The 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.
Our third World War I-themed children’s novel (following The Liberty Girl and The Brighton Boys in the Trenches) is now available in eBook format thanks to our collaboration with the Distributed Proofreaders project.
This book, Francis Rolt-Wheeler’s The Wonder of War on Land, is quite an unusual creation. It is a novel about a young American boy who witnesses German attacks on Belgium early in the war and becomes increasingly involved in the unfolding conflict. In spite of its fictional nature, it looks like a work of non-fiction, illustrated throughout with photographs (often unrelated to the text) and making fairly heavy use of footnotes (sometimes to cite sources of anecdotes shared by characters, sometimes to indicate places where events have been presented out of historical order).
The actual text of the story is just as unusual as its formatting. After an introduction proclaiming the author’s desire “[t]o give the boys of the United States a fair viewpoint on this war,” the reader is presented with the novel itself, a strange mix of lengthy didactic monologues, pro-French/anti-German propaganda, bizarre incidents, surprisingly unrestrained violence, and periodic hints of the supernatural. By the time our hero is fleeing Belgium in the company of a friendly hunchback and a caged eagle which he captured in hand-to-wing combat as a symbol of victory, it is clear that this is not quite the typical war novel.
The book never quite seems to know what it wants to be — a textbook, an inspirational adventure novel, a document of the horrors of war — and so it never quite meshes into a satisfying whole. However, the fact that it is such an odd hodge-podge makes it an interesting study, and the unusual biography of the author may serve to shed some light on its eccentricities.
If you wish to see the whole thing for yourself, the book can be read online or downloaded in various popular eBook formats through Project Gutenberg.
Like our previous Distributed Proofreaders project, The Boy Aviators with the Air Raiders, our latest title, The Ocean Wireless Boys on War Swept Seas, is a World War I adventure story aimed at young readers and written by Captain Wilbur Lawton (actually a pseudonym of journalist John Henry Goldfrap). While Air Raiders was released before U.S. involvement in the conflict, War Swept Seas came out in 1917, closer to the end of the war. This title also marks the final volume in the Ocean Wireless Boys series, immediately following The Ocean Wireless Boys in the Pacific, which was made available in eBook format as a result of one of our earlier projects.
If you are interested in helping this concluding adventure join its predecessor in the electronic age, you can read this earlier post about how the process works, and then visit the project page to begin preparing pages for Project Gutenberg.
The first World War entered American popular culture some time before America entered the war. This fact is evidenced by our latest title available as a Distributed Proofreaders project, The Boy Aviators with the Air Raiders. This book, part of an ongoing series of airplane-themed children’s adventure novels, plunges its youthful protagonists into the conflict as early as 1915.
If you are interested in helping produce a new eBook edition of this vintage title, you can read more about our proofreading efforts in this earlier post, then dive into the project page here.
A 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.
The 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.
Like 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.
This 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.
A few months ago, we helped produce an eBook of The Brighton Boys in the Trenches, an interesting example of the fiction marketed to boys during the first World War. Our latest release, The Liberty Girl by Rena I. Halsey, complements this as a specimen of Great War fiction intended for reading by girls.
Released in 1919, it seems likely that this was written during the war under the assumption that the conflict would still be raging upon its publication. The book continues the narrative of Nathalie Page, a character introduced in the non-war-themed Blue Robin, the Girl Pioneer. Nathalie begins the book with mixed feelings about the war, and several other characters are also critical of the conflict — offering slightly more moral shading than one might expect here — but the story is clearly designed to convince the reader of the justice of the cause, and everyone finds significant patriotic fervor by the end of the tale.
Obviously, a key distinction between Brighton Boys and Liberty Girl is that the boys were able to enlist and fight the battle directly, while Nathalie can only offer support from the home front. In spite of that limitation, the book is not solely about domestic activities; there are discussions of girls going overseas to support the troops, and some gruesome battlefield narratives are offered by way of a character returned from the front.
Of interest to dime novel readers is the fact that author Rena I. Halsey is the daughter Harlan P. Halsey, also known as “Old Sleuth,” a prolific dime novelist. The use of coincidence and disguise in the narrative here betrays at least traces of the Halsey family’s dime novel roots.
If you wish to read the book for yourself, it can be found at Project Gutenberg, where you can view the text online or download it in a variety of popular electronic formats.
It has been a good week for proofreading projects, with another one completing today: Wild Margaret, by Geraldine Fleming, which is actually a misattributed reprint of His Guardian Angel; or, Wild Margaret by once-famous British novelist, Charles Garvice.
Wild Margaret effectively demonstrates both why Garvice was so popular in his day and also why he has since been forgotten. The book has a certain charm to it, both through a distinctly British tone to its narration and through dialogue that displays at least slightly more wit and playfulness than is found in many other romances of the same period. Unfortunately, these favorable features do not overcome the limitations of the novel. The titular heroine, though given some self-sufficiency and periodically described as having a history of being “wild” or “madcap,” generally displays all the wildness of a house plant. The hero, though superficially appealing, is hard to sympathize with due to his all-around foolishness. The fairly simple plot doesn’t hold a candle to the more outrageous works of Mrs. Miller; it’s a very familiar “lovers meet, are separated, suffer, and are reunited” affair with relatively few surprises.
If you want to see all this for yourself, you can read the entire book online (or download it in a variety of popular formats) at Project Gutenberg.