This week’s eBook release (completed with the help of the Distributed Proofreaders project) is Old Broadbrim Into the Heart of Australia, the thirty-second issue of Old Broadbrim Weekly, a publication chronicling the adventures of a Quaker detective. In this particular adventure, Old Broadbrim tracks a villain all the way to Australia while investigating a pair of murders.
Unlike many dime novels, which tend to be filled with exaggerated dialect and broad stereotypes, this adventure is a bit unusual for portraying all of its characters very similarly. Everyone speaks fairly formally (even the Australian Aborigine), with the only verbal tic being Old Broadbrim’s occasional use of “thee” and “thy.” Men and women alike engage in fights, commit murders and find themselves controlled by one another. This is not to say that Old Broadbrim offers a Utopian view of human equality (there’s far too much death and insanity for that), but it does subvert expectations.
One might also be curious about how a Quaker detective differs from any other sort of detective. The answer, at least for this book, is hardly at all. Apart from the aforementioned “thees” and “thys,” Old Broadbrim acts like any other dime novel detective, shooting people, drinking alcohol and hoping to place his quarry on the end of a rope.
If you are interested in reading the whole book for yourself, you can find it on Project Gutenberg, where it may be read online or downloaded in various common eBook formats.
The tenth issue of Motor Stories is now available on Project Gutenberg thanks to our collaboration with Distributed Proofreaders. Motor Matt’s Hard Luck picks up right where Motor Matt’s Air Ship left off, with Motor Matt continuing his career as an air-ship pilot and foiling the plans of the evil Brady gang.
As usual, the main adventure is followed by a short filler story; this time, it’s “The Red Spider,” a Western adventure involving a plot to manipulate the stock market by damming a river.
The entire book can be read online or downloaded in eBook format at Project Gutenberg.
Another issue of Motor Stories has made it through the Distributed Proofreaders project. Motor Matt’s Air Ship; or, The Rival Inventors, the ninth adventure of the series, sees Motor Matt make his first flight after falling foul of a corrupt air ship designer. The adventure is noteworthy both for its aerial theme (which includes some interesting information about the workings of balloons) and for the introduction of Helen Brady, a female character who seems designed to match Motor Matt in bravery, resourcefulness and dedication to principles.
This issue’s filler story is “The Big Cypress,” a brief tale of attempted crime set in the wilds of Florida.
The entire book can be read online or downloaded from Project Gutenberg.
Our Distributed Proofreaders releases from the Motor Stories series continue this week with the eighth adventure, Motor Matt’s Triumph; or, Three Speeds Forward. This volume feature’s Motor Matt’s action-packed debut in the car racing scene and includes a reunion with an old friend that we haven’t seen for a few issues. As filler, it offers a short story about catching a huge alligator as well as a very brief item about the Ganges Delta.
As always, the whole story can be read online or downloaded in eBook form at Project Gutenberg.
The latest completed Distributed Proofreaders project is another boys’ series book from author “Captain Wilbur Lawton,” most likely a pseudonym of John Henry Goldfrap. The first volume in a series of naval adventures released shortly before the start of the first World War, The Dreadnought Boys on Battle Practice follows the adventures of two young farm boys who decide for a dramatic change of lifestyle and join the navy.
In classic series book fashion, the honest and noble youths achieve astonishing success while defeating a gang of villains who are not just evil, but also incredibly discourteous. The patriotic action is mixed with information about naval practices and technology that must have appealed to young readers interested in the subject matter at the time.
The entire book may now be read online or downloaded in eBook format at Project Gutenberg. More titles from the series will be forthcoming.
The dime novel era offered a variety of unusual heroes, including Old Broadbrim, the Quaker detective, who happens to be the subject of our latest Distributed Proofreaders project: Old Broadbrim into the Heart of Australia. This adventure is part of a weekly series that ran for about a year starting in 1902.
To help turn this vintage book into a new eBook edition, read this earlier post to learn about the proofreading process and then visit the project page to begin work.
Fresh from Distributed Proofreaders and Project Gutenberg comes another Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller eBook assembled using images from our Digital Library: Lancaster’s Choice.
Cited by the author as one of her favorite works, this novel is a bit different from the majority of her stories. If the average Mrs. Miller novel feels like a 19th century soap opera due to its melodrama and wild plot twists, Lancaster’s Choice instead feels more like a romantic comedy, with a much more restrained and predictable plot laced with the occasional humorous situation. While Mrs. Miller’s more over-the-top works usually appeared in high-profile story papers like the New York Family Story Paper and the Fireside Companion, this one was serialized in the short-lived New York Monthly Fashion Bazaar, which presumably aimed for a different tone than its contemporaries.
Fans of Mrs. Miller may be disappointed by the milder tone of this story, but they may at least be interested to see the overt use of humor, perhaps an indication that some of the absurd situations in the author’s melodramatic work were constructed with tongue in cheek.
The entire novel may be read online or downloaded in eBook format at Project Gutenberg.
Once again, the Distributed Proofreaders project has produced a new Project Gutenberg text from one of the Motor Stories adventures in our Digital Library. Motor Matt’s Clue; or, The Phantom Auto, the seventh tale in the series, has our young heroes confronted by a mysterious self-driving car and involved in a dispute over a will. Even more than the previous volumes, this adventure foreshadows later series fiction like the Hardy Boys and the Three Investigators (not to mention Scooby-Doo) with its apparently-supernatural mystery unraveled by plucky youths.
As usual for the series, the main adventure is followed by some filler material. The first piece is a tale of the Civil War called “Bill, the Bound Boy,” which, based on newspaper appearances, seems to have been written in 1892 or earlier — well before its 1909 reprint here. The second piece is called “A Winter Story of Colorado,” about a mysterious pack of animals that are killing livestock. This appears to have originated in the Youth’s Companion under a different title, if a 1907 appearance in The Cato Citizen (PDF link) can be believed.
All of this content can now be read online (or downloaded in popular electronic formats) at Project Gutenberg.
Our newest Distributed Proofreaders project is Husks, an 1863 novel by prolific and long-lived author Mary Virginia Terhune, who wrote primarily under the pseudonym Marion Harland. This edition of Husks comes from F. M. Lupton’s Arm Chair Library and was produced a few decades after the initial publication of the novel.
Work on this title will contribute to The Marion Harland Project, a sub-project within Distributed Proofreaders dedicated to preserving the works of this writer.
To learn more about how our proofreading projects work, read this earlier post. When you are ready to join the fun, you can visit the project page and start proofing!
Our latest completed Distributed Proofreaders project is Motor Matt’s Red Flyer; or, On the High Gear, the sixth volume of the Motor Stories series of dime novels. This adventure picks up right where Motor Matt’s Mystery left off, and offers more of the now-familiar mix of engagingly-written action and offensively stereotypical characterizations.
Of particular note in this volume is the fact that Motor Matt ends up befriending a company of actors from an Uncle Tom’s Cabin show. Given the occasionally nuanced portrayal of racial issues displayed by some of the previous adventures, one might hope for a hint of thoughtfulness here, but unfortunately, this one leans entirely in the direction of using African Americans as “comic relief.” Perhaps the best that can be said is that this book helps to demonstrate (for better or worse) the lasting cultural impact of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel more than half a century after its original publication.
As always, the complete story can be read online at Project Gutenberg, where downloads in popular eBook formats are also available.