YES, WE READ OUR MAIL! John D. MacDonald once said that "writing is like dropping feathers down a well. Any echo is appreciated."
So, do writers read their mail? You bet. You never know what you can learn from an alert reader. About two years ago, I received an e-mail from a reader in Tennessee. He dropped a couple compliments about my "Solomon vs. Lord" series and asked about my next book.
I wrote him back with a quick summary of "Illegal," which involves human trafficking on the Mexican border and offers a sympathetic view on the plight of undocumented immigrants. The reader asked if I ever heard the Tom Russell song, "Who's Gonna Build Your Wall?" I hadn't. But after I listened, the song became a favorite of mine and of Jimmy (Royal) Payne, the hero of the book.
Russell also wrote "Tonight We Ride," a tale of good-natured violence. The song speaks longingly of scalping, whoring, horse rustling, and robbery. Needless to say, it is one of my favorites.
Here's Rusell performing the son on "The David Letterman Show."
LIFE IN THE COOLER: Here I am, working away in the Dade County Morgue, 1994. Yes, those are real bodies. (Photo by Jim Virga, South Florida Sun-Sentinel).
MAJOR LEAGUE SMARTS: There are 750 major league baseball players and 30 managers. What's your guess as to the percentage of college graduates in that group? Twenty-five percent? Ten percent? Try 3 per cent, 26 out of 780. (Does this explain chewing tobacco?) I'm guessing there's a higher percentage of college grads in prison.
LEVINE'S BEHIND THE TIMES: I'm going to stop opining about the sorry state of daily journalism. Why? I just realized how far behind the times I am. When I started work at The Miami Herald, John S. Knight was chairman of the editorial board. One day, I wrote a feature story about Jackie Gleason, referring to the funny man as "The Great One." I received a handwritten note from Mr. Knight, informing me that "There is only one 'Great One,' and He is not Jackie Gleason."
NEWS BULLETIN: I have just discovered there is something called the "Jonas Brothers." I will keep you posted as events transpire.