Tag Archives: mystery

Raymond Chandler and the development of the ‘private eye’; newsletter, Jan. 12, 2018

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,500) on Friday, Jan. 12, 2018.

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This second week of the New Year brought some interesting items my way, and I am sharing a few of them with you in this newsletter. I hope that your New Year has gotten off to a great start.

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Raymond Chandler takes the ‘private eye’ to a new place

He was a man troubled by many demons — among them alcoholism, promiscuity, and possibly depression. Despite those problems, Raymond Chandler has become a gigantic influence in the development of the “private eye” character of modern fiction. Chandler is the author of books such as The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye, in which detective Phillip Marlowe went beyond Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade as an expressive and complex character.

Raymond ChandlerChandler was educated in the English public school system, and when he decided to write detective fiction, he studied the genre intensely. His writing is imbued with similes and metaphors that give his scenes and characters a depth that few other “hard-boiled” writers have achieved.

I have written a short post about Chandler’s contributions on JPROF.com. (And if you like this post, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media. Just click on the buttons to the right of the post.)


Word of Sue Grafton’s death last week brought several responses from readers, these among them:

Morag F: So sad to hear about Sue Grafton, I have read a number of her alphabet books. Such a great writer.

Janet E: I too was shocked to hear the news of Ms. Grafton’s death. I am probably the only person in the world, maybe, the universe, who has not read any of her books that go by the alphabet. I plan to start doing so, very soon.

Peggy G: Thank you for your email regarding the death of Sue Grafton. I am at a loss. I developed my love of mysteries and mystery solving reading her books. So sad. Just a thought but, after a time maybe her fellow mystery writing friends and colleagues could each write a chapter of her unwritten “Z is” book as a tribute and (please excuse the trite) closure.

Helen P: Sorry to hear about Sue Grafton’s death. She was one of my favorite authors. Although Spencer has lived on with other authors, I cannot see that happening with Kinsey. I will miss her as I do Amelia Peabody Emerson and other characters who took on a life of their own. RIP

Here’s another tribute to Sue Grafton that her readers might enjoy: Victoria ComellaG is for Gratitude: Remembering Sue Grafton.

Alabama vs. Georgia, 1962: Not a national championship but more protection against libel suits

Bear BryantWhen Alabama played Georgia during the regular season of 1962, Alabama won handily, 35-0. The following spring, the Saturday Evening Post published a story saying that the game had been fixed because of collusion between the two coaches, Georgia’s Wally Butts and Alabama’s Bear Bryant (right). Both Butts and Bryant sued the magazine for libel. Butts won his suit in a trial, and Bryant later reached a settlement with the Post.

But the cases were appealed and eventually made their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. They became part of a set of cases that the court used to rewrite libel laws in the United States to promote free expression and more open debate.

You can read more about this case and its outcome in a post I’ve written on JPROF.com.

True crime podcasts: Atlanta Monster

Atlanta Monster. Just when I was about to retire my podcast recommendations (at least for a while), a new one pops up that I need to tell you about. Atlanta Monster looks at the puzzling case of the Atlanta Child Murders.

In the late 1970s, young African-American boys in the Atlanta area began to go missing. When bodies of some of the missing children were found, police concluded that one person (or set of persons) was responsible. In other words, Atlanta had a serial killer on its hands. The search for the killer was widely covered by local, national, and international news media. This podcast reviews what happened during that difficult time and who was eventually brought to justice. Here’s how the producers of Atlanta Monster describe their podcast:

From the producers of Up and Vanished, Tenderfoot TV and HowStuffWorks present, ‘Atlanta Monster.’ This true crime podcast tells the story of one of the city’s darkest secrets, The Atlanta Child Murders. Nearly 40 years after these horrific crimes, many questions still remain. Host Payne Lindsey aims to find truth and provide closure, reexamining the disappearance and murder of over 25 African American children and young adults.

The first episode is now available and more should be coming soon.

See what other real crime podcasts we’ve recommended here on JPROF.com.


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.

Crimes against English (continued)

I continue to receive responses from readers who have identified crimes against English. They are endlessly interesting, and I appreciate them all. Please keep sending them. Here are a couple that have come in in the last two weeks:

Jim S.: You asked for misused words that irritate. I have one.

First, I need to refer to something told to me soon after I quit smoking many years ago. They said, “No one is more irritating than a reformed smoker.”

I guess the word I selected falls into that category since I used to use it incorrectly. While I was part of a Toastmasters group, I heard someone else use the term Podium when they meant Lectern. After their talk, they were corrected for their misuse. 

Being a person who loves words and such a nerd as to getting engrossed in reading parts of the dictionary, I felt self-chastised for my blatant misuse of the word Podium.

Podium is a stage on which people stand or sit. A Lectern is a stand, sometimes on a Podium, where a first time speaker places his notes and nervously grips the edges.

So, now, being a reformed mis-user of Podium, I cringe and grind my teeth when I see its abuse.

The word Podium is so frequently used in place of the word Lectern that i would not be surprised to see its meaning changed in the near future. I was really surprised when I found Grisham using the word Podium several times to refer to a Lectern in a courtroom. My edit groups would never let me get away with that, at least I hope they wouldn’t.

