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Southerners, Listen Up!

Hey, y’all, let’s get this straight.  Virginia is a southern state.  I’ve run across people from Texas, Alabama, Georgia and even South Carolina who have referred to my state as being “Yankee.”  I don’t know if this arose because some people don’t understand that West Virginia and Virginia aren’t the same state or if it stems from a lack of geographical knowledge or if those people missed an important lesson in history class. Where was the capital of the confederacy, y’all?  Sure, it was in Montgomery, Alabama, for a couple of months but then it was moved to Richmond, Virginia, for years.  I’m sure Jefferson Davis didn’t put his capital in a Yankee state. If y’all are proper southerners the names Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson ought to ring a bell. So where do you think they hail from?  Virginia.  Yep.  Virginia. And grits?  Has there ever been anything more southern?  Virginia is in the traditional grits belt. Folks usually say if grits aren’t on the restaurant menu, you’re not in the south.  Just try to find a breakfast spot in Virginia that doesn’t serve grits. And while were talking about what is and isn’t a southern state, let’s spare a little kindness for the state of Maryland.  No, they didn’t secede from the union but they really wanted to join the confederacy.  You see, martial law was declared in Maryland by the federal government who sent troops in to stop their vote for secession because everyone knew the vote was going to the south.  And, of course, the Yankees didn’t want their capital to be an island... read more

Influence Your Book Store

  The number of book stores in this country has declined in the last decade.   And the inventory in existing book stores has gotten smaller. As a result, I’ve heard many people complaining that their favorite types of books are no longer available on the shelf.   Many of you have asked book stores to stock more of what you liked and have felt powerless when you felt you were ignored.  At a recent book signing, a Barnes and Noble staff person gave me information that will point in the right direction to harness your power and make an impact on the inventory. The secret is pre-ordering.   When someone pre-orders a book before its official release date, it tells book stores that the book is in demand.  If more than one person orders the same title in advance, it lets them know that buying additional copies to stock the shelves is a good idea.   If, for example, your store doesn’t carry any or very few true crime books, start pre-ordering ones you will want.  If you like novels with a strong female protagonist, pre-order those books before their release.  If you order before publication and get your like-minded friends to do the same, before very long, you’ll see a change.   The pre-ordering habit
requires that you pay attention to what’s about to come out but there are
a kajillion places on line to track that and if you band together with
reader-friends, you can share information with one another—making it easier for
everyone.   Post a comment here letting
others know where you’ve found the best source for future book releases. Pre-ordering... read more

The Manhattan Well Mystery: The Coldest Unsolved Case in American History

History, mystery and a host of fascinating characters—Paul Collins latest effort, Duel with the Devil: The True Story of How Alexander Hamilton & Aaron Burr Teamed Up to Take on America’s First Sensational Murder Mystery, entertains as it illuminates the early years of the United States.  At its core is Manhattan Well Mystery, the death of a young woman that remains unsolved more than two hundred years after its commission, making it the coldest case in American history. The time frame of the crime coinciding with the death in 1800 of national hero President George Washington presents a backdrop for Collins to shine light on the foibles and strengths of another pair of founding fathers, Hamilton and Burr, and their tumultuous relationship that ultimately ended in Hamilton’s death in 1804.  This slice of history shows the two men working side-by-side to overcome the inadequacies of a newborn justice system struggling to distinguish itself from the judicial order of the Crown. The accused, carpenter Levi Weeks, had already been convicted in the court of public opinion and was at risk of harm from mob violence, a common remedy of the times. Levi could not testify on his own behalf because the judicial system he entered considered the defendant’s word to be inadmissible because it was biased against conviction.  His legal team, Hamilton, Burr and Henry Brockholst Livingston, were all that stood between Levi and the hangman.   The story of how this lowly craftsman managed to assemble such a stellar group of attorneys in his fight for justice gives a startling glimpse into the political, economic and judicial realities of post-colonial America.  It is a riveting tale that you will not only enjoy reading but... read more