pen name of John Creasey
March 1961 Pocket paperback, first printing
cover art by Harry Bennett
How the Amish conquered the evangelical romance market
Ann Neumann writes: Peering out from a wire rack in a grocery store was a religious vision of sorts: a paperback romance novel that neatly summed up classic yearning, confining cultural norms, and the hazards of defiled purity. At the center of all this familiar masscult longing and inner turmoil was an unlikely heroine: a young Amish woman, barefoot, clutching a suitcase, her white-bonneted head turned away from a mysterious man in the foreground. Here, plopped down in a hormonally charged set piece, was a figure straight out of the homey folk tradition known as Amish country pastoral. Though this pious woman couldn’t seem more out of place, the book is called Found ; it is the third entry in a series called The Secrets of Crittenden County. There were other books, too, in the rack—The Quilter’s Daughter, Leaving Lancaster—clearly meant to evoke the remote corner of central Pennsylvania where we were standing.
My sister and I grew up in the heart of Amish country, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. We came across these curious specimens on a routine shopping trip to a rural grocery store. Like people growing up anywhere, we share a complicated relationship with the customs of our homeland, but seeing them serve as the backdrop of a faith-based fiction franchise was a blow to our hard-won sense of place. It was a bit like what many rent-strapped single women writers in New York must have felt when they first encountered long-lunching, fashion-obsessed Carrie Bradshaw of Sex and the City fame, or how Appalachian teens might dissect descriptions of District 12 in the Hunger Games franchise.
My family isn’t Amish, but we’re probably the closest thing—we hail from nearly three hundred years of colonial American Mennonite stock: cussed true believers who moved from Germany to flourish in the free-thinking heart of William Penn’s settlement in the New World. Like the Amish, Mennonites are Anabaptists—adult-baptizing practitioners of an ardent brand of European Protestant pietism that often overlapped with Old World peasant political uprisings, but served in the American setting as a forcing bed for the Amish separatist quest for purity and the Mennonite traditions of pacifism and communal self-help. As the heirs to an easily misunderstood spiritual legacy, we feel protective of our Anabaptist background when it becomes a product label.
The commercialization of the Amish brand is, of course, nothing new. My sister and I have a long familiarity with kitschy Amish books: guidebooks to Pennsylvania Dutch country, Amish “wisdom” books, “Plain” cookbooks. But the strange cover of Found represented something new in this faintly comical face-off between the self-segregated communities of faith we knew and a cultural mainstream incorrigibly curious about what it’s done to offend pious Anabaptist sensibilities. For a tortured Amish conscience to be front and center on a mass-market paperback meant that the bonnet-clad and buttonless Amish were merging, however awkwardly, with more commercially tried-and-true narratives of tested devotion and romantic longing.
At a minimum, the novel was suggesting that the Amish represent something more than an exotic, out-of-the-way religious curiosity in the early decades of the twenty-first century. Shelley Shepard Gray, the author of the Crittenden County series, who sees her writing as a way to promulgate her more conventional brand of evangelical faith (she’s a Lutheran), seemed to be signaling that the Amish experience, long the object of prurient curiosity from an intensely modern (if only intermittently secular) American mainstream, was ready for prime time. The woman on the cover of Found could be an inspirational symbol of female spiritual self-discipline, or a cleaned-up lady on the make of the sort featured in endless Danielle Steel contributions to the bodice-ripper genre. My sister and I each purchased a copy of Found , agreeing that we would read it and report back.
Read the rest of this entry »
1954 Australian pulp.
Rule, who went to work briefly at the Seattle Police Department when she was 21, began writing for magazines like ‘True Detective‘ in 1969. She has published more than 1,400 articles, mostly on criminal cases.
Scott Thompson, a spokesman for CHI Franciscan Health, said Rule died at Highline Medical Center at 10:30 p.m. Sunday. Rule’s daughter, Leslie
Rule, said on Facebook that her mother had many health issues, including congestive heart failure.
“Rest in peace to our beloved true crime author and former Seattle police officer, Ann Rule.”
— Rule’s publisher, Simon & Schuster
Rule passed peacefully and was able to see all of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren before she died.
