Nov. 13, 1999

Broadcast Date: SATURDAY: November 13, 1999

Poem: "The Cow" by Robert Louis Stevenson from A Child's Garden of Verses published by Franklin Watts, Inc..

It's the birthday of crime writer George V(incent) Higgins, born in Brockton, Massachusetts (1939). His parents, both schoolteachers, urged him to study pre-med, but by the end of his undergraduate years he had become an English major. Later he went to Stanford and studied under novelist Wallace Stegner. After driving a soft-drink delivery truck—when he learned, he said later, "to swear between syllables"—he became a newspaper reporter in New England, and became acquainted with the New England underworld later featured in his crime novels. Covering local trials, he felt he could do better than the prosecutors he was observing, and decided to go into law school "on November 22, 1963." In the late 1960s, during a vicious turf war between Boston's Irish and Italian mobs, Higgins prosecuted a number of underworld murders. In 1970 he became a prosecutor for the United States Attorney's office in Boston; two years later his first crime novel came out, after 10 previous books had been rejected. But The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1972) was a huge success, and was quickly followed by best sellers The Digger's Game (1973) and Cogan's Trade (1974)—all placed in Boston's crime world. Of Higgins' thirty-plus titles, the most recent include A Change of Gravity (1997) and The Agent (1998).

It's the birthday of historian C(omer) Vann Woodward, born in Vanndale, Arkansas (1908)—an expert on the post-Civil War history of the South. His long teaching career took him to Johns Hopkins University (1946-61) and Yale (1961-77), where he wrote books that revised the history of the American South. His most widely read book is The Strange Case of Jim Crow (1955), which showed that legal segregation of blacks and whites did not go back centuries, as had been claimed by many Southerners, but took form only after the 1890s, when the Populist movement was defeated in the South. He showed that, for at least two decades following the Civil War, whites had lived on basically equal terms with blacks, even after Reconstruction ended in 1876.

It's the birthday of novelist and poet Robert Louis Stevenson, born in Edinburgh (1850). Poor health made schooling difficult, but he entered Edinburgh University at 17, and was expected to carry on the family tradition of lighthouse engineering. Instead, he compromised with his father and prepared for the Scottish bar, and earned a law degree but never practiced. After marrying a divorced American woman, he moved to Switzerland, hoping to cure his tuberculosis, and wrote the adventure story Treasure Island (1883). The threat of a cholera epidemic drove them back to England, where he wrote Kidnapped (1886) and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), which he began the day after his wife woke him from a nightmare. He's also known for A Child's Garden of Verses (1885). He spent his last five years of his life in Samoa, and died of tuberculosis a month after his 44th birthday.

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