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201 items found:

WILKINS, W.A. The Cleverdale Mystery; or, the machine and its wheels. NY, Fords, Howard & Hulbert 1882. Octavo publisher's illustrated brown cloth blocked in black and gilt; part of the back fly torn away but still a remarkably good copy. Au$75

First (only?) edition of this melodramatic thriller of politics, murder and dastardly deeds set in the sub-Adirondack playground of Lake George. Wilkins, editor of the local Whitehall Times, also published a play of this in the same year.


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McGLOIN, Frank. Norodom, King of Cambodia. A romance of the east. NY, Appleton 1882. Octavo publisher's decorated ochre cloth blocked in black and gilt. A rather nice bright copy. Au$175

Only edition of this Asian fantasia, surely an early entrant into modern Cambodian fiction. Lots of warfare, sorcery, demons, and a final great explosion that blasts Norodom and his wicked consort Almeta to the moon means that this should be in the bibliographies of fantastic literature but most seem to have missed it. It's an odd excursion for McGloin whose habitual topics were law and religion in Louisiana.


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McGOVAN [or M'Govan], James. [ie William Crawford Honeyman]. Strange Clues: or, Chronicles of a City Detective. Edinburgh, Menzies & Co; London, Simpkin Marshall 1884. Octavo publisher's illustrated boards (wear to edges). Signs of use but a pretty good copy. Au$450

Sixth edition and still desirable; a search of the usual haunts (Copac, OCLC, various national libraries) turned up one second edition, at Oxford, one fourth, one fifth, a couple of sevenths and an eleventh. There was a 1920s edition that omits a third of the book. McGovan is a younger, fictional, colleague of James M'Levy whose books were a hit in the sixties. M'Levy, whether or not his books were pure fiction, was an Edinburgh detective; McGovan purports to be one. This is the fourth of five books that appeared between 1878 and 1884 - this first appeared in 1881 - and all are elusive. After these Honeyman settled down to write on violins and violin playing.


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LYNCH, Lawrence L. [Emma Murdoch van Deventer?]. The New Detective Story. The Diamond Coterie. Chicago, Donnelley 1885. Octavo publisher's illustrated plum cloth blocked in black and silver (surface blotch on the back cover); numerous full page wood engravings (not without some crude appeal). Some natural toning of the paper but a rather good copy. Au$100

I'm not sure whether the mystery of the first edition of this book has ever been solved but I can tell you this isn't it. Copyright dates of 1882 and 1884 have led some bibliographers to the conclusion that there is an 1882 edition but I want to know who has seen one. There is an 1884 edition but I doubt the supposed Sumner 1884 edition cited by some really is 1884; my bet is on Donnelley 1884 being the first edition.
Emma van Deventer has been long established as Lawrence Lynch but I've come across recent questions about the existence of anyone called Emma Murdoch van Deventer. The publisher tells us that this "combines the excitement that ever attends the intricate and hazardous schemes of a detective ... with ... as carefully constructed and cunningly elaborated a plot as the best of Wilkie Collins' or Charles Reade's." This is not unreasonable, it certainly is elaborate.


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HOWE, E.W. The Mystery of the Locks. Boston, Osgood 1885. Octavo publisher's decorated brown cloth blocked in black and gilt. A small, almost tiny, snag at the top of the spine, a rather good, bright copy. Au$125

First (only?) edition. A fine array of gothic chapter headings if nothing else: The Town of Dark Nights; The Face at the Window; Pictures in the Fire; The Locks' Ghost; The Whispers in the Air; The Ancient Maiden; A Shot at the Shadow; The Step on the Stair; The Pursuing Shadow; ... and finally The Going Down of the Sun.


