Tag Archives: Franklin Roosevelt

The president and the detective novel – a continuing love story

The President Is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson. Coming to your physical and digital bookstore in June. Watch for it. Pre-order from Amazon if you like.

This won’t be the first time that a president has ventured into the mystery/detective/thriller genre, as Clay Fehrman points out in an interesting and enlightening article in the New York Times. The Mystery Buffs in the White House – The New York Times

Presidents from Abraham Lincoln (who could quote part of Edgar Allan Poe’s Gold Bug) have loved mysteries and detective stories. Some have even ventured into the genre itself. Franklin Roosevelt had a half-formed plot that he gave to an author to develop — in fact, several authors tried to collaborate on it — but the result was disappointing.

The leader among the Detective-Story-Readers-in-Chief, however, was  Woodrow Wilson.

Fehrman writes

Wilson had spent most of his life as a professor and author, steeped in history and political science. He also adored detective stories, keeping a volume on his nightstand and with him on train trips. After Wilson’s terrible stroke in 1919, his wife read aloud to him. “I read so many detective stories that one day I told Woodrow in a state of alarm that I had suddenly found myself thinking in terms of crime,” she later wrote. “This amused him very much, and he said that he thought for his own safety we had better turn to something else.”

Wilson spoke publicly about his love for detective stories, particularly those he liked, and his endorsement was actively sought. Some thought that Arthur Conan Doyle and Wilson were the two men most responsible for the popularity of the detective story in America.

 

Handel, down and out; ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’ up and away; more Shakespeare and Vietnam: newsletter March 9, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,116), on Friday, March 9, 2018.

Hi,

You may think that I am obsessed with William Shakespeare, that I just can’t leave him alone. Actually, it’s the other way around. He won’t leave me alone.

The last three newsletters have had items about The Bard, ending last week (I thought) with a grand finale about what he looked like. I was ready to move on the 18th century and tell you something about George Frederick Handel. But then Will popped up the news again this week. So what’s a Shakespeare lover like me to do?

Still, I am going to tell you something about Handel, and about what may be THE most beloved painting in the world today, and about Vietnam. Then there’s the grand giveaway you won’t want to miss. Anon, let the newsletter begin.

Important: The newsletter usually includes this:

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But that, I am told, has confused some folks, so here’s the point: Make sure that the images in the newsletter are displayed. Some browsers and email programs will display them automatically. For others, you must click on a link to make that happen. However it’s done, please make sure that happens. That’s how we know that you have opened the newsletter, and that’s important. Thanks.

George Frederick Handel: finished, washed-up . . . but then . . .

You will have to work pretty hard during this month of March to avoid hearing some of the music of George Frederick Handel. Handel’s Messiah oratorio is standard fare during the Lenten and Easter season, and everyone knows that you are supposed to stand during the Hallelujah chorus (although no one knows exactly why).

Handel was born in Germany in 1685, studied music is several places including Italy, and came to London in 1710 to seek his musical fortune. London had a thriving and avid musical audience, and Handel — one of the great organists of the day as well as a composer — quickly became the toast of the town with his keyboard genius and his mastery of the highly popular Italian-style opera. During the next 25 years he achieved great success and made plenty of money.

By 1741, however, things weren’t so good. London’s musical tastes had changed — Italian opera was no longer the in thing — and Handel’s productions met with repeated failures. He was facing bankruptcy, and his health was increasingly fragile. Critics descended, and even the Church of England pounced, criticizing his secular productions.

Handel, everyone said, was finished, washed-up.

Then in August, 1741 — just when Handel wondered if he could ever mount another production — his friend Charles Jennens, a poet, handed him a libretto for an oratorio about the life of Christ.

What happened after that showed that Handel was no one-tune keyboard tickler. You can read about it in this post on JPROF.com,

What’s your favorite piece by Handel? Lots of people would name the Hallelujah chorus, but there is much to choose from: Royal Water MusicRoyal Fireworks Music, etc. Personally, I like the Arrival of the Queen of Sheba from Handel’s oratorio Solomon. You can hear that one and the Hallelujah chorus in my post about Handel on JPROF.com.

The Roosevelts and radio

The item last week about the mastery of radio by both Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt drew this response from a newsletter reader:

Fred F.: President Roosevelt and his wife Eleanore was the “First Family” of Radio. Then we had President John Fitzgerald Kennedy and his wife Jackie were the “First Family of TV. What a rich history we had due to the electronic marvels of Radio and TV.

Vietnam, Robert McNamara, Daniel Ellsberg, and the Pentagon Papers

The New York Times this week has an interesting article by Rick Goldsmith about the origin of the Pentagon Papers. It begins with the story of Robert McNamara, secretary of defense, and Daniel Ellsberg, then a State Department official, being on the same flight from Saigon to Washington in October, 1966. McNamara and Ellsberg spoke to each other during the flight, and in the conversation, McNamara expressed doubts that the strategy the U.S. was then pursuing in Vietnam was working.

When the flight landed in Washington, McNamara was met by reporters as soon as he got off the plane and was asked about his trip and the American strategy. He told the reporters exactly the opposite of what he had said to Ellsberg: that what the U.S. was doing in Vietnam was working and that they were making progress in defeating the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong.

