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eBook available: Motor Matt; or, The King of the Wheel

Motor Stories #1Last year, we reintroduced the heroic Motor Matt to the world by digitizing the complete series of Motor Stories dime novels. Today, the first of those adventures has been formatted into a convenient-to-read eBook with the help of the Distributed Proofreaders project.

Motor Matt; or, The King of the Wheel is an interesting beginning to the series. Published in 1909, at a time when dime novels were nearing the end of their reign, the story shows a very conscious effort to present itself as something new and modern within a tired and aging genre.

The story is almost certainly modeled on the incredibly popular adventures of Frank Merriwell first published in Tip-Top Weekly, with a focus on the athletic and social adventures of high school boys. However, a strong emphasis on technology sets it apart. Not only is the adventure largely centered on Motor Matt’s efforts to obtain his first motorcycle, but it also features wireless communication as an integral part of the plot.

In addition to emphasizing then-cutting-edge technology, the book also seems to look disparagingly on some past dime novel tropes. Comic relief is presented in the form of Welcome Perkins, an elderly, one-legged man with a broken gun who may or may not be a reformed outlaw. He frequently offers outbursts like this one:

“It’s plumb good for a ole outlaw like me to grip a honest pa’m. It helps to make me fergit what I was and to brace up an’ be what I ort. I’m a horrible example o’ what happens to a man when he cuts loose in his youth an’ bloom an’ terrorizes all outdoors—but I can’t begin to tell ye how pacifyin’ to my reckless natur’ is the grip of a honest hand.”

The outlaw who tries to reform his wild nature is a common theme in dime novels, typified by the adventures of Deadwood Dick, but here it is rendered intentionally ridiculous.

Also quite interesting is the Native American character portrayed here. Needless to say, “Indians” are frequently used as villains or insultingly-portrayed sidekicks in the dime novel universe, but here we are given Tom Clipperton, a character who initially poses a threat to Matt not because of his race but rather because of bitterness over the racism shown him by others, including one of Matt’s friends.

Before anyone gets too excited about how progressive this book is, it should be noted that the tale still has its moments of political incorrectness, and the filler story at the end about an African tiger hunt is downright cringe-inducing. Nonetheless, Motor Matt’s debut is a fun and readable adventure that serves as a document of changing times early in the 20th century, and as such, it’s worth a look.

The entire book can be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular eBook formats at Project Gutenberg.

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eBook available: Pretty Geraldine

Pretty GeraldineOur efforts to create eBook editions of the works of Mrs. Alex McVeigh Miller, which began well over a year ago with The Bride of the Tomb; and Queenie’s Terrible Secret, continue today with the release of Pretty Geraldine, the New York Sales Girl.

Pretty Geraldine, a tale of romance between an aspiring actress and a New York fireman, is actually rather tame by Mrs. Miller’s standards, with fewer murders and outrageous coincidences than readers might have come to expect. That’s not to say it doesn’t have a couple of wild moments, or that it is completely lacking in interest. This title finds Mrs. Miller in a particularly self-referential mood; not only does she quote her own poetry extensively, but she also has her heroine starring in a play adapted from one of her earlier novels, Laurel Vane. Not content to cite herself alone, she also includes poetry by other story paper serialists like Francis S. Smith and May Agnes Fleming.

You can read the whole book online (or download it in several popular eBook formats) at Project Gutenberg. We’ll keep the Mrs. Miller coming as time permits!

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eBook available: The Ocean Wireless Boys on War Swept Seas

The Ocean Wireless Boys on War Swept SeasHot on the heels of The Boy Aviators with the Air Raiders comes the release of another “Captain Wilbur Lawton” children’s adventure novel, The Ocean Wireless Boys on War Swept Seas. Like the Boy Aviators adventure that preceded this, War Swept Seas takes the heroes of an established line of books and faces them with the dangers of a brewing global conflict.

With this type of series book, it is often difficult to identify authors, since most titles were published pseudonymously, and some pseudonyms were shared. There was no real Captain Wilbur Lawton. It is known that at least some of the Lawton titles were actually the work of journalist John Henry Goldfrap, but it is possible that other authors contributed as well. If both Air Raiders and War Swept Seas are truly the product of the same pen, it shows significant growth between the two books, as War Swept Seas is a significantly more readable and interesting tale than its predecessor (and, for that matter, the previous Ocean Wireless Boys adventure, The Ocean Wireless Boys on the Pacific). You won’t find a whole lot of complex plot here, but the author throws in such a steady stream of action that it’s hardly missed.

War Swept Seas has much in common with Air Raiders: it is set at the very dawn of the war, and its American protagonists take a neutral posture in the conflict (in spite of having primarily German antagonists). Unlike the Boy Aviators, who sought to profit from the war, the Ocean Wireless Boys are simply innocent bystanders, first threatened by British war ships while passengers on a German vessel, and later endangered by all sides (and particularly a vengeful German professor) while on a peaceful mission in Europe. This allows the author to present a different perspective on war than is often found in similar but more hawkish series. Indeed, the book even goes so far as to give its protagonist, who is portrayed as faultlessly brave and heroic, an extended anti-war speech:

“Tell you what, Bill,” said Jack, as they returned to the hotel to breakfast, and found that the fire had been extinguished and the panic quieted down, “war is a pretty thing on paper, and uniforms, and bands, and fluttering flags, and all that to make a fellow feel martial and war-like, but it’s little realities like these that make you feel the world would be a heap better off without soldiers or sailors whose places could be taken by a few wise diplomats in black tail coats. It wouldn’t be so pretty but it would be a lot more like horse sense.”

A marked contrast to the more common message that war is hard but necessary, or even that war holds an unavoidable attraction to all boys. It would have been interesting to have seen if the message evolved in subsequent volumes after deeper U.S. involvement in the war, but sadly, Goldfrap died in 1917, and no further Captain Lawton adventures were published.

