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eBook available: Motor Matt’s Quest

Motor Matt's QuestThis week, we mark the halfway point through the 32-volume Motor Stories series on Project Gutenberg with the release of the sixteenth adventure, Motor Matt’s Quest; or, Three Chums in Strange Waters.

Picking up where the previous adventure left off, this reveals the government assignment that Motor Matt and his friends must undertake in their submarine: rescuing an American consul from revolutionaries in Belize. The volume also includes the usual random assortment of filler material, including “Mischievous Ned,” in which the young boy of the title aggressively pushes the boundary between “mischief” and “criminal assault.”

As usual, the entire book can be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: Frank Reade and His Steam Horse

Frank Reade and His Steam HorseIt is easy to imagine that the steampunk movement — science fiction featuring steam-powered inventions and a 19th-century style — is purely a modern invention, an exercise in “what if there had been a Victorian equivalent to today’s sci-fi genre?” However, early science fiction actually included much more than just the well-remembered works of literary figures like Jules Verne, and there really were a wealth of popular stories about steam-powered robots and other wild inventions before the turn of the 20th century. Many of these fictional creations were the products of boy inventor Frank Reade (or later, his son, Frank Reade, Jr.).

Our latest eBook release on Project Gutenberg, courtesy of Distributed Proofreaders, is an early Frank Reade adventure, Frank Reade and His Steam Horse, starring the senior inventor and written by Harry Enton before the series was taken over by the far more prolific Luis Senarens. As the title suggests, this adventure involves the creation of a steam-powered horse, which 16-year-old Reade takes to the west with some of his friends and relatives to stir up trouble.

This book is very much a product of its time and has some (likely unpleasant) surprises in store for the modern reader: plenty of racism and broad stereotypes, and a teenaged “hero” who sees no harm in casually slaughtering his foes en masse, as long as he’s reasonably sure they’re outlaws or Indians. It is not hard to see why Frank Reade has largely fallen off the cultural radar, but it is nonetheless interesting to study an early contributor to the science fiction genre, warts and all.

The entire story can be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: The Spider and the Fly

The Spider and the FlyThe latest Project Gutenberg release derived from images in our Digital Library is another novel by prolific British author Charles Garvice.

Like many of Garvice’s works, The Spider and the Fly is a romance dealing with the British upper class of the late 19th century. However, for this one, a few extra elements have been thrown in to spice the mix: a fishing village with a secret, a mysterious ghostly nun, and an escaped convict with a talent for manipulating everyone around him. The resulting blend of mystery, intrigue and romance may not be a work of high literature, but it does help demonstrate why Garvice was so popular in his time.

The entire book can be read online at Project Gutenberg, where it is also available for download in popular eBook formats.


Available for proofreading: Tragedies of the White Slaves

Tragedies of the White SlavesThe latest item from our collection to open for proofreading at Distributed Proofreaders is Tragedies of the White Slaves, a collection of “true crime” stories dealing with the exploitation of women. Published in 1909 in a colorful, paper-covered format, this is an interesting (though certainly not unique) example of a publisher attempting to take commercial advantage of a sensitive (and sensational) subject.

To help produce a new electronic edition of this text, you can learn about the proofreading process from this earlier post, then join in the work at the project page.


Available for proofreading: The Art of Kissing

The Art of KissingThe latest of our books to become available on Distributed Proofreaders is Will Rossiter’s The Art of Kissing. This 1902 volume claims to consider the subject of kissing “curiously, historically, humorously, [and] poetically.”

To help produce a new electronic edition of this text (and, presumably, to learn about kissing), you can first read this earlier post for information on the proofreading process, and then you can join in at the project page.


eBook available: Custer’s Last Shot

Custer's Last ShotToday’s Project Gutenberg eBook release, courtesy of Distributed Proofreaders and our Digital Library, is Custer’s Last Shot; or, The Boy Trailer of the Little Horn by Col. J. M. Travers (actually a pseudonym of St. George Rathborne). While the eBook edition is based on the Wide Awake Library reprint from 1883, the story was first serialized in Boys of New York starting on August 7, 1876, less than two months after the Battle of the Little Bighorn depicted in the tale, demonstrating just how quickly publishers were willing to exploit news of the day for sensational fiction.

