stratemeyer lived a quiet life with this family in New Jersey and never sought publicity for himself. He also made a ton of money. After his death, Stratemeyer’s work continued, and his legacy entertained millions of young readers even into the twenty-first century. 

My current favorite in the Stratemeyer series is Baseball Joe (although I was awfully was awfully keen on Nancy Drew when I was a kid). I am going to have a special announcement about that series in next week’s newsletter.

Finally . . .

This week’s pen and ink: Isaac Asimov  

 

 

Best quote of the week:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge. Isaac Asimov, scientist and writer (1920-1992)

Helping those in need

Fires in California, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast — 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


Jim Stovall 

www.jprof.com

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: More literary deceptions, Artemus Ward, and JFK on open government: newsletter, Dec. 28, 2018

 

 

Ben Bolt

Oh don’t you remember sweet Alice, Ben Bolt
Sweet Alice whose hair was so brown
Who wept with delight when you gave her a smile
And trembled with fear at your frown.

In the old church yard in the valley, Ben Bolt
In a corner obscure and alone
They have fitted a slab of granite so gray
And sweet Alice lies under the stone.

Under the hickory tree, Ben Bolt
Which stood at the end of the hill
Together we’ve lain in the noonday shade
And listened to Appleton’s mill.

 The mill wheel has fallen to pieces, Ben Bolt
The rafters have tumbled in
And a quiet that crawls ’round the walls as you gaze
Has followed the olden din.

And don’t you remember the school, Ben Bolt
With the master so cruel and grim
And the shaded nook by the running brook
Where the children went to swim.

Grass grows on the master’s grave, Ben Bolt
The spring of the brook is dry
And of all the boys who were schoolmates then
There are only you and I.

Edward Stratemeyer, the genius behind the series you probably read as a kid

If you were a child in the 20th century, chances are that you owe a great deal to Edward Stratemeyer.

Chances are, too, that you have never heard of Edward Stratemeyer.

But as a young person, you probably did read books like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, the Rover Boys, Baseball Joe, the College Sports Series, the Bobsie Twins or any number of other series of books. They were cheap, and they were accessible. They weren’t great literature, by any means, but they taught us to love stories and to love reading.

The genius behind all of these books was Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930), a New Jersey born writer who was creative, prolific, and first-in-his-class book producer and marketer.

As a teenager, Stratemeyer had his own printing press and understood the printing and distribution process intimately. He began writing stories then but didn’t sell his first story to a magazine until he was 26. 

In 1899, Stratemeyer published the first of his Rover Boys series, which became widely popular. Stratemeyer did not invent the series formula, but he recognized its potential, and in 1905, he formed the Stratemeyer Literary Syndicate through which he hired journalists to write stories based on his ideas and outlines. He would pay his writers a flat fee and keep the copyright for himself. Thus was born series such as The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, and Nancy Drew. 

While clothbound books at the time could sell for as much as two dollars each (a princely sum), Stratemeyer convinced his publisher to sell them for fifty cents. The profit margin on these books would be just a few pennies, but Stratemeyer was convinced that the volume of sales would more than compensate for these small profits. He was right. His books sold millions of copies and in turn made him many millions of dollars.

Stratemeyer lived a quiet life with this family in New Jersey and never sought publicity for himself. He also made a ton of money. After his death, Stratemeyer’s work continued, and his legacy entertained millions of young readers even into the twenty-first century.