Thursday

Oct. 9, 2008

Hummingbirds

by Ann Iverson

Now five have come to dine
off the steady banquet of pink geranium;
the only sound is the whir of their wings.
Soon it will be autumn.

One is a window washer on scaffolding;
it pauses as though to sigh
before cleaning the next section.

But something, as always,
will abruptly reel up the ropes of summer.

"Hummingbirds" by Ann Iverson from Come Now to the Window. © Laurel Poetry Collective, 2003. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of the South African journalist and crime writer James Howe McClure, (books by this author) born in 1939 in Johannesburg. In South Africa, he worked as a crime reporter and photographer. He tried to report exactly what he saw, and when he wrote about police brutality against black prisoners, the police started knocking on his door in the middle of the night to let him know that they were watching him. McClure was married, and he had kids; he decided that South Africa wasn't the best place to have a family, so he moved to Britain in 1965. He worked for newspapers in Scotland and England.

One night, he was doodling, letting his mind wander, and he wrote a sentence: "For an undertaker, George Abbott was a sad man." The next weekend, he put some scratch paper in the typewriter and he typed that sentence, and then he kept typing and didn't stop for exactly two weeks, when he got to the words "The End." The novel he wrote, The Steam Pig, was published in 1971. Every year, he set aside two weeks for solid writing.

He wrote seven more crime novels as part of the Kramer and Zondi series, a series set in South Africa, which features two detectives — one Afrikaner and one Zulu. Their names are Kramer and Zondi.

McClure quit working at the newspaper in order to write full time. Then he decided to write two nonfiction books focusing on police divisions in tough places — Liverpool and San Diego. For these books, he spent many months researching. He hung out with cops, observed them, and conducted interviews. He realized how much he missed being around people now that he was a professional writer, so he went back to being a journalist at the Oxford Times.

James Howe McClure said, "I long, long, long ago thought the finest thing to be is an entertainer, with tons of funny things to say. If people find lots more in my work, that's great, but if they just read and have a good laugh, that's fine for me."

It's the birthday of Michael Palmer, (books by this author) a physician and author of suspense thrillers, born in Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1942. He started reading suspense fiction in order to relax between shifts in the emergency room, and when a former classmate published a novel, Palmer considered it a challenge and decided to write one himself. He was working between 80 and 100 hours a week, so he could only write one page a night. But finally he finished a book, The Sisterhood (1982), about a group of nurses who murder for hire. Publisher's Weekly pointed out, "Palmer's novel will do nothing to enhance the reputation of the nursing profession." But it was a huge best-seller, so he kept writing, and wrote 12 more books, including his latest, The First Patient, published this year (2008).

Michael Palmer said: "The hospital provides a continuous flow of emotion — of triumph and tragedy, of pain and relief from pain — that exists nowhere else. It is my privilege to that energy, more than any other single element, that colors my writing, and makes it mine."

It's the birthday of the English singer and songwriter John Lennon, born in Liverpool, England, in 1940. He was an only child, raised by his aunt and uncle, but his mother lived nearby, and she encouraged him to play the banjo, and later the guitar.

It's the birthday of the Mexican filmmaker and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro, born in 1964 in Guadalajara, Mexico. Del Toro wrote the original screenplay for Pan's Labyrinth (2006), which he also directed. Pan's Labyrinth is a film about a young girl named Ofelia who encounters magical creatures in the woods while she witnesses the brutal acts of the military and guerillas in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®

 









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