Rule’s first book, “The Stranger Beside Me,” profiled Bundy, whom Ann Rule got to know while sharing the late shift at a Seattle suicide hotline.
“A lot of writers in her genre focused on the predators. That’s what made her special. She had a great empathy for the victims.”
— Rule’s daughter Leslie
“Rest in peace to our beloved true crime author and former Seattle police officer, Ann Rule,” Rule’s publisher, Simon & Schuster, Tweeted.
Rule, who went to work briefly at the Seattle Police Department when she was 21, began writing for magazines like “True Detective” in 1969. A biography on her author website says she has published more than 1,400 articles, mostly on criminal cases.
Rule has written more than 30 best-selling true crime novels, chronicling some of the most heinous murders. Read the rest of this entry »
“It sure would be nice to get over a Manhattan traffic jam with one big leap on a skateboard,” Mark Ulriksen says about his cover for this week’s issue.
An anthology of science fiction/fantasy stories told in the form of fictional kickstarter crowdfunding pitches, using the components (and restrictions) of the format to tell the story. (There is a link to a preview on the Humble page).
I got this bundle recently. This book is original and inspiring (if you have an imaginative mind). Interesting to see how these imaginary kickstarter pitches, with a description, goals and comments, suggest a story. Some titles: The Spirit of Mars: Fund a Sacred Journey to the Red Planet, Catassassins!, A Practical Mechanism for Overcoming the Directionality of Temporal Flow, Life-Sized Arena Tetris! Prima Nocta Detective Agency Needs You, and many more. Read the rest of this entry »
Depressed New York Times staffers, reported to be on suicide watch since the scandal began, struggle to endure the hardship of working at a newspaper that accurately lists Ted Cruz’s bestselling book.
KATIE MCHUGH reports: The New York Times acknowledged on Wednesday that the book, A Time for Truth, belongs on its best-seller list and gave it a no. 7 ranking in nonfiction, after snubbing it and accusing the Cruz campaign of making “strategic bulk purchases.”
Harper Collins sent an inquiring email to The New York Times last week after the book’s impressive sales were ignored by the paper.
“We have uniform standards that we apply to our best seller list, which includes an analysis of book sales that goes beyond simply the number of books sold,” spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said, according to Politico. “This book didn’t meet that standard this week.”
[Order Ted Cruz’s bestselling book – excluded by the New York Times! “A Time for Truth: Reigniting the Promise of America” from Amazon.com]
Cruz’s campaign furiously attacked The New York Times for their deliberate omission.
“The Times is presumably embarrassed by having their obvious partisan bias called out. But their response — alleging ‘strategic bulk purchases’ — is a blatant falsehood. The evidence is directly to the contrary. In leveling this false charge, the Times has tried to impugn the integrity of Senator Cruz and of his publisher HarperCollins,” Cruz campaign spokesperson Rick Tyler told Politico on Friday.
Amazon also pushed back. An Amazon spokeswoman said that A Time for Truth: was a bestselling book and they found no evidence of “unusual bulk purchase activity.” Cruz’s book currently ranks as the number-one best-selling book in “Political Conservatism & Liberalism” on Amazon. Read the rest of this entry »
Are professional ethicists good people? According to our research, not especially. So what is the point of learning ethics?
Eric Schwitzgebel writes: None of the classic questions of philosophy are beyond a seven-year-old’s understanding. If God exists, why do bad things happen? How do you know there’s still a world on the other side of that closed door? Are we just made of material stuff that will turn into mud when we die? If you could get away with killing and robbing people just for fun, would you? The questions are natural. It’s the answers that are hard.
“Shouldn’t regularly thinking about ethics have some sort of influence on one’s own behaviour? Doesn’t it seem that it would? To my surprise, few professional ethicists seem to have given the question much thought.”
Eight years ago, I’d just begun a series of empirical studies on the moral behaviour of professional ethicists. My son Davy, then seven years old, was in his booster seat in the back of my car. ‘What do you think, Davy?’ I asked. ‘People who think a lot about what’s fair and about being nice – do they behave any better than other people? Are they more likely to be fair? Are they more likely to be nice?’
Davy didn’t respond right away. I caught his eye in the rearview mirror.