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HIGGINSON, S.J. [Sarah Jane Hatfield Higginson]. A Princess of Java. A tale of the far east. Boston, Houghton Mifflin 1887. Octavo publisher's printed pattern cloth with paper labels (spine tips a bit chipped). Au$175

First edition of this sometimes thrilling romance, or sometimes romantic thriller. I can't decide whether Mrs Higginson ever visited Java. This begins more like a travelogue - and she wrote a travel book for children about Java a few years later - than a novel and it's the surfeit of local colour and language that makes me wonder whether it all comes out of Raffles.
There is a strong streak of feminism. Our heroine princess, infected by association with western women, rejects docile subjection to her arranged marriage and other distasteful traditions but the extraordinary culmination of this book is the celebration of not one but two interracial marriages. Admittedly the duskier half of each couple is the princess and a handsome young prince and the unions eventuate with some fairy tale inevitability. But the ordeals and dangers, the adventures of the heroines (there are three) are directed by their conflict with the cultural and racist demands of their parents.
In the end it's Mrs Higginson's brave appreciation of and close attention to the beauty of the Javanese that lends me to believe she spent time there; more than her cavalcade of murderous amok, Guwa Upas - Valley of Poison - and ular lanang, a king cobra that blows gusts of poison.


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Japanese illustration. Hanai Oume? Set of proof wood engraved illustrations for a Japanese serial story. n.p. n.d. [c 1887?] Oblong quarto by size (260x185mm ) contemporary plain wrapper; 41 wood engravings on 21 double folded leaves. A little browning. Au$475

A prime example of the strange casserole of Meiji Japan. In form, in technique, in content and in production these hold all the paradoxes of Japan embracing western modernisation while hanging fast to tradition. These are the illustrations for what seems a rollicking sword and sash thriller but ... it is set in a modern metropolis; bowler hats, suits and dashing mustachios are not out of place, neither is what looks like a railway station; and these are not ukiyo-e woodcuts for a popular novel, these are western wood engravings for a long serial - there are 41 after all - in a newspaper or broadsheet magazine; an illustration of such a paper helpfully holds a bough of blossoms in one illustration. The subject apart, the glaring difference between these and any western illustrations is the skill of artist and engraver, all but a few western counterparts are put to shame.
I'm convinced that these relate to Hanai Oume the celebrated Tokyo geisha-teahouse owner who, in 1887, stabbed her sometime lover and employee who, apparently in concert with her father, was trying to muscle her out of the business. The first illustration here shows two men holding umbrellas that, I'm told, advertise a restaurant or 'licenced pleasure quarter' remarkably similar to hers: Suigetsu. Oume or O-ume - her professional name - was celebrity manifest. Her murder trial was public and though crowds unable to get in became irate every moment was covered in the press; books were published within minutes, kabuki plays and novels performed and published, and the newspapers made rich. Yoshitoshi produced a famous print of the murder as a supplement for the Yamato Shimbun but while there is plenty of violence in these pictures there is no murder. Spin-off or fanciful concoction, there's a good story here.
There is an owner's (maybe artist's?) seal which I make out to be 春耕慢虫 - I'm sure I'm wrong.


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LEFFINGWELL, Alsop. The Mystery of Bar Harbor. A melo-dramatic romance of France and Mt. Desert. NY, Dillingham 1887. Octavo publisher's cloth blocked in gilt and black (a touch rubbed); some natural browning but quite a good copy. Au$145

First (only?) edition.


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[DE MILLE, James]. A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder. NY, Harper 1888. Octavo publisher's illustrated cloth blocked in gilt, silver and brown; 19 full page illustrations by Gilbert Gaul. Some slight signs of use; a rather good copy. Au$450

First edition, English and Canadian editions appeared in the same year. One of the must-have Antarctic lost race thrillers, it has excited recent critical attention - something that it did not do on publication - largely due to De Mille's unique status as a Canadian author of such a fantastic novel at that time. Published well after his death in 1880, there is evidence that he wrote it in the 1860s. This excuses him from accusations of plagiarism of recent books. But there is little point in ransacking the sensational fiction of the 19th century for likenesses; the forms were well set out in the imaginary voyages of a century or two earlier.
De Mille's Antarctic society is a dystopia, an inversion of 19th century Christian society, but the book is a true thriller, with wondrous creatures, beauteous women and gruesome death. You can swap those adjectives around to suit yourself.
De Mille himself was a respectable academic who scribbled potboiling trash by the ton - all but this novel pretty well forgotten. It is suggested that he had to pay off the debt accrued through a youthful plunge into bookselling.


