Blog Categories Archives
Insights from Hawthorne Publishing

Streaming TV series during confinement at home: the Morse Detective Series

Nancy N. Baxter, Senior Editor Hawthorne Publishing

I confess I have become addicted. With a new, large-screen TV and Amazon Prime for the first time, we have “improved” the staying-at-home time by getting interested in, and viewing, English detective series. There are many types on Prime, probably twenty or thirty different detectives, male, female, black, white, working class, spy-types, brilliant misfits and gentlemen and ladies. Their settings range from the British Isles to India and Canada.

We sampled various English series ready for streaming. We had experienced this year’s detective series on weekly TV, which we found often of poor quality. The recent PBS English series like “Grantchester” Season Five don’t add up at all to the richly portrayed and plotted series from about 2000 to 2015. Weak, repetitive plots about the mistreatment of certain groups, and hard-to-believe personal conflicts, stereotypical portrayals and poor acting on the point of the leading characters have dragged down this sparkling and usually interesting genre. So we didn’t know how good the earlier series were.

John Thaw as Inspector Morse

John Thaw as Inspector Morse

In its heyday Inspector Linley and Barbara Havers in “The Inspector Lynley Series” are seen speeding through about fifteen episodes now available on Prime and cleverly stopping bad guys from Cornwall to the Lake District (the script writers always have the team requested on loan to come from their London posting). The variety of settings and characters is wonderful and the interaction of the detectives originated by novelist Elizabeth George believable, even though the TV version has a much prettier and thinner version of Havers than George’s chubby gal.

At best, the variety of geographical police department in these series allows us viewers to sample the countryside of Wales, Scotland and beyond. Best in this “scenic sleuthing” department is “Shetland,” which is a series of about ten episodes on Prime which reveal not only a sensitive and intelligent detective and his staff in dramatically excellent portrayals, but also the starkness and wind-swept beauty of the Shetland Islands, about which I knew very little.

As a writer I see the elements of excellence in story-telling in the best of these English detective mysteries. The elements of the spinning of tales has remained the same since the greatest of all the adventure stories was told about 600 B.C “The Odyssey.” Set up a variety of characters and settings amidst which the leading characters will journey, give all the characters flaws which emphasize human nature, bring in a variety of exciting adventures before the revelations, keep everybody in suspense until at the end and pepper the narrative with songs/poetry/ background.

Colin Dexter’s Morse was a marvelous series of novels before his episodes were adapted for TV. There are 33 episodes, originally seen 1987-2000. His character Chief Inspector Endeavor Morse played by John Thaw is salty, very intelligent, basically a loner who yearns for companionship and the best detective in England, relying on his experience and instinct—and the desire to go beyond.

Kevin Whatley as Lewis

Kevin Whatley as Lewis

His assistant Lieutenant Lewis, a working class “natural” played by Kevin Whatley, is a perfect addition to the plot as well as a foil for the older Morse. Beautiful women adorn each segment and Morse usually ends up taking one or two to the local pub for the English beers he habitually downs (and which are ruining his health.)

These episodes, with soaring or ominous background music and the settings of green and blossoming traditional Oxford University, appeal to the viewer’s ability to concentrate. They are a real embellishment to the genre established by Edgar Allan Poe in his scary short stories of “ratiocination,” like “The Purloined Letter.”

We hated to see the series end, unusually, with Morse actually dying. I’m looking forward to having Prime pick up the “Lewis” series which was done later in time and shows a mature inspector, well trained by Endeavor Morse in the earlier episodes.

Nancy Niblack Baxter has written her own detective novel set in Indianapolis 1895: Charmed Circle. It is Novel 5 in the Heartland Chronicle Series.


Posted in Book Publishing |

Doings of our Hawthorne Authors During the Pandemic…

By Nelson Price, author of Indiana Legends

Let’s hope the health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic are not forgotten. Nearly 200 years ago, when an epidemic swept through (and nearly wiped out) the brand new city of Indianapolis, a tireless physician was hailed as a hero — yet who remembers Dr. Isaac Coe today?

Doc Coe is not among the more than 160 famous Hoosiers from all walks of life – ranging from frontier explorers to astronauts, Olympic athletes, musicians and movie stars – featured in my book Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman. That’s because the notables in the book’s profiles and vignettes were selected on the basis of their fame (or, in the case of a few like John Dillinger, their infamy), and Doc Coe long ago stopped being a household name in the city  that he helped save.

