Did You Know . . . ?

When P(hyllis) D(orothy) James decided to start writing mysteries she named her main character Adam Dalgliesh.  His last name was the same as that of one of her high school English teachers, Miss Dalgliesh.  Later she learned that Miss Dalgliesh’s father’s first name was also Adam.

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In 1872 Anna Stepanova Pirogova, the spurned mistress of one of Leo Tolstoy’s friends, threw herself under the wheels of a train at the railway station in the town where Tolstoy lived.  He was very upset and moved by the sight of the woman’s mangled body and by her eyes in particular.  That incident was the genesis for Anna Karenina, one of the greatest novels ever written

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Upon seeing a portrait of himself that a painter had just completed Oscar Wilde exclaimed, “What a tragic thing it is.  This portrait will never grow older, and I shall.  If it was only the other way!”  From that came the story of Dorian Gray, a man who remains young while his portrait ages reflecting all the debauchery of his life.

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Of course you knows that Mary Shelley authored Frankenstein one of the greatest horror novel of all time, but you may not know that her novel’s plot was influenced by the writings of Erasmus Darwin, the grandfather of Charles Darwin, who believed that it might be possible to reanimate bodies through the use of galvanization – the use of electrical currents to made muscles contract.  And did you know that Erasmus Darwin was a proponent of evolution?

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Ian Fleming wasn’t sure what to call the protagonist of the new spy novel he was writing until he picked up a book entitled Birds of the West Indies by an ornithologist named James Bond.  The name suited his character perfectly; it was an ordinary name that seemed a perfect fit for a strong, ingenious man.  However, in 1961 the ornithologist’s wife, Mary Bond, wrote to Fleming half jokingly threatening to sue him for defaming her husband’s character.  “I must confess that your husband has every reason to sue me,” Fleming responded.  “In return, I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming for any purpose he may think fit.”

Birds of the West Indies

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Cooperstown, New York was named after Judge William Cooper the father of author James Fenimore Cooper.  Cooperstown is the site of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Museum, the Fenimore Art Museum, and the Glimmerglass summer opera festival.  Fenimore was the maiden name of James Fenimore Cooper’s mother.  Fenimore House, which houses the Fenimore Art Museum, is a neo-Georgian mansion which was built in the 1930s on the site of a farmhouse that once belonged to the author.


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Mystery writer Harry Kemelman created the fictional detective Rabbi David Small, and wrote 12 novels about him.  Each of the first seven novels has a different day of the week in the title and each title describes what the Rabbi did that day.  The first was Friday the Rabbi Slept Late (1964), and the seventh was Thursday the Rabbi Walked Out (1978).

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Toni Morrison and E. L. Doctorow were book editors before they became authors.  Morrison worked at Random House, and Doctorow at New American Library (mass-market paperback publishing firm) and Dial Press.

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If you walk into a bookstore and smell chocolate, look out.  It’s a plot to entice you to buy more books than you would normally buy.  The Journal of Environmental Psychology recently reported that Belgian researchers have found through a ten day experiment in a book store that customers are 40 percent more likely to buy romance novels and cookbooks, and 22 percent more likely to buy books in other categories when the scent of chocolate is in the air.  Customers also spent more time browsing.  An earlier study concluded that women are more likely to make impulse purchases when they smell chocolate chip cookies.

And speaking of bookstores, you’re more likely to discover new books that interest you by browsing in a physical bookstore than by browsing online.

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A “Horatio Alger story” is a tale of a poor teenage boy (usually from a rural setting) who goes to the big city and, through hard work and clean living, achieves success.  During his rise to success he encounters many difficulties – such as betrayal by a friend – but ultimately attains his goal.  Horatio Alger, who was a minister in Massachusetts for six years, moved to New York in 1870, became a writer, and penned 118 such books for boys.

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John Bartlett dropped out of school at the age of 16, went to work in the Harvard University bookstore, and later purchased it.  Though he had little formal education, he read voraciously, and earned a reputation for being able to remember interesting quotes and their sources.  In 1855 he began selling a 258 page book of those quotes.  That’s how Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations got its start.

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