The article is well worth reading.

I have written a reaction to the information in the article and posted it on JPROF.com, in case anyone is interested.

More on Shakespeare’s sources

An independent Shakespeare researcher in Great Britain, according to a recent article in The Guardian, thinks he may have found a sample of Shakespeare’s actual handwriting. John Casson says he was looking through François de Belleforest’s Histoires Tragiques, a 1576 French text many believe to be a source for Shakespeare’s plays, when he noticed some hand-written notations on the pages of a story of a Danish prince whose father was murdered by the prince’s uncle.

This recalls an item we discussed a couple of weeks ago about a new book identifying possible sources for Shakespeare’s writing.

There’s a problem with John Casson, however. He doesn’t believe Shakespeare wrote the plays that are attributed to him. He thinks it was Sir Henry Neville, a courtier of Elizabeth I.

Correction from last week: I said that Shakespeare’s birth is celebrated on April 26. Wrong! A sharp-eyed reader informs me it April 23. I stand corrected — and I thank the reader: Jean T.

Johannes Vermeer’s ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’

Few of the world’s great works of art — even Leonardo’s Mona Lisa — can match Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring for admirers and adherents. A best-selling novel and stage play have been written about this enigmatic painting from the great Dutch master.

The painting was created in about 1665, but for the first two hundred years of its life, few people knew of its existence. Where it was all that time is also a mystery. Today it is the star of the show in the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery, The Hague, Holland, where the gallery is conducting a close — really close — look at the painting.

Read more about all this to-do in this post on JPROF.com.

 

Dictionaries — still the one, after all these years

Last week’s item about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary (read the JPROF.com post here) brought in these interesting tidbits:

Helen P.: Dictionary response. When my husband joined a French company in late 90’s, management was given French classes at work. I loaned him my mother’s french/english dictionary from when she took college French prior to WWII. One week after he turned in his assignment he was called on the carpet, threatened with harassment charges. Yes, the teacher was young female and very upset at what she said was incredibly filthy. She did not relent until he brought the book in and showed the phrase he used. Yes, language changes, and not always for the better.

Sunny S.: As with many things in life, I wish the English language, and therefore the dictionaries which catalog the meanings of all those delightful words, would stay the same! I, too, still have the (Webster’s Collegiate) dictionary and thesaurus given to me in high school. The thesaurus is especially well-used and loved!

Giveaways

Art of the Arcane: Ides of March Mystery, Thriller, and Crime Giveaway. Once again, I have teamed up with a number of excellent writers to put together a truly fine selection of books to give away to our email lists and newsletter reades. This one has some great titles in it (including, of course, Kill the Quarterback), and you have an excellent chance of finding a great weekend read. Head on over there right away and see what’s available: https://artofthearcane.com/march-mystery-giveaway/…

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

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway. This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

A name for this newsletter?

We had one late entry in the name-the-newsletter sweepstakes last week — this one from my good friend Dan C. in Las Vegas: Seventh Inning Stretch.

Any reactions?

I like this one but still tend to favor the Hot Stove League. Seventh Inning Stretch might be good for something else I have in mind, which I will reveal when it’s developed a bit more.

I’d still like to hear from anyone who has an opinion or a suggestion.

Author! Author!

From time to time, I mention authors and books I think newsletter readers might be interested in. If you are a newsletter reader and have written a book you’d like for me to highlight, I am glad to do so. Send me an email. A description or blurb and an Amazon link would also be helpful.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: George Frederick Handel

Handel’s musical genius was widely recognized during his life, but by all accounts he was an affable, generous man — even though the performers he hired for his operas could drive him into fits of rage. He was also a workaholic who pursued his musical ideas into exhaustion and eventually ill health.

Best quote of the week:

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. Charles Darwin, naturalist and author (1809-1882) 

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.

Jim

Jim Stovall 
www.jprof.com
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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 newsletterShakespeare’s appearance, Eleanor’s mastery, and Cronkite’s broadcast – plus a new book giveaway: newsletter, March 2, 2018

Shakespeare’s appearance, Eleanor’s mastery, and Cronkite’s broadcast – plus a new book giveaway: newsletter, March 2, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,151) on Friday, March 2, 2018.

Hi, 

We left February behind this week and are headed for spring. My reading and browsing have ranged far and wide, so there is a lot to share. Thanks to all who have written to say they enjoy the newsletter and look forward to getting it each week. I appreciate that more than I can say, and I am always delighted to hear from you.

We welcome about 500 or so new readers this week. I hope you newbies will stick around and maybe join in the conversation.

Important: The newsletter usually includes this:

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

But that, I am told, has confused some folks, so here’s the point: Make sure that the images in the newsletter are displayed. Some browsers and email programs will display them automatically. For others, you must click on a link to make that happen. However it’s done, please make sure that happens. That’s how we know that you have opened the newsletter, and that’s important. Thanks.

What did Shakespeare look like?

The simple answer is: We don’t know, exactly.

But, of course, it’s more complicated than that. William Shakespeare was born in April 1564; we don’t know the exact date, but we celebrate his birthday on April 26. He died in 1616 at the age of 52. During his lifetime, he achieved some fame and fortune, and it is quite likely that a gentleman of his standing would have commissioned a portrait of himself. If he did, that portrait was not mentioned in his will or by any of his family members and is lost to us today.

