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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Now that he’s won the Pulitzer Prize for it, maybe we’ll pay attention to the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, the genre-smashing Broadway hit that costs a monthly car payment to attend.  When we listen to the words – really listen – we can appreciate his achievement. Magic can happen when story and words and…

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This morning brings the inaugural installment of a monthly piece I’ll be writing for the Washington Independent Review of Books.  The subjects will be what I’m reading, writing, or thinking about.  This morning’s effort puzzles over the bafflingly inflated reputation of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  I don’t get it. . . .

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As the World War I centennial continues to gear up, and as I slouch to the end of my novel on the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, I have stumbled upon the most remarkable French memoir of the war — Poilu.  (Thanks to Andy Dayton for recommending it.) Louis Barthas was a barrelmaker in the…

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My talk about the John Wilkes Booth Conspiracy  to the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond will be aired on CSPAN 3 this weekend at 9 p.m. on Sunday, December 15, and then again at midnight.  It was a great turnout and a terrific audience.  I have learned that Virginians pay attention to history. The title…

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The Montgomery County Council, which presides over my home jurisdiction and which includes my favorite person (my wife Nancy), is considering a resolution demanding that various state and federal government organs act immediately to ensure that the county’s library users have access to e-books in a “reasonable and non-discriminatory manner.” The only problem with this…

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With the oh-so-welcome arrest of apparent terrorist bomber Dzokhar Tsarnaev, and the killing of his brother/accomplice, some Republican senators are perversely urging a policy that would award the terrorists their greatest possible victory.  They urge that Tsarnaev be declared an “enemy combatant” in order to allow the use of summary legal procedures against him, and…

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Sometimes I admire a book of history but am pleased I didn’t have to write it.  Either it seems like a too-long project, or involves difficult research efforts, or requires spending psychic time with unattractive historical figures and situations. All of those emotions arose as I recently read Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, a harrowing depiction of the…

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