Monthly Archives: June 2013

Spring’s Darkest Bloom: Suicide


On average, about 700 Americans kill themselves each week — but in the fine-weather weeks of May and June, the toll rises closer to 800, sometimes higher. Every year, suicide peaks with the tulips and lilacs — increasing roughly 15 percent over the annual average to create one of psychiatry’s most consistent epidemiological patterns. It…

Research Outtakes: Lynching the Irish

Research offers so many diversions from the main thread one is following. Yesterday it was Blériot flying the Channel. This morning produced this distracting oddity, from the Wikipedia entry for Northampton, MA (link below): In 1805 a crowd of 15,000 gathered in Northampton to watch the executions of two Irishmen convicted of murder: Dominic Daley,…

Blériot Over the Channel


Planes, boats, waves, an opportunistic photographer — what’s not to like? I ran into this lovely photo while researching early monoplanes: Louis Blériot crossing the English Channel 1909 in his Blériot XI, one of the best early single-wings. A few years later, the Swiss aviator Oskar Bider flew one over the Alps and the Pyrenees; the photo below shows…

How I Write: With Spies, Revolvers, Whiskey, and Luck


The good folks at Matter and Medium asked me how I got started writing and how I write. My answer, which they first ran at Medium (and an enormous photo), is reproduced below. See the Medium feed for other writer interviews, such as that with Alexis Madrigal (and his cat). Was there a specific moment that…

How The Deniers Win: Question Motives


Updated 06/17/2013 11:16am EDT (see tail end of story) James Gilbert has the goods over at The Conversation: Climate sceptics have won, Martin Wolf lamented in the Financial Times, despite near-universal scientific consensus against them. The sheer longevity of this “debate” indicates deniers attract disproportionate attention – partly due to one of their main lines of attack: scientific bias.…

How To End a Story – One Minute Wisdom via The Open Notebook

The fabulous writing how-to site The Open Notebook recently asked a bunch of writers what their single best piece of writing advice was. My 58-second answer had to do with how to end a story:

Single Best Dobbs from The Open Notebook on Vimeo.

As I note in the interview, I picked up this nugget from Atavist co-founder Evan Ratliff, who suggested it to me while I was writing (and he editing) My Mother’s Lover, my account of my mother’s secret WWII romance, which went on to become a #1-selling Kindle Single.

This and much more writerly goodness is at The Open Notebook. .

Patrick O’Brian on Finding Your Own Voice


  Earlier, in the wicious pride of my youth, I sometimes threw myself into postures, imitating writers I admired and producing a certain amount of Proust and water (the recipe for the Avignon lark pâté comes to mind: one lark, one horse) to Joyce and very small beer; but none of this survived the war,…