BShakespeare-Chandosut we have an idea of his appearance from two sources. One is a half-length statue commissioned by his family and placed in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-on-Avon, Shakespeare’s hometown, in 1622. The other is an engraving that appeared in the frontispiece of the first published collection of his plays, The First Folio, pirnted in 1622 and published a year later. Both of these would have been seen by people who knew what Shakespeare looked like.

During the next 400 years, six portraits have made some serious claim to represent Shakespeare’s likeness. One, the Chandos portrait (right), is accepted by many but not all scholars as close to genuine. The others have had adherents but are generally dismissed by today’s scholars.

On JPROF.com this week, I have written a piece on what we know about Shakespeare’s appearance and a little about each of the portraits that have made the claim to be genuine. And, just to make life interesting for myself, I produced my own watercolor of Shakespeare. Check it out at the bottom of this newsletter.

Finally, last week I asked if you had a favorite word or phrase that Shakespeare first used or coined. A couple of your chimed in:

Peggy G.: Bravo and Huzzah ( spelling ) So, “Out damned spot” is my favorite Shakespeare quote ( insert your dogs name I place of spot ) 

And from LuAnn R, check out the Best Quote of the Week — a few Shakespearean lines — below.

 

The first Roosevelt America heard after Pearl Harbor

All during the day on Sunday, December 7, 1941 — the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor — no serious consideration was given to having the president speak to the nation via radio. Franklin Roosevelt spent the afternoon and evening meeting with government and military officials and working on his address to Congress, a request for a declaration of war that would be delivered the next day.

Across the hall from the Oval Office, Eleanor Roosevelt was preparing to go on the air. She had a regularly scheduled radio program on Sunday evening, and she was rewriting the introduction to that show in light of what had happened at Pearl Harbor.

Both Eleanor and Franklin were masters of radio. Their mastery is well documented in an American Public Radio radio show titled The First Family of Radio. You can hear that show at this post on JPROF.com and find out what Eleanor Roosevelt said to America on the first day of its participation in World War II — and what she did immediately after the broadcast.

 

Inside the making of the greatest dictionary of the English language

When I turned 18 in 1966, just a week or so before I headed off to the University of Tennessee as a freshman journalism major, my sister gave me a copy of Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary. It was an incredibly wonderful gift that I used frequently during and after my college days. Today, a half century later, it sits on my shelf, still ready for use at a moment’s notice.

Samuel Johnson

 Dictionaries are marvels of any language. But English has resisted the orderly cataloguing that has been routine for many other tongues. Early lexicographers believed they could impose some necessary order on the language by setting down spellings and definitions and making them permanent. But the language quickly showed them who was boss.

Samuel Johnson (right) recognized this inability to tame the language in the preface to his great dictionary (1755) when he wrote: “We laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay.” More about Samuel Johnson here on JPROF.com.

The Guardian of London newspaper has a “long read” look at the history of dictionaries in English and the efforts of the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary to keep up with the language in this digital age. Highly recommended.

Giveaways and Amazon gift card winner

Art of the ArcaneArt of the Arcane: Ides of March Mystery, Thriller, and Crime Giveaway. Once again, I have teamed up with a number of excellent writers to put together a truly fine selection of books to give away to our email lists and newsletter readers. This one has some great titles in it (including, of course, Kill the Quarterback), and you have an excellent chance of finding a great weekend read. Head on over there right away and see what’s available:https://artofthearcane.com/march-mystery-giveaway/…

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

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4

 

Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway. This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

A name for this newsletter?

For a couple of weeks now I have been asking about a name for this newsletter, and many of you have responded. Last week I proposed The Hot Stove League for consideration. Here are some of the responses to that:

Peggy G.: As to the name for your newsletter… how about the “Pot-bellied Stove League” I live on the West coast so there are more pot-bellies sitting around a barbecue, the league infers that you ( not you,you ) but, us are not alone.

Fred F.: How about “A Day on the Porch”? We used to gather on the back porch in the shade and talk about everything that happened that day. That’s when I had a family gathered around me and had fun doing everything together. Perhaps not what you were looking for, but that’s what we called it then.

Robin K.: Name for the newsletter popped into my head when I saw this subject in my inbox – sorry, I have a rather irreverent sense of humor – “Jim’s Jabberings.” Or Jabbering?? Mostly tongue in cheek, but I do like the alliteration!

Joan H.: Just read the latest newsletter and wanted to let you know I like The Hot Stove League. Of course I also like Jim’s Jottings.

W.: I HATE HATE HATE HATE ….. that name. Hot Stove sounds like a romance title. I am not creative but something like The Prof’s thoughts

Angie L.: After reading the newsletter today, I thought of another possible name.” Inside the Stove”

Cynthia G.: I think you’re on the right track with The Hot Stove League, because it includes your readers.

Janet K.: I like the Toasty Stove. Hot Stove is a show on MLB Network.

Sapphire L.: I think that I really like “The Hot Stove League”. It really is a name that stands out from the crowd and is unique. You should stick with that name, if you want.

Debie C.: I really like The Hot Stove League.