As Indianapolis enters its Bicentennial era – amid a health crisis that often seems overwhelming – I’ve been doing my best to bring renewed attention to Doc Coc and the malaria epidemic of 1821. A New Jersey native who was the second physician to arrive in Indianapolis, he came just a few months before the epidemic that impacted almost every family in the wilderness town being created in mosquito-filled marshlands as the state’s new capital.

The doctor left his home office – it was located on what later was called Monument Circle – to treat malaria victims, working tirelessly to nurse those he could help recover. The epidemic killed at least 72 residents of the frontier town; more than 25 of the children who died were buried in Plague Cemetery, the city’s first graveyard. (A memorial plaque is on the approximate site of the cemetery; ironically, the site was near today’s classroom buildings for medical students on the IUPUI campus.)

During the shut-down of so many endeavors with the current epidemic, I have continued to host “Hoosier History Live”, a radio show on WICR-FM (88.7) that explores all aspects of our state’s heritage. I’ve devoted parts of several shows to Doc Coe and the forgotten malaria epidemic that nearly ended the city at the get-go. In addition to the pioneers who succumbed, dozens more were so terrified that they packed up and left, moving to settlements they felt were safer.

Doc Coe, for his part, scolded state leaders for choosing a swampy site for the new state capital merely because surveyors had determined it was Indiana’s geographic center. Blaming the malaria on “vapors” from the swamps, Doc Coe didn’t use the terminology of modern physicians and medical historians, who have more sophisticated explanations for the 1821 epidemic. But they say the pioneer doctor was on the right track in pointing to the ill-advised setting for the new city as a major factor.

In addition to sharing his story on the radio show, I have devoted some “shut-in time” to writing an essay about the 1821 epidemic and Doc Coe for a book that will be published in connection with the Bicentennial era of my hometown.

By the way, when Indianapolis residents celebrated the city’s Centennial 100 years ago, they had not yet forgotten Doc Coe and the devastating malaria epidemic. Pageants and parades in 1920 featured costumed re-enactors depicting the folk hero physician.

There even was a costumed character billed in brochures as “Mosquito”.

Photo Credit:
Dean E. Jane Luzar
Founding Dean, IUPUI Honors College
Professor Environmental Economics
IUPUI Honors College

Posted in Books on Indiana |

What have our Hawthorne authors been doing during the “duration” of Corona Virus shut-in?

Lou Ellen Watts, the author of Sleeping in Dixie’s Featherbed tells us what happened for her.

Lou Ellen, whose home is Franklin, Indiana, had a full contingent of appearances for her book in Indiana and the deep South, but that was then, and there was a new “now.” Here is her personal story.

A few months ago we returned from vacation just as the corona virus “attacked”. My freezer was full of microwave dinners and I had lots of canned goods so I thought I had enough food to last forever. But now it has been days of self – confinement and Mother Hubbard’s cupboard is starting to look pretty bleak.

Since I am in the category of the elderly, I am hesitant to roam the grocery store and search for something other than microwave dinners. But I thought that I could get up at 6 AM and shop with the other elderlies at the break of dawn when the grocery stores open early for those over 65. I was told that one store required an ID showing that you are “one of those”. I remembered seeing part of the parking lot at Walmart designated for Pickups only. This could be the solution.

My computer skills aren’t the best in the world but I have ordered some things on line before so this couldn’t be too hard. I pulled up Walmart and clicked on “Pickup and Delivery” then selected “groceries”. A whole list of items with pictures flashed across the screen with “Add to Cart” underneath. This was going to be a piece of cake.

I went through and selected what I thought I would want. Next the computer said, “Create a Google Account”. What did that mean? I had a Walmart card, wasn’t that enough? I tried to create the account but couldn’t figure it out. So I went back to the beginning and started again. This time I saw that “delivery” was an option and decided that would be a better choice. I went through the list again, pressed delivery and didn’t have to create a google account. I clicked on review and noticed that the groceries were to be delivered from Rushville. That didn’t sound right so I closed the site up then started again. Now the list came up with only bananas listed. Where were the other items I chose? By this time I was totally frustrated and shut the computer off and went to the pantry and got the last Oreo.

Maybe Meijers store would be easier so I typed in Meijers clicked on “Pickup”, then chose “Groceries”. Pictures came up just like at the Walmart site and I began choosing. But I couldn’t get more than a few items to choose from. Does that meant that is all I can order from there…no Oreos, no butter, no hot chocolate? I scrolled all over the page trying to see if other items could be ordered. I pressed “return” and it did exactly that, returned then closed the whole computer off. I got up and found one stale Pop Tart and ate it.

