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There’s a story there . . . St. Joseph

Missouri, home to the Pony Express, the Fed Ex of its day – the fast way to get your letters to California. California Senator William Guinn pushed for a fast link for mail from all points east of the Missouri/Kansas line to his Pacific Coast state, and he got it when he convinced William Russell, [...]

A book published late

We writers are a driven group. Get that manuscript finished. Get it out there. Get it published. Get the next one written. But sometimes life interrupts. Meet Jane Walrath Solem, age 89, of Beloit, Wisconsin. She lives just a little south of me. Jane, as of this year, is a member of the club of [...]

Forgotten people get a book of their own

It’s bad enough to be anonymous, but to be anonyponymous, to have something named for you and then for you to be forgotten? That’s terrible. But John Marciano found enough of these people that he could and did write a book, Anonyponymous: The Forgotten People Behind Everyday Words. Quick, who invented the diesel engine? The [...]

Meet my friend Hemingway

At a book event in Abilene, Kansas, I was asked, have you always been a storyteller? Said I, after a moment’s thought, I guess I have. “I can remember as a kid telling some whoopers.” And every one of those got me into trouble. You can’t fool your mom, or at least I couldn’t fool [...]

Reaching around the world

You know how Facebook works. There in your requests file you have nine people who want to be your friend. I always hit ACCEPT. But before I do, I send a message that says “Hi, it’s nice to make your Facebook friendship.” And I usually find something to comment on . . . the person’s [...]

The king

Who is our most prolific writer? American, that is. Who’s really churned out the work? I thought Stuart Kaminsky was it when I totaled up his novels – 65, plus 5 biographies, 4 textbooks, and 35 short stories. Then I went to checking that eminent writer of Westerns, Louis L’Amour, for another matter and found [...]

Oz proliferates

The Oz Museum has spawned an industry of sorts in Wamego, Kansas. First came the Oztober Fest, always held the first weekend of – you guessed it – October. The movie Munchkins are the stars. They come with their Sharpies, ready to sign autographs, and people flock to Wamego that weekend to see them and [...]

L. Frank Baum, a writing machine

Lyman Frank Baum, the man who created the first truly American children’s fantasy with his book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, could crank out the words – stories for a poultry trade journal, play scripts, newspaper stories and editorials, ad copy, books, film scripts, poems, song lyrics. Prolific to the nth degree. And it all [...]

The Chicago connection

L. Frank Baum, the man who wrote/created The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, failed all over the place in his early years. He invested in a theater company and it went bust. His father then built a theater for him. Baum enjoyed success there for a period of time, until a fire destroyed the building and [...]

The Wizard of Oz takes TV

The movie did only so-so at the box office in 1939. Cost $2.8 million to make and grossed a shade over $3 million. A re-release 10 years later netted MGM an additional $1.5 million. But it was television, not the showings in movie theaters, that made “The Wizard of Oz” the dominant film of all [...]