Erin S.: The Professor’s Prose heehee

There’s no consensus yet, but the tide of opinion seems generally toward The Hot Stove League. I’m leaning that way myself. If there are other opinions out there, I would love to hear them.

Vietnam, 1968: The Walter Cronkite broadcast

One of the seminal events in America’s long involvement in Vietnam occurred 50 years ago this past week. CBS newscaster Walter Cronkite — often called “the most trusted man in America” — narrated a prime-time documentary that called into question the American government’s rosy predictions about the war’s progress. Cronkite did not come out against the war. Rather, he said:

“To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that were are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion.”

Even this mild statement was a stunning blow to the story that the administration of Lyndon Johnson had been trying to sell to the public. Author Mark Bowden, writing for the New York Times, has an excellent article about Cronkite’s broadcast and its effects on the events that followed.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Mr. Shakespeare

 

 

I have done a good bit of reading this week about what we know concerning the appearance of William Shakespeare. I decided to weigh in with my own contribution. I have not been taken with the portraits that I have seen as I think they lack character and personality. So, the watercolor painting above is what I think.

Best quote of the week (contributed by reader LuAnn R.):

Sleep that knits up the raveled sleeve of care,

The death of each day’s life, sore labor’s bath,

Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,

Chief nourisher in life’s feast.

William Shakespeare, philosopher and writer (1563-1616)

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution 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 newsletterA name for this newsletter; more on Shakespeare; the lost eloquence of the sports page

 
 

Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt: Masters of radio

When Japanese warplanes bombed Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, news of the event filtered into the American psyche and conversation throughout the afternoon.

It was, by any measure, a momentous, life-changing occurrence.

Eleanor Roosevelt caricature

Eleanor Roosevelt

Yet, during the afternoon and into the evening there was a silence from the White House. News bulletins were issued, but President Franklin Roosevelt stayed in the Oval Office, meeting with his cabinet, talking with aides and officials, gathering information and news, and working on the speech he would deliver to Congress on the next day. That Roosevelt said nothing to America that day seems to us today unusual, but no one thought much about it then.

Across the hall in the White House, Eleanor Roosevelt, the president’s wife, was re-writing the remarks she would make on the radio that evening. Eleanor had a regularly-scheduled radio show on Sunday evenings

In fact, the first Roosevelt Americans heard from that day was Eleanor, the president’s wife. It was 6:45p.m. Eastern when she spoke these words:

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I’m speaking to you at a very serious moment in our history,” she said, explaining that meetings were occurring in the White House and elsewhere in preparation for war.

In the meantime we, the people, are already prepared for action. For months now, the knowledge that something of this kind might happen has been hanging over our heads. And yet it seemed impossible to believe, impossible to drop the everyday things of life and feel that there was only one thing which was important: preparation to meet an enemy, no matter where he struck. That is all over now and there is no more uncertainty. We know what we have to face and we know that we are ready to face it. 

I should like to say just a word to the women in the country tonight. I have a boy at sea on a destroyer. For all I know he may be on his way to the Pacific. Two of my children are in coast cities on the Pacific. Many of you all over this country have boys in the services who will now be called upon to go into action. You have friends and families in what has suddenly become a danger zone. You cannot escape anxiety. You cannot escape a clutch of fear at your heart. And yet I hope that the certainty of what we have to meet will make you rise above these fears. 

We must go about our daily business more determined than ever to do the ordinary things as well as we can. And when we find a way to do anything more in our communities to help others to build morale, to give a feeling of security, we must do it. Whatever is asked of us, I am sure we can accomplish it. We are the free and unconquerable people of the United States of America.

It was a stirring speech with words that Americans undoubtedly wanted to hear.

Franklin Roosevelt caricature

Franklin Roosevelt

By this time — the ninth year — the Roosevelts were in the White House, both Eleanor and Franklin had become masters of the medium of radio. Franklin had a soft but strong modulating voice. His was a natural. He sounded like your favorite uncle: serious, cheerful, informed and confident.

Eleanor’s voice and accent were entirely different. She was at first loud and screechy, as if trying to be too many things at once. But, just as she did in many other areas of her life, she stuck with it and improved. She improved so much that by the time she delivered her talk on Dec. 7, 1941, she was able to sound determined, sincere, and reassuring.

Even though she spoke with confidence that evening, she was beset by personal worries. After the broadcast, she spoke with one of the daughters, Anna, who lived on the West Coast. She urged her to bring herself and her two children back to the East.

Eleanor, along with many Americans, believed that the attack on Pearl Harbor had left the West Coast vulnerable to a Japanese invasion. We know now that the Japanese had no such invasion in mind, but that wasn’t known in 1941 and 1942. Anna declined her mother’s request and told her she would remain in her home with her husband.

American Public Radio has produced an excellent audio documentary on the Roosevelts’ use of radio. You can listen to it here or by going to the American RadioWorks link below.

***

The First Family of Radio | American RadioWorks |

The Eloquent Woman: Famous Speech Friday: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor radio address

A name for this newsletter; more on Shakespeare; the lost eloquence of the sports page: newsletter, Feb. 23, 2018

Hi,

My life is continually blessed with remarkable people and interesting information. Those people include readers of this newsletter. You folks continue to write, sometimes to correct, sometimes to add to what I have written, and occasionally to compliment.