The entire book can now be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.

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Now in proofreading: Her Dark Inheritance

Dark InheritanceWhile we have devoted a lot of our proofreading energy to the works of Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller, she was far from the only author writing twisty story paper melodramas in the late 19th century. One of Mrs. Miller’s many prolific contemporaries was Mrs. E. Burke Collins, a writer whose own life had some startling twists and turns, as alluded to in this article. Our latest Distributed Proofreaders release is one of Mrs. Collins’ works, a tale of a young woman with a terrible secret.

For a taste of the story, and to help produce a modern eBook edition of the text, you can first read about our proofreading efforts in this earlier article, then visit the project page to begin work.

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eBook available: Deadwood Dick Jr. Branded

Deadwood Dick Jr. BrandedThe latest eBook to come out of the Distributed Proofreaders project using content from the Digital Library is Deadwood Dick Jr. Branded; or, Red Rover at Powder Pocket, a dime novel first published in 1896.

Deadwood Dick Jr. was the hero of close to one hundred adventures in Beadle’s Half-Dime Library. Borrowing the name of the famous outlaw-hero Deadwood Dick, the younger character occasionally acted as an outlaw himself but more frequently played the role of detective. In this story, Deadwood Dick Jr. and an outlaw known as Red Rover confront one another during a train robbery, and much of the text is devoted to their attempts to outmaneuver one another as Red Rover tries to get away with a fortune and Deadwood Dick Jr. tries to uphold the law.

Some of the usual dime novel standbys can be found here — gun fights, outlandish disguises, etc. — but a surprising amount of space is devoted to lengthy debates about matters of honor. This talkiness means that this is hardly the most exciting tale to be found in the dime novel universe, but it is an interesting portrait of a particular idealized vision of the Wild West.

The full book can be read online or downloaded in a variety of popular electronic formats at Project Gutenberg.

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Now in proofreading: The Spruce Street Tragedy

Spruce Street TragedyThe dime novels of the late 19th century introduced a lot of detective characters, many of them with “old” in their names: Old Cap Collier, Old Sleuth, Old Broadbrim, etc., etc. The hero of our latest Distributed Proofreaders project, a doctor-detective known as Old Spicer, is far from the most famous of these law enforcers, but he was successful enough to star in a series of mysteries that began in the late 1880′s and was still in print in the early 1900′s. The adventure at hand, The Spruce Street Tragedy; or, Old Spicer Handles a Double Mystery, published as part of the semi-monthly Old Cap Collier Library, has our hero investigating a double murder.

You can help shed some light on this mystery by assisting with the process of converting this vintage text into a modern eBook. To join the cause, first read this earlier post about how proofreading works, then dig into the work at the project page.

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Now in proofreading: Motor Matt; or, The King of the Wheel

Motor Stories #1A few months ago, we introduced you to Motor Matt, hero of the Motor Stories dime novels. Now, the first of his adventures is the latest of our books to become available through the Distributed Proofreaders project.

This particular proofreading project is being managed by a partner within the Distributed Proofreaders community rather than by the Falvey Library team; this partnership should mean that a greater amount of our content will be converted to eBook format more quickly than before. Watch for more Motor Matt adventures coming soon!

To join in the fun and help make this story more widely available, you can read more about our proofreading efforts and then visit the project page.

 

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Now in proofreading: Pretty Geraldine, the New York Salesgirl

Pretty GeraldineThe latest Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller novel to reach our proofreading project is Pretty Geraldine, the New York Salesgirl, part of a popular 19th-century movement of romances revolving around “working girls.” Like many Mrs. Miller novels, this started life as a story paper serial, running from January 26, 1895 to May 4, 1895 in Street & Smith’s New York Weekly.

To learn more about our proofreading efforts, which turn digital images from our collection into modern e-books, read this earlier post. To get involved and help with the work, visit the project page.

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eBook available: “Farewell”

Little Golden's DaughterLike last week’s A Mock Idyl, this week’s eBook release is a story first found in a British periodical (in this case, Belgravia) and later reprinted as filler material in the back of the Favorite Library edition of Little Golden’s Daughter by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller.

“Farewell” is a brief story of a chance meeting that leads to a mysterious relationship. Written in the first person, the story’s protagonist makes an interesting model of Victorian gentlemanly behavior, as exemplified by this excerpt, in which he takes an entire paragraph to figure out how to announce himself upon arriving at a door:

Then a question arose that gave me keen anxiety for a minute or two. Ought I to ring or knock? To ring seemed timid—almost cowardly. Yet what sort of knock could I give? As a messenger from a shop I had no right to give other than that single knock which had often given me so much anguish. Coming on such an invitation such a knock was clearly out of place. And yet a double knock—at least a loud one—might seem presumptuous—seem imperative. So at last I gave a knock which I intended to be a very quiet double knock, but which, I am afraid, was a very queer and tremulous one, and in a minute or so the door was opened by a maid-servant.

If you wish to read the entire tale (which features some twists and turns in addition to dilemmas of etiquette), you can find it available online (and downloadable in popular eBook formats) at Project Gutenberg.

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eBook available: A Mock Idyl

Little Golden's DaughterThis week, we have contributed another eBook to Project Gutenberg: A Mock Idyl, by Percy Ross. This light story of the friendship and loves of a self-styled school teacher and a sailor was originally serialized in two parts in Longman’s Magazine in 1886. It was later used as filler material in the back of the Favorite Library edition of Little Golden’s Daughter by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller.

You can read the entire story online at Project Gutenberg, where it can also be downloaded in a variety of popular eBook formats.

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Last Modified: March 5, 2014