Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dropping Feathers Down a Well

Paul Levine

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).

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.



  1. I have some friends that would argue that the only "Great One" is Wayne Gretzky.

    "I'm guessing there's a higher percentage of college grads in prison."

    3%? I'm guessing there's a higher percentage of felons in Congress.

  2. The Jonas Brothers? Very funny. I suggest you get out of the morgue and into a supermarket check-out line where you can scan the tabloids.

  3. You should check out a segment on The Tonight Show [w/Conan O'Brian]...it's called "Twitter Tracker."...bet you can find the Jonas Bros there, perhaps as "The Twitter of the Week"...............that along with the Masturbating Bear [a carry over from his Conan's NY show].....

    Quote overheard over two decades ago:
    "Yes,Phil Ford IS going to graduate this year....." The announcer had sort of a bit of shock in his delivery of that news. That's where I do have to give major props to your pal Paterno;he knows what comes first in his program, getting an education.


  4. from Jacqueline

    Whenever I hear the words "Jonas brothers" I think of three kids stuck in a whale. The echo is probably really good in there.

    And, oh, those dead bodies - that's why I could never do anything medical.

  5. Interesting how "Undocumented Immigrants" has become a euphemism for "Illegal Aliens", isn't it? Hmmm?

    I still believe in calling a spade a spade. Helps avoid misleading or misrepresentational statements.

    The personal plight of those involved is entirely another matter from how someone chooses to label it.

  6. James O. Born6/30/2009 6:17 PM

    Catch the Jonas Brothers on a repeat of SNL from earlier in the year. Very funny. I missed their musical performance.


  7. Mark--there's a difference between "felons" and "convicted felons", when you're referring to Congress....

  8. I thought "illegal aliens" were Martians who violated interplanetary law.

  9. Who was Mr. Knight referring to? I've heard Gleason called "The Great One" ever since God was a boy, or at least THE HONEYMOONERS.

  10. Oh, and anent John D MacD: somebody once asked him about the sex in his books, and he said that Michelangelo painted the Last Supper, but he didn't get any of the hors d'oeuvres.