This is a lot of words to refer to the misuse of one word. That’s me, blah, blah, blah.


Tod: Ever since I can remember I’ve often thought about the notion of simplifying English spelling rules, after reading Dolton Edwards’ story “Meihem in ce Klasrum” in Astounding (1946), and some of Mark Twain’s comments on simplification. http://www.angelfire.com/va3/timshenk/codes/meihem.html

In the early 1800s Noah Webster compiled his first dictionary of (American) English, and one of his goals was to prefer spellings that matched the verbal pronunciation. From then through the early 20th century, various dictionaries and style guides influenced the evolution of American English from British English (no examples needed, I’m sure).

So my “crime” is how we find stories, articles, and other compositions written by American authors using American spellings that are “translated” by overzealous editors of Commonwealth printing or publishing outfits such that “color” becomes “colour,” “traveled” becomes “travelled,” and the suffix “-meter” becomes “-metre.”

I have repeatedly come across this bizarre and eccentric (and totally unnecessary) correction of words just because they don’t conform to the local standards. Take a news story from the New York Times or Atlantic magazine that has sections quoted by writers writing for The Times of London or The Economist and there will be words that some copy editor redlined. Or entire books: I’ve bought paperbacks of American authors like Asimov and Griham and every flavor and fetus becomes flavour and foetus.

So, to copy editors in the Commonwealth, don’t mess with our American language. You lost in 1776 so get over it! Go niggle the French if you have to pick on a language.

Thanks to both Jim S. and Tod for their thoughts. What are your thoughts?


Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Spring Training

Now that collegiate football is out of the way for a few months (congratulations to Alabama on winning yet another national championship and to Georgia for a great game), we can move on to the really important stuff: baseball. Spring training is less than two months away. Enjoy these two watercolors that celebrate the game.

Best quote of the week:

What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. J.D. Salinger, writer (1919-2010)

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 and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall 

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter

More on JPROF.com

The ‘private eye,’ in the beginning: Dashiell Hammett

Dashiell Hammett knew what a private detective should be. He knew because he had been one, and he had been taught by the very best. 

The 100 best nonfiction books of all time: a list from The Guardian

Robert McCrum, the co-author of The Story of English (1986), has compiled a list of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time, and the list was recently published in The Guardian, a well-respected newspaper and news website in Great Britain.

Jean Ritchie: 60-plus years of contributions to American music and culture

If you play the dulcimer, you owe Jean Ritchie a debt of thanks. If you have heard a dulcimer, seen one — or even know what one is, Jean Ritchie is the person responsible.

Jeannie Rousseau, a diminutive spy and an extraordinary tale of courage

She was small, too small to be a danger to anyone. And she was attractive, a good-time girl, maybe even a little flighty. Plus, she had a talent for getting people, particularly men, to talk to her. Those traits hid her steely courage, creativity, resourcefulness — and, maybe most importantly, a photographic memory.

Unsubscribe | 2126 Middlesettlements Road, Maryville, Tennessee 37801 

Where ideas come from: One author’s journey

James Callan is a fiction writer who was introduced to newsletter readers several weeks ago.

He is the author of the Father Frank mysteries, the first of which is Cleansed by Fire, a roaring good adventure with lots of action and interesting characters.

Here are a few questions that James was kind enough to answer.

Cleansed by Fire

Where do you get the ideas for your books?

That’s one of the questions most often asked when I make a presentation.  I love that question because it’s so easy to answer.

Ideas are all around us, every day. You can’t pick up a newspaper or listen to the newscast without a story idea popping out.  Even talking with friends, or overhearing a bit of a conversation can ignite a story.

For example?

I was once in a restaurant. The people in the next booth were chatting back and forth and I pretty much ignored them.  It was as if my mind heard the sentences and immediately discarded them, without my conscience brain registering them.  But one sentence vaulted to the front of my mind and I knew I would write a story, or a book, where that sentence played an important part.  The sentence?  “Was she the woman who died twice?”

My books are all complete fiction, but initiated by something in real life.

What about Cleansed by Fire?

A few years back, a number of church burnings occurred in east Texas.  When they finally caught the two arsonists, the only reason given was, “Could we get away with it?”  As I thought about it over a year, I just couldn’t imagine someone burning down buildings for no reason.  What could be a reason?  And that became Cleansed by Fire, where churches were burned. But there was a reason.

You have said the spark for Over My Dead Body was the Keystone Pipeline.

Over My Dead Body

By eminent domain, Keystone cut a swath one hundred fifty feet wide and a quarter of a mile long through our property, bulldozing down thousands of trees, from hundred foot tall pines to sixth year-old oak and hickory trees.  And this was eminent domain for a private corporation, not for a state or federal project.  

One day I read a brief folktale about a missing wagonload of precious metal in Texas back in the early 1800s.   I wondered, how could such a folktale affect people today.  The answer became A Ton of Gold.

You said that newspapers often provide you with ideas.

