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A writer’s lessons from Jurassic Park, the movie

Three movies give me nightmares – but I love ’em – Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”, and Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” and “Jurassic Park”. The Freddy movies, the Friday the Thirteenth movies, and the other slasher films, they don’t interest me. I avoid them. I watched “Jurassic Park” the other night, and I came away with a valuable [...]

How Jaws came to The End

Did you read Jaws, Peter Benchley’s novel? Or did you see the movie? The endings of the two are not the same, and there is a lesson here for us who are writers. Benchley ends his book with the dead shark – Sheriff Brody killed it in the climactic scene – spiraling down to the [...]

We writers love libraries

Most public libraries started humbly, in a room in the town hall or in a house. The Schaumburg Township District Library in Schaumburg, Illinois, is one of those. Yes, it started in a farm house. Retired library director Michael Madden remembers it well. He worked there at the time – stayed with the library for [...]

Meet Edna Ferber

I knew the name Edna Ferber from the musical “Show Boat” and the movies made from her novels – “Show Boat” again and “So Big,” “Cimarron,” “Giant,” and “Ice Palace.” “Giant” particularly for the role played by James Dean – his last film appearance. Dean died in a car crash before the movie came out. [...]

Meet Zona Gale

I grew up in Wisconsin not knowing we had a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer here. I had never heard of Zona Gale until a decade ago when someone mentioned that there was going to be a Zona Gale weekend in Portage and I ought to go up for it. She was of another century. Born in [...]

How many books in your library?

I’ve got a wall full of them, authors I respect and titles I love. But my collection wouldn’t fill a bookcase, or even a corner of one in George Vanderbilt’s library. George, of the super-wealthy Vanderbilt family, built the 250-room Biltmore House outside of Asheville, North Carolina, to keep up with his relatives who were [...]

Abe and the vamps

One of the writers in my writers group included this book title, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, in a short story he had written. John is a creative soul with a quirky sense of humor, so I thought this book title he invented was exceedingly clever. But John didn’t invent it. There really is a book [...]

Words that deserve the axe

We writers love words. They are – to use a cliche – the tools of our trade. So we follow Wordsmith Anu Garg, Word Spy Paul McFedries, and others who write about words. And we rejoice in the OED’s and Merriam-Webster’s announcements of their words of the year. Some of us also look forward to [...]

Max Allan Collins takes on Amelia Earhart

Write a novel – a work of fiction – about a famous person and you are guaranteed to sell books, although I’m not sure I’ll buy Seth Grahame-Smith’s book Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer. Grahame-Smith also wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and I’m not sure I’ll buy that one, either. But I did buy Max [...]

Amelia Earhart wrote her own book

Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927 left Amelia Earhart wondering what she could do to make her mark in the aviation world. And then opportunity knocked – a competition to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, not as a pilot, but as a passenger. Women in that day were [...]