By this time I was totally frustrated but I knew I had to do something or I would have to get up at dawn and go to the store with the other elderlies to shop.

My last choice was Krogers. The procedure was the same as the others: “Pickup”, “Groceries”, “Select”. Yahoo, it worked. I punched in my credit card number and saw one last message on the screen, “Review”. There was my list of 30 items. I began scrolling down the list and was pleased at first but then realized that I had ordered 4 loaves of bread, 3 cheese cakes, 3 bottles of orange juice and some miscellaneous items. Surely there was a way to correct that mistake but why take the chance? I might have to go through the ”Pickup”, “Groceries”, “Select” procedure again and maybe even create a Google Account.

I closed the computer and went to get a goodie to eat. There was nothing but a container of whipped cream. I yanked the lid off and squirted some of the foamy cream in my mouth. About that time my husband wandered in and said, “What’s that foam all over your mouth?” Embarrassed that he might laugh that I was eating whipped cream right out of the container I slurred, “I was just brushing my teeth.” Then clutching the whipped cream behind my back I slowly made my way back to the computer for reinforcement.

Posted in Welcome |

A new trick for Hawthorne Publishing: An Audio Book

The phenomenal growth in the publishing industry in the last two years has not been in paperbacks or even e-books. Hardcovers long ago got left behind, “shelved,” so to speak.

It’s audio books which are capturing the book buying market. In 2018, the last year for which I could find statistics, over 50,000 audio book titles were published. Michelle Obama’s Becoming sold 752,352 copies.

The fact that there are no illustrations and a simple voice or two reading for the length of whatever narrative there is does not deter people. In fact, simplicity is a common attraction for those who buy an audio book.

Audio books are a product of modern consumers’ wishes to utilize the technology of a personal laptop computer or especially I-phone to expand their reading. For anywhere from $8 (or much less or free) to $20, a person sitting in an armchair or making his or her way along a highway, yes, definitely on the road, can hear Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens spun out in whatever amount of time is available. Non-fiction, fiction, everything. So easy.

Hawthorne Publishing, which has put out hard and softcover books (counting its former incarnation as Guild Press) since 1987, and e-books since 2014 or so, is publishing its first audio book, As I Remember: A Walk Through My Years at Hughes Aircraft 1961-1997 by Scott Walker. It will be available in the listening format on Amazon in August of this year. It’s a vocal rendition of a print book which has continually sold for us for since 2010.

Your Hawthorne senior editors have listened to CDs of books for years. But we had only recently taken up audio books for our cellphones. My first one just this month was Unorthodox by Deborah Feldman. It is the story of a very independent young woman, being raised by her orthodox Hassidic Jewish grandparents, who chafes against the traditions and constant strictures of the religion of her community. She eventually leaves.

I wanted to get impressions, to see how a book which was being read instead of looked at in the year of this modern market could convey its story to the reader. What I found was this:

  • The voice in this case did not need to be consequential: no need in this dramatic story to have a British or Australian accent or employ a dramatic actor with a recognizable voice pattern. The story was being told painstakingly, and it needed to stand on its own, full of surprising detail, strange happenings, enflamed feelings, and the oddity of Hassidic culture (to most of us.) Voice or personality can be used in other contexts but would not be desirable in this one. Simply a woman reading the story.
  • Listening to a few hours of a book on the cellphone can sometime be tiresome. When the author has given us TMI, as does happen in these days of sometimes excessive spin-out of a story, you can’t just put the book down for a few minutes, thumb through pages to where it gets interesting again, or skip material you don’t want to read about. On it goes.
  • I can’t tell if that overindulgence in describing every detail that I was seeing in this book was just author ego, unrestrained by editors, a feature of only this one book, or whether it is desired in the audio book platform. I suspect the latter.
  • I miss artwork, illustrations, drawings, photos. They have always so enriched the print book platform by broadening its scope and giving details that I think the lack of visuals is telling.

We can bear these things in mind as we design our own audio book.

We are a moving culture. Having these things in cars as people inch along home from work or pass the hours of boredom in a job that requires one to be “on the road” can be a real asset.

And we all have too many books with covers, bulky with pages, sitting on our shelves. Observe sales day at the local library and you can see what a storage and disposal problem modern print books pose.

Abraham Lincoln is supposed to have walked 17 miles as a young man to get a book to read.

What would he think of this new way to access a library over the miles?

Nancy Niblack Baxter, Senior Editor Hawthorne Publishing




Posted in audiobooks |