And just so you know, the newsletter is going out to about 3,500 people this week; that’s down from more than 4,000 a few weeks ago. I trimmed the list down to eliminate folks who had not opened and engaged in the past few weeks. Then I added a few from the Amazon gift card raffle that a few of us authors sponsored. The total number of people on the list is not important. What counts, they tell me (they being the “experts” in this field), is the “open rate,” the percentage of folks who actually open the email and click to display the images or click on one of the links. A good open rate is about 25 percent. For the past few weeks, the open rate for this newsletter has been 38-40 percent.

So, many thanks to you readers.

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

Shakespeare’s effect on the English language

Last week the newsletter had a piece about a recently discovered source for some of William Shakespeare’s writing. We have no direct knowledge of what sources Shakespeare used or what he read, so everything in this realm has to be said tentatively. What we do know about Shakespeare is the effect that he had on the English language. Shakespeare was the first to use many of the words commonly used today. He turned phrases that were so meaningful and memorable that we still use them everyday.

The list of phrases is long and varied: the game is up; the truth will out; if the truth were known; send him packing; laughing stock; green-eyed monster. The words, too: swagger, bedazzle, hurry, and many more.

Check out this short piece on JPROF.com to find more. Watch the video. Then go exploring yourself. What’s your favorite word or phase that Shakespeare originated?

Next week: One more piece about Shakespeare (unless something else comes up); What did Shakespeare look like?

Vince Vawter’s new novel: Copyboy; to be released in August

Friend and fellow newsletter reader Vince Vawter is about to have has second novel published, and it deserves mention here. Vince was in Minnesota a couple of weeks ago and met with his editor at Capstone Publishing, and he tells me that they have just about settled on a cover (right).

Vince’s first novel is titled Paperboy, and it’s the story of a boy growing up in Memphis who has a stutter. Vince himself is a stutterer, and the story rings true on every page. The novel was a Newberry Honor Award winner, and the Washington Post said: “[Vawter’s] characterization of Little Man feels deeply authentic, with . . . his fierce desire to be ‘somebody instead of just a kid who couldn’t talk right.”

Vince spent his professional career in the newspaper business and finished as the publisher of the Evansville (Ind.) Courier and Press.

His new title is Copyboy, and it’s a book to look forward to. It’s the story of a young man’s trip down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, and it should be out in August.

The lost eloquence of the American sports page

The American sports page, in the Golden Age of the 1920s, was the home of lyrical, eloquent, and erudite writing that honored the magic of athletic competition as well as the magnificence of the English language. Consider this paragraph:

“Outlined against a blue-gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore they are known as Famine, Pestilence, Destruction, and Death. These are only aliases. Their real names are Stuhldreher, Miller, Crowley and Layden.”

That’s how Grantland Rice, sports writer for the New York Tribune, began his account of the Notre Dame-Army football game of 1924. Notre Dame, led by its great backfield, won the game against a strong team from the United States Military Academy (Army).

The Four Horsemen postage stamp

No paragraph in the history of sports journalism has been quoted more than this one. The “Four Horsemen” became part of the legend of Notre Dame football, and publicists at the University placed the four footballers on four horses for a famous photograph. That photograph was turned into a postage stamp more than 50 years later.

Some of the greats of American literature — Ring Lardner, Damon Runyon, Jimmy Cannon — were sports writers. Read more about this topic on JPROF.com and then follow the links for even more information and great writing.

The Feminine Mystique and the change in women’s status in the 1960s

One of the often-overlooked phenomena of the 1960s — the time when I was a teenager and grew into adulthood — was the change in the status of American women during that decade. The change was one of the major motivating ideas for my writing the novel Point Spread. The central character of that novel, Maxine Wayman, has dreams and ambitions, but she runs into the roadblock of “being a girl.”

I make no claim to being a particularly progressive thinker as a teenager or a college student. I’m sure I was part of the problem more than part of the solution, but I did know many bright, talented, and ambitious girls who had to overcome obstacles that I never faced.

In some ways, Maxine is my continuing tribute to those young women.

These thoughts were sparked this week by a short piece in the New York Times Daily Briefing that noted that it was this week, 55 years ago, that The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan was published.

The book summed up many of the frustrations that middle-class women had experienced, especially if they had set aside ambitions and careers to become suburban housewives and mothers. From the day it was published, it sparked criticism from many quarters (and continues to do so today), but it struck a chord with many women and became a phenomenal best-seller over the following two years.

Read the rest of this post and find out more about the book, The Feminine Mystique, on JPROF.com.

Giveaways and Amazon gift card winner

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

https://www.instafreebie.com/gg/HCqRcAvQK0Pr9IpLcGT4Addictive Suspense and Thrillers Giveaway.This giveaway, which includes Kill the Quarterback, is a carefully compiled selection of high-octane, fast-paced mystery-suspense-thrillers, full of action, suspense and drama from debut to bestselling authors. Some of the books are already available while others are coming soon. Take a moment to check them out and claim any that intrigue you for absolutely free.

A name for this newsletter?

For a couple of weeks now I have asked: Does this newsletter need a name?

