The recent news of positive COVID-19 tests for a valet for President Trump and an aide to Vice President Pence revive a thorny question:  What happens if the president gets sick?  As shown by the corona-related illness of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the virus can incapacitate those in high office.  What happens if we…

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In many cities, like Washington, DC, “Noir at the Bar” has swiftly become an institution.  The elements are predictable, atmospheric: Crime, mystery and thriller writers take over the back room of a bar, preferably a seedy one in an iffy neighborhood. Someone arranges for a scratchy sound system. Recognized and not-yet-recognized writers read short-ish passages…

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THE POWER AND THE STORY The top news:  (i) Rating the presidents with C-SPAN, and (ii) my month at Mount Vernon with the people who know George Washington best. Also: Talking about the Constitution and presidential impeachment.   Hidden figures of history and the books you must read before you die The Bookshelf — great books, both new…

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Maybe I should say that eighteenth-century Americans knew and used very different words.  Because my current book project plunges me into a seemingly endless supply of George Washington’s correspondence and other records of the time, I bump into lots of surprising words. Even when the words are new to me, sometimes their meanings are clear…

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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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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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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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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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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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Wrapping up my blog tour for my historical mystery, The Babe Ruth Deception, I want to honor ten mystery/thriller writers who made me want to write that type of book.  The list reflects my tastes, freely acknowledged here: Not a lot of gore or mass violence.  They’re distractions. Smart, polished writing. Close, loving attention to the people in the…

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