“Ethicists do not behave better. But neither, overall, do they seem to behave worse.”
‘The kids who always talk about being fair and sharing,’ I recall him saying, ‘mostly just want you to be fair to them and share with them.’
When I meet an ethicist for the first time – by ‘ethicist’, I mean a professor of philosophy who specialises in teaching and researching ethics – it’s my habit to ask whether ethicists behave any differently to other types of professor. Most say no.
I’ll probe further: why not? Shouldn’t regularly thinking about ethics have some sort of influence on one’s own behaviour? Doesn’t it seem that it would?
To my surprise, few professional ethicists seem to have given the question much thought. They’ll toss out responses that strike me as flip or are easily rebutted, and then they’ll have little to add when asked to clarify. They’ll say that academic ethics is all about abstract problems and bizarre puzzle cases, with no bearing on day-to-day life – a claim easily shown to be false by a few examples: Aristotle on virtue, Kant on lying, Singer on charitable donation. They’ll say: ‘What, do you expect epistemologists to have more knowledge? Do you expect doctors to be less likely to smoke?’ I’ll reply that the empirical evidence does suggest that doctors are less likely to smoke than non-doctors of similar social and economic background. Maybe epistemologists don’t have more knowledge, but I’d hope that specialists in feminism would exhibit less sexist behaviour – and if they didn’t, that would be an interesting finding. I’ll suggest that relationships between professional specialisation and personal life might play out differently for different cases.
“We criticise Martin Heidegger for his Nazism, and we wonder how deeply connected his Nazism was to his other philosophical views. But we don’t feel the need to turn the mirror on ourselves.”
It seems odd to me that our profession has so little to say about this matter. We criticise Martin Heidegger for his Nazism, and we wonder how deeply connected his Nazism was to his other philosophical views. But we don’t feel the need to turn the mirror on ourselves.
“No clergyperson has ever expressed to me the view that clergy behave on average morally better than laypeople, despite all their immersion in religious teaching and ethical conversation. Maybe in part this is modesty on behalf of their profession.”
The same issues arise with clergy. In 2010, I was presenting some of my work at the Confucius Institute for Scotland. Afterward, I was approached by not one but two bishops. I asked them whether they
thought that clergy, on average, behaved better, the same or worse than laypeople.
‘About the same,’ said one.
‘Worse!’ said the other.
No clergyperson has ever expressed to me the view that clergy behave on average morally better than laypeople, despite all their immersion in religious teaching and ethical conversation. Maybe in part this is modesty on behalf of their profession. But in most of their voices, I also hear something that sounds like genuine disappointment, some remnant of the young adult who had headed off to seminary hoping it would be otherwise.
In a series of empirical studies – mostly in collaboration with the philosopher Joshua Rust of Stetson University – I have empirically explored the moral behaviour of ethics professors. As far as I’m aware, Josh and I are the only people ever to have done so in a systematic way.
Here are the measures we looked at: voting in public elections, calling one’s mother, eating the meat of mammals, donating to charity, littering, disruptive chatting and door-slamming during philosophy presentations, responding to student emails, attending conferences without paying registration fees, organ donation, blood donation, theft of library books, overall moral evaluation by one’s departmental peers based on personal impressions, honesty in responding to survey questions, and joining the Nazi party in 1930s Germany. Read the rest of this entry »
Read the first chapter of Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ which will be published July 14
Titled ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ it was set in the ’50s and opened with a woman named Jean Louise Finch returning home to Alabama. Ms. Lee’s editor found the story lacking but, seizing on flashback scenes, suggested that she write instead about her protagonist as a young girl. The result was a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’
‘Go Set a Watchman’ will be published on Tuesday. It has undergone very little editing. “It was made clear to us that Harper Lee wanted it published as it was,” Jonathan Burnham, publisher of HarperCollins’s Harper imprint, said in a statement. “We gave the book a very light copy edit.”
The first chapter of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ introduces Ms. Lee’s beloved character, Scout, as a sexually liberated woman in her twenties, traveling from New York to Alabama to visit her ailing father and weigh a marriage proposal from a childhood friend. It also includes a bombshell about Scout’s brother.