I have mentioned The Writing Wright and JPROF Journal. One reader suggested Jim’s Jottings. Another: Jim’s Musings. Then newsletter reader and regular correspondent Tod wrote this:

A name? “The Stove” would be unique. Or “Pot-bellied Stove.” We could keep warm by The Stove. I am mildly against the use of references to “writing” (jotting, journal, scribbles, and so on) in the name of a journal or newsletter because that would be redundant*. Of course it’s a journal/jotting/diary; you don’t need to point out the obvious. Besides, such use is all too common. You want something unique and not look like part of the crowd. “The Quarterback Sneak” sounds interesting and it plays on your football titles.

* sort of like the local newspaper of a town in Virginia, the Newport News News.

That got me to thinking. What about The Hot Stove League? That expression comes from the baseball world, and it describes a time when people would sit around a hot stove in the winter and discuss last season or next season or politics and books or anything else that might be on their minds. I like it. I may go with it.
Let me know what you think.

Compliments

It is gratifying beyond words — and extremely humbling — to receive compliments about this newsletter from readers. Lately, my cup runneth over.

Maria K: It’s always very diverse! and very informative. I may not always click on a link, but I do read it from start to finish. Thank you,

Alice C: I would like to take a moment to compliment you on your newsletter. Not only do I take the time to read it each week, but I look forward to it as well. I look forward to the eclectic content as I find there are always one or two articles which elicit further exploration.

Dorothy B: I am opening and enjoying your newsletter, Jim. Thanks for sending it.

Angie L: Me, Myself and I ( sorry it had to be done) look forward to opening and reading every part of your newsletter. I think I would really miss them should they stop.

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Franklin Roosevelt (caricature)

Last week it was Eleanor. This week it’s Franklin. I’ll have more about them both in next week’s newsletter.

Best quote of the week:

The trade of governing has always been monopolized by the most ignorant and the most rascally individuals of mankind.

Thomas Paine, philosopher and writer (1737-1809)

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. Add to these those devastated by the California wildfires — and now floods. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution 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


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A ‘day’ becomes a ‘date’; Poe’s rules for detective fiction; a little bit of Henry Fowler

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,140) on Friday, Dec. 8, 2017.

Hi, 

Last week’s question: Were there no Americans before 1776?

An answer came in from newsletter reader and good friend Jane P:

There were many Americans long before 1776, in the numerous Native American societies and groups across what became the U.S. and other modern countries of North and South America. I recommend a compelling book “1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus” by Charles C. Mann. Here’s a link to the New York Times book review: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/10/09/books/review/1491-vanished-americans.html

Thanks, Jane.

Viewing tip: Click the display images link above if you haven’t done so already.

Edgar Allan Poe and the development of the detective/mystery novel

American author Edgar Allan Poe — whom we all read in school and some continued to read long afterwards — gets lots of credit for developing the modern detective/mystery novel. He was not the first to write about mysterious crime and its solution, but his five short stories (Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Purloined Letter, The Mystery of Marie Roget, Thou Art the Man, and The Gold Bug) pointed the way for future writers to develop this genre.

In addition, Poe — the literary critic — had some definite thoughts about the detective story. It should contain the “unity of effect of impression” that he believed could only be achieved by a short story or something that could be read in one sitting. Plenty of authors have taken the detective story to the novel form and maintained this unity. But Poe also wrote that

the mystery should be preserved throughout most of the story, 

that the mystery should converge in the denouement (“There should be no word written, of which the tendency, direct or indirect, is not to the one pre-established design.”), and

that no “undue or inartistic means should be used by the author to conceal the solution to the mystery.”

This information all comes from Detnovel.com, a website created by Prof. William Marling, who has written extensively on the topic of the detective novel.

December 7, 1941: ‘Day’ becomes ‘date’ — and a historic phrase is born

On the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, President Franklin Roosevelt dictated a speech that would become one of the most famous in American history. Unlike more modern presidents, who employ an army of speechwriters, Roosevelt wrote much of his own speeches.

He began this one by dictating to Grace Tully, his secretary. The first draft of his first sentence was, “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a day which will live in world history . . . .”

Roosevelt was a notorious and perfecting editor, particularly of his own copy. No one knows what went through his mind when he was writing and editing this speech, but the evidence that he was giving each word much thought can be found in the image at the right. He made many changes to that draft. To Roosevelt, those first words were important, and they had to be right. They must have sounded flat, like the beginning of a dull history lesson.

Somewhere in the process, “day” became “date,” signifying a larger and more memorable moment in history than just a day. And “world history” became “infamy.” Roosevelt needed a word that would express the outrage that Americans felt about being “suddenly and deliberately attacked.”

Infamy was the word he chose. It hadn’t come to him at first. It came only in the editing process.

And it has become an indelible part of American history.

Read more about this speech and its context here on JPROF.com

True crime podcasts (continued): Casefile

Casefile, a well written and well delivered podcast from Australia, deals with stories of real crime under the moniker: “Fact is scarier than fiction.” Casefile is this week’s true crime podcast recommendation. Casefile deals with crimes from all over the world, not just Australia, but their native cases are often the most interesting and intriguing. The narration is delivered by Anonymous Host, an unnamed voice whose Australian accent is positively charming. The podcasts are well-researched and tightly written and are a pleasure to listen to. Casefile has a large following around the world and has gathered a number of prestigous awards. After listening to a few episodes, it’s easy to see why. Start with Episode 66: The Black Widow and get hooked.

