Author & Speaker

Historical and Legal Commentary

Adventures in Bookland: Bookstores Spring to Life in DC Area!

Today, before the heavens poured more rain on us, I conducted a quick tour of four new bookstores in the Washington area. While Barnes & Noble’s retailing strategy in the area involves closing its stores in an agonizingly slow decline to full corporate disappearance, other book retailers are jumping into the market — a heartening…

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Impeachment and George Washington: When it rains, it pours

Back in April, I wrote two short pieces on history topics of interest to me — impeachment trials and George Washington.  So, naturally enough, they both launched on the web this weekend, within 24 hours of each other.  So I might as well promote them together, right?  You can check out: My take that historians…

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Does Going There Matter?

Multi-prize-winning author T.J. Stiles (Custer’s Trials, The First Tycoon) recently posed this question on social media.  “Do historians have to visit the sites in their books?” he asked.  “I say no, no more than you have to have been alive in the times you write about.”  Stiles contended that what is important is “personal experience,”…

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Misspelling: An American Tradition

Occasionally I despair over rampant, often intentional misspellings in the modern world.  Doesn’t anyone, I rant inwardly, proofread any more? Was H&M being droll when it misspelled “genius” in the t-shirt on the left?  I don’t think so.  Perhaps that’s the correct spelling in Swedish. And in the billboard on the right, the Miller Brewing…

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Trump: Haunted Anew by the Ghost of Andrew Johnson

More echoes of the benighted Andrew Johnson Administration of 1865-69 reverberate around President Trump with the current logjam at the top of the Consumer Financial Protection Board.  Deputy Director Leandra English asserts the statutory right to direct the agency following the resignation of its director; claiming to act under a different law, President Trump has…

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Writing Great Characters Like Babe Ruth

Writing about familiar historical figures is a central challenge of writing historical fiction, and also a great joy.  The writer, of course, has to replicate any widely-known qualities about the character.  Abraham Lincoln, for example, has to be tall.  Ulysses Grant really should chain-smoke cigars. But the novelist needs to tell us more, to lead…

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Babe Ruth Built the Best Brand Ever

Our digitized world is obsessed with branding.  The road to success, we’re told, is to create a public image of a consistent experience/product/person that people will want to acquire or be exposed to. That’s why the trade association for accountants published “Five Tips to Branding Yourself” (how, in fact, do accountants brand themselves?).  It’s why Success Magazine…

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Up Next: G. Washington, America's Master Politician

I’ve just signed with a Penguin imprint, New American Library, to write a book about The Big Guy — GWash himself, the Master of Mount Vernon, the man-myth who was indisputably the key figure in the founding of the United States and without whom, well, things would have gone very different and a whole lot…

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Africa Days and Nights

Coming home from 17 days in East Africa last month, jazzed by how fascinating our visit had been and conscious of how little I know about Africa, I scooped up Ryszard Kapuscinski’s The Shadow of the Sun while wandering around the Arusha (Tanzania) Airport.  What a stroke of luck! We went to Africa mostly to see…

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225th Birthday of America's Bill of Rights!

I’m delighted to be among the first to proclaim the 225th anniversary of the ratification of America’s Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution.  Those amendments protect individual liberties that Americans hold most dear, and became central to our national character after the Fourteenth Amendment (adopted in 1868) applied them against state…

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