Several years ago, I read a four-paragraph story in the Los Angeles Times about a woman held a virtual slave. There were no chains holding her, only the threat to kill her family left behind in Cambodia.  At first, I couldn’t believe such a story. Virtual slaves? In the U.S. today?  I decided to research that on the Internet and to my amazement found it was common. One government report said there may be more slaves in the U.S. today than there were in 1860 —no chains, but threats and economic controls.

A Silver Meddallion

One editor suggested I write a non-fiction book. Interview some who had escaped or some of the families of “slaves.”  As I thought about that, I knew it would be too emotional a topic for me to ever finish the book.

But the idea stayed with me and finally I decided I could write a fiction book and highlight the problem.  A year later, A Silver Medallion was released.  Tthe four-paragraph news story led me ultimately to a 94,000-word award-winning novel.

Any other examples?

Other books have come from similar circumstances: a chance comment, a news story, a personal experience. Often, it’s just asking the question, “What if?”  Not only does this produce good books, it makes life more interesting.  Seemingly off-hand remarks can send the curious mind down interesting and unpredictable paths.  

At least it does for a fiction writer. 



Cleansed by Fire, Over My Dead Body, A Ton of Gold, A Silver Medallion, and other books by James R. Callan can be viewed on his Amazon Author page:  http://amzn.to/1eeykvG or by visiting his website:  http://www.jamesrcallan.com


James R. Callan took a degree in English, intent on writing.  But when that did not support a family, he returned to graduate school in the field of mathematics.  Upon graduation, he worked as a research mathematician, and vice-president of a database company.  

James Callan

He has received grants from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and the Data Processing Management Association.  He has been listed in Who’s Who in Computer Science, and Two Thousand Notable Americans.

When his children were grown and self-supporting, he returned to his original love—writing.  For two years, Callan wrote a monthly column for a national magazine. For six months, he wrote a weekly column that appeared in newspapers in four states. Callan has had twelve books published. All have been published in print, nine were also published as e-books and four were released in audio.  The audio version of one of his mystery/suspense books rose as high as number six on the Books in Motion list. Another book ranked as high as seven in its category on Amazon. He has had shorter works published in five anthologies.

In addition to writing books, Callan gives workshops on writing in the U.S. and Mexico.

He and his wife split their time between homes in east Texas and Puerto Vallarta.  They have four children and six grandchildren.

August was a good month for reviews of Kill the Quarterback

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August brought in some very generous reviews for Kill the Quarterback. Here’s what they said:

A star quarterback is dead before his senior year. A troubled struggling reporter, Mitch Sawyer, must track down the killer before he kills again. Overall, Kill the Quarterback is as nostalgic as the great classic mysteries. Very well written and compelling. All mystery lovers, grab your copy today.


I thoroughly enjoyed reading Kill the Quarterback by Jim Stovall. It had interesting and complex characters who came alive in the story. I loved the fact that the book kept me guessing who the killer was right until the end. I also enjoyed the fact that it was written from a journalist’s point of view. I highly recommend this book. You won’t be disappointed.


Take a big football hero and mix in the Asian community and you have the basis for a good story. Then, add in the intrigue of a newspaper office with positions at stake and most of us will be hooked. Kill the Quarterback has all these, and more. Oh yes, some of it is predictable. But, then just as you think you know something, you get slapped with a new twist. Mr. Stovall has done an excellent job in creating mystery and suspense. It’s clear he knows the newspaper business. I recommend this book, and await his next mystery.


I certainly stepped outside of the box reading Kill the Quarterback. Overall, reading the book reminded me of watching an old black and white Humphrey Bogart movie where he narrates in first person. Given that, the author of Killing the Quarterback has done an excellent job re-creating that imagery through rich dialogue that is embedded between and within the characters. The depth and layering of the descriptive’s allow the reader to see, touch, smell as if they were a part of the story is instrumental in the overall experience. There were times when I was lamenting the story becoming tedious in getting to unveiling who the killer was, but then other times I became so caught up in the character involvement and narrative that I wasn’t thinking of when will the killer be unveiled. I would say that the back and forth can be a sign of a good book, but also a delicate balancing act which had me conflicted while reading, yet caught off guard by the killer’s identity at the end. In fact, I read the last chapter three times to understand not only who the killer was but why. (NOTE: I received a free advanced copy of the book to read in exchange for providing an honest review). I would RECOMMEND Kill The Quarterback as your next read. –Tex.


I read a lot of crime fiction novels, only occasionally do I come across one the caliber of Jim Stovall’s “Kill the Quarterback”. Fast moving right from the start. Exciting plot-line. Colorful characters. The prose is peppered with thought provoking analogies and commentary from the protagonist Mitchell Sawyer, a few examples: “Donnie could be as comforting as a prescription drug commercial and just as deceptive…”; “..the rain pelted my windshield hard, as if the water were angry at the glass for its mere existence”; “a whistle-less freight train on a dark night couldn’t have hit me any harder than the impact I felt from what she just said” and my favorite Mitch speaking about Dr Klein, the police pathologist: “Most of what medical school is about is learning how to talk to civilians with a straight face in a language they won’t understand and making them feel inadequate because of it. Klein had learned his lessons well”.


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