Here’s what else we’ve recommended so far:

True Crime All the Time , hosted by Mike Ferguson and Mike Gibson, or “Gibby,” presents some fascinating cases, and the hosts are well informed (though not experts of any sort). Both have engaging personalities, and a big part of the fun is just hearing them play off of each other. Try episode 45, the case of Adolpho Constanzo and Sara Aldrete. It’s typical of Mike and Gibby’s approach. (Be careful; some of this episode is graphic and hard to take.)

Real Crime Profile, with three excellent hosts, have discussions of criminal cases that are riveting and insightful. The link provided above is to a list of some of the recent podcasts. Start anywhere. You will be fascinated. (Real Crime Profile on Facebook.)

Dirty John: Christopher Goffard, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, has written and narrates a series called Dirty John. It’s the story of Debra Newell and John Meehan and is a true crime podcast of the highest order. It will take you a while to get through it, but once you start, you’ll likely be hooked. The reporting is thorough, the interviews are fascinating, and the story is full of twists, turns, and surprises. The ending is well worth the journey. Here’s a link to part 1, “The Real Thing.”

Sword and Scale. This website and podcast, according to its own description, is about “the dark underworld of crime and the criminal justice system’s response to it.” The folks associated with Sword and Scale have spent a lot of time producing interesting and informative podcasts about serious crimes. One episode I listened to was episode 90. It was an hour well spent.

Do you have any true crime podcast recommendations to share with fellow readers?

Crimes Against English: Readers’ pet peeves

Reader and friend Dan C. (Las Vegas) writes:

My pet peeve with the English language (though I assume it is happening in all languages) is the destruction of spelling, punctuation, and grammar brought about by original SMS text and Twitter character count limitations. The flaws of texting are taking over email and even the actual written word. The French went after what they felt was the terrible destruction of their language in the 1970’s, with the influx of Americanisms and words (Blue Jeans was a big no no). I haven’t heard the same uproar with the bastardization of language from texting.

What’s your pet peeve about English, its use or misuse?

Giveaways

Christmas Spree Giveaway. As usual each month, I get together with some other authors to sponsor an Amazon gift card giveaway. This month’s giveaway is $180, which should come in handy for some Christmas shopping. The giveaway sign-up runs from Dec. 1 to Dec. 15, and the winner will be announced shortly thereafter. Go to this Rafflecopter link to sign up: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/77deea0966/?

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

More from The Devil’s Dictionary

More entries from The Devil’s Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, these from the letter F:

FINANCE, n. The art or science of managing revenues and resources for the best advantage of the manager. The pronunciation of this word with the i long and the accent on the first syllable is one of America’s most precious discoveries and possessions.

FLAG, n. A colored rag borne above troops and hoisted on forts and ships. It appears to serve the same purpose as certain signs that one sees on vacant lots in London—”Rubbish may be shot here.”

FORGETFULNESS, n. A gift of God bestowed upon doctors in compensation for their destitution of conscience.

FUNERAL, n. A pageant whereby we attest our respect for the dead by enriching the undertaker, and strengthen our grief by an expenditure that deepens our groans and doubles our tears.

The savage dies—they sacrifice a horse
  To bear to happy hunting-grounds the corpse.
  Our friends expire—we make the money fly
  In hope their souls will chase it to the sky.

You can get a free copy of The Devil’s Dictionary in a variety of formats through Project Gutenberg.

A bit of Henry Watson Fowler wisdom

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned Henry Watson Fowler’s book, Modern English Usage, as a good volume to have for those who are interested in English. Fowler is superb in writing about the nuances of the language, and I thought I would give some some bit of flavor of his book. This is the entry on the word intended:

Intended, n. It is curious that betrothed people should find it so difficult to hit upon a comfortable word to describe each other by. ‘My intended’, ‘my fiance(e)’ , ‘my sweetheart’, ‘my love(r)’, ‘my (wo)man’, ‘my boy (girl) friend’, ‘my future wife (husband)’, ‘my wife (husband) to be’ — none of these is much to their taste, too emotional, or too French, or too vulgar, or too evasive. The last two objections are in fact one; evasion of plain words is vulgarity; and “my intended” gives the impression that the poor things are shy of specifying the bond between them; so too with ‘my engaged,’ and the modern word ‘steady’ does not necessarily imply serious intentions. And so in finance(e), they resort to French instead of vague English for their embarrassing though futile disguise. It is no doubt too late to suggest that another chance be given to betrothed. It means just what it should, i.e., pledged to be married, and is not vulgarized and would be a dignified word for public use. But it is so out of fashion as to sound facetious.

Fowler’s book is full of this kind of stuff. Get one for yourself or for someone who loves the language.

 

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Edgar Allen Poe

This is a larger version of the one at the top of this newsletter. The painting is watercolor on Strathmore Bristol hot press paper. I have been practicing portraits lately and using some 19th and 20th century writers and artists as my subjects.

Best quote of the week:

If I can do no more, let my name stand among those who are willing to bear ridicule and reproach for the truth’s sake, and so earn some right to rejoice when the victory is won. Louisa May Alcott, writer and reformist (1832-1888) .