Custer’s Last Shot weaves the story of the battle with that of a criminal conspiracy, and while historical figures are given a prominent role, the main protagonists are Pandy Ellis and Bolly Wherrit, aged but hard-fighting and apparently indestructible rangers (who also figure in other Rathborne tales), and the titular “Boy Trailer,” who seeks to rescue his kidnapped sister from a series of abductors.

The story is told in a conversational style, with frequent authorial tangents, and it combines historical detail with sensational invention, spiced with editorial opinions. One particularly astute observation is this critique of historians and journalists:

¬†We always find the affair termed a massacre when the Indians are victorious; but when the tables are turned it is “a splendid campaign,” “a hard-fought battle,” and “a glorious victory for the troops.”

Similar comments have been made by later authors for different reasons. While it would certainly have been interesting to find a dime novel of this nature expressing some sympathy toward Native Americans, that is not the case here; Rathborne (whose portrayal of “Indians” is uniformly demeaning) is instead suggesting that the word “massacre” is insulting to the fallen soldiers. Nonetheless, it is interesting to see the author attempting to stimulate the critical thinking of his action-hungry, juvenile audience.

This is not the only surprise to be found in the hastily-written and disposable, yet historically interesting, text. If you wish to discover more, the entire novel can be read online (or downloaded in eBook format) through Project Gutenberg.


Available for proofreading: Leslie’s Loyalty

Leslie's LoyaltyOur latest Distributed Proofreaders project is another romance by prolific British author Charles Garvice, entitled Leslie’s Loyalty. This is our third Garvice project, following Wild Margaret (which was released last year) and The Spider and the Fly (which is still in the final stages of processing but will likely be completed soon).

If you want to help create a new electronic edition of this vintage novel, please read this earlier blog post to learn how the process works, then join in the proofreading at the project page.


eBook available: Motor Matt’s Submarine

Motor Matt's SubmarineThe fifteenth issue of Motor Stories has just been released to Project Gutenberg thanks to the work of Distributed Proofreaders volunteers using images from our Digital Library.

Motor Matt’s Submarine; or, The Strange Cruise of the Grampus takes the series in a new direction, focusing on adventures at sea since Motor Matt’s air ship was destroyed in the previous adventure. As usual, there is plenty of action, with Matt and his friends facing such threats as sudden squalls and sea battles.

As usual for the series, there is also a filler story unrelated to the main adventure; in this case, it’s “The Chicken-hearted Tenderfoot,” a brief Western adventure which may have been reprinted from the British story paper Chums, though it is possible that this is an entirely different story that happens to share its title with the British tale.

The entire issue can be read online or downloaded in eBook format through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: More Stories of the Three Pigs

More Stories of the Three PigsOur latest completed project from Distributed Proofreaders is the second to come from the Instructor Literature Series, following Stories of Robin Hood. This title, More Stories of the Three Pigs, is aimed at a fairly young audience. The title is slightly misleading, as readers familiar with the original story will recall that two of the three original pigs were devoured by the Big Bad Wolf. This book resolves that problem by giving Mother Grunty (the original survivor) a pair of children.

While this story fully acknowledges the darker elements of the original tale (including the detail that Mother Grunty killed and ate the Big Bad Wolf at the end of it), it consists primarily of quiet stories about childhood activities (and mischief), creating a somewhat incongruous whole.

The entire illustrated book of stories can be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.


eBook available: Laurel Vane

Laurel VaneThe latest release from Distributed Proofreaders built from images in our Digital Library is another Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller novel, Laurel Vane; or, The Girls’ Conspiracy. This is one of Mrs. Miller’s less over-the-top works, but that is not to say that it isn’t thoroughly melodramatic.

The Laurel Vane of the novel’s title is a young orphan whose life changes dramatically when she agrees to impersonate a wealthier girl in order to enable that girl’s elopement. In true story paper fashion, there’s a lot of angst and romance (and a bit of murder) before the tale is done.

The entire book may be read online (or downloaded in various electronic formats) at Project Gutenberg.

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Last Modified: June 3, 2015