Do not forget the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Nate. These and many other disasters mean that people need our help. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to yours.Keep reading 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

 

Reviews:

5-star review: I this book in exchange for an unbiased review. I loved this book! Its plot and characters are quite realistic. Having been a high school teacher I felt the voices of the teens were correctly written. It is a great read!

Kill the Quarterback

5-star review: I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this book. Wow. This is the first book I’ve read by this author. I wasn’t sure I was going to like it but I thought I would read a few pages and then bam! I was hooked! Excellent writing. Excellent story. I could not figure out whodunit and that’s the best kind of mystery. I can’t wait until the next book comes out!

 

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FDR, the editor: A date which will live in infamy

The first typed draft of Franklin Roosevelt's "date which will live in infamy" speech was heavily edited by FDR.

The first typed draft of Franklin Roosevelt’s “date which will live in infamy” speech was heavily edited by FDR.

On the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked, President Franklin Roosevelt dictated a speech that would become one of the most famous in American history. Unlike more modern presidents, who employ an army of speechwriters, Roosevelt wrote much of his own speeches.

He began this one by dictating to Grace Tully, his secretary. The first draft of his first sentence was, “Yesterday, December 7th, 1941 — a day which will live in world history . . . .”

Roosevelt was a notorious and perfecting editor, particularly of his own copy. No one knows what went through his mind when he was writing and editing this speech, but the evidence that he was giving each word much thought can be found in the image at the right. He made many changes to that draft. To Roosevelt, those first words were important, and they had to be right. They must have sounded flat, like the beginning of a dull history lesson.

Somewhere in the process, “day” became “date,” signifying a larger and more memorable moment in history than just a day. And “world history” became “infamy.” Roosevelt needed a word that would express the outrage that Americans felt about being “suddenly and deliberately attacked.”

Infamy was the word he chose. It hadn’t come to him at first. It came only in the editing process.

And it has become an indelible part of American history.

Roosevelt had good reason to weigh his words carefully — many good reasons, in fact. For much of two years prior to the Japanese attack, the country had been through a bitter debate about what America should do about the war in Europe. A strong America First faction, led by aviator-hero Charles Lindbergh, argued that America should not be involved in Europe’s problems. People on this side recalled America’s participation in World War I — then called the Great War — and believed America had lost many lives and much treasure and had gained little for it.

On the other side of the debate were those who believe that America’s involved in this European war was inevitable and that the sooner we committed to it, the better able we would be to end it quickly. The British, particularly Prime Minister Winston Churchill, were desperate to bring America into the war, fearing that the British would not be able to hold out against Germany. America was the place where Nazism and Fascism could be stopped, this side argued, and it was America’s moral duty to the world to fight. Roosevelt was clearly on this side of the argument, but as president, he felt that he could not lead too strongly. If war came, he would have to have a united country behind him.

The bitterness of how divided America was at that point is exemplified by the actions of both sides over the issue of a peacetime draft, which came before Congress in 1940. Proponents knew that if war came any time soon, America would be totally unprepared both with equipment and men. A peacetime draft — though America had never had one in her history — made sense, and those who opposed it, proponents argued, were endangering the country.

The opposition to a draft included many young people, Gold Star Mothers (those who had lost children in the previous war, educators, pacifists, and isolationists. As Doris Kearns Goodwin writes in No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II:

Day after day, black-veiled matrons who called themselves the Mothers of the USA march in front of the Capitol, vowing to hold a “death watch” against conscription. (p. 139)

Just about every issue through the next year became one of war or peace.

On December 7, a quiet Sunday, war came, but it wasn’t from the east in Europe.

Smoke pours from the USS Arizona, one of the battleships sunk by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941.

Smoke pours from the USS Arizona, one of the battleships sunk by the Japanese on Dec. 7, 1941.

Just after 7:30 a.m. local time, a fleet of Japanese bombers swooped into Pearl Harbor and dropped a payload of torpedo bombs on the ships anchored there. They kept coming — 189 in all — until the U.S. Navy was crippled beyond imagining.

Roosevelt was informed about 1:30 p.m. Washington time.

After conferring with aides throughout the afternoon, Roosevelt called in Grace Tully around 5 p.m and began dictating his speech. He worked on it, on and off, into the evening.

President Franklin Roosevelt delivers his speech asking Congress to declare war on Dec. 8, 1941 -- the date "which will live in infamy."

President Franklin Roosevelt delivers his speech asking Congress to declare war on Dec. 8, 1941 — the date “which will live in infamy.”

The speech was important, not just because of the history it would make but also because of the immediate situation. No one knew what would happen next. Would America be invaded by the Japanese? Japan had not only attacked Pearl Harbor that day, but it has launched coordinated attacks on the Philippines and numerous points elsewhere in the Pacific. It was not then out of the question that they could be on the shores of the West Coast within hours or days.

The nation waited on that bleak Monday to hear from Roosevelt. The speech, FDR knew, had to ignore the bitterness of the previous two years and set a direction and tone that would promote American unity.

By measuring precisely each of his words, Roosevelt did just that.


Audio

( The speech that Roosevelt delivered lasted slightly more than seven minutes.)