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VESCELIUS-SHELDON, Louise. An I.D.B. in South Africa. NY, Lovell [1888]. Octavo publisher's illustrated cloth (a couple of small spots); illustrations through the text. Minor signs of use but a good, bright copy. Au$125

First edition, there was a London issue using these sheets. I don't want to give away too much but this is complicated. We begin in a theatre box in the Kimberley diamond fields with Herr Schwatka divulging to an near stranger that the fascinating beauty in the box opposite has Zulu blood. Before the end of this short chapter Count Telfus has been arrested in that same box for having an illicit diamond (IDB is an illicit diamond buyer), handcuffed, locked up and has shot himself in his cell. The South African police frisk prisoners for diamonds, not guns. Donald Laure worships his part Zulu wife Dainty but has a guilty secret or two; she has not yet had the passion in her soul awakened but she does have a black dwarf servant with a glass eye.


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SMITH, J.F. [John Frederick]. Minnigrey. A romance. London, Bradley [1888?]. Octavo contemporary half morocco. A little browning; a crisp, handsome copy. Au$500

First book edition? Bradley editions exist with or without illustrations by John Gilbert but his pictures are so bland and bloodless they are no asset. Minnigrey was serialised twice, in 1851 - a huge hit - and again in 1861; dramatised, translated into Dutch and Danish and inspired a Schottisch, all in the fifties. Smith, as is the way with thriller writers, was fearsomely prolific, hugely popular and sometimes well paid but by the time of this book he was poor again and died almost unnoticed two years later.
According to Francis Hitchman he had only one obituary notice in the daily papers in which the writer said, "He had a thousand readers where Dickens had ten, or Thackeray one." In the school of Smith, Hitchman tells us, "innocence and loveliness in a gingham gown are perpetually pursued by vice and debauchery in varnished boots and spotless gloves ... detectives are ever on the watch, and the most astonishing pitfalls and mantraps are concealed in the path of the unwary and the innocent." ('Penny Fiction' in the Quarterly Review, July 1890).


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NISBET, Hume. The Land of the Hibiscus Blossom; a yarn of the Papuan Gulf. London, Ward & Downey 1888. Octavo publisher's illustrated cloth blocked in colour and gilt (tips worn, cloth a bit dull and discoloured); 23 full page ills by Nisbet. A second hand but quite acceptable copy. Au$185

First edition (only? there was an 1889 colonial issue and a 'new edition' in 1896 but I suspect these are re-issues of the same sheets) of Nisbet's first novel (of some 40) and one of the earliest novels of New Guinea from first hand experience. Nisbet insists on his accuracy of detail and was often criticised for proselytising at the expense of humour and excitement but his ideas have come into their own: "this is not a missionary tale, but the words of one who believes as ... Ruskin believes, that what the savage gains from religion and civilisation is not equivalent to his own beliefs when left alone."
Despite dire warnings that a trip to New Guinea was near suicide, and unlike most of his contemporaries and followers, New Guinea to Nisbet was not a dark, savage and desperate land and his bright and cheery sobriquet of a title shows a generous response and appreciative humanity but lousy marketing skills.


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BROCK, R.W. [ie John Alexander Barr]. Mihawhenua: the Adventures of a Party of Tourists Amongst a Tribe of Maoris Discovered in Western Otago, New Zealand. Recorded By R. W. Brock, MA, LLB. Edited By R. H. Chapman. (Being a Manuscript Addressed to the Editor, Found Attached to a Maori Kite on Mount Alta ... Dunedin, Wilkie & Co 1888. Octavo publisher's illustrated wrapper (spine chipped); 198,[2 adverts]pp. Used but a very decent copy. Au$600

A lost race thriller with the race being discovered in a lush world around a warm lake hidden in the mountains. Barr published a few novels all in a rush, including two thrillers - one Australian - under the name Gilbert Rock but his own story is perhaps more exciting than Moa riding Maoris, cannibals, and treacherous French sailors. A Dunedin lawyer, he petitioned in 1888 for a protective tax on all imported literature, assuring the government that he was "prepared to supply the colonial market with literature if inducement offers." All his known novels then appeared by November.
Soon after he did 'the Pacific Slope' (a great term I hadn't heard before), abandoning his family and absconding with many thousands of his clients' pounds either lost or in his pocket. Here Barr vanishes from view except for a startling piece in the Auckland Star of October 1 1894 in which is mentioned a letter just received by Sir George Grey from the author of Mihawhenua with a return address but an indecipherable signature. No-one could decipher the signature so Grey's secretary cut the signature from the letter and pasted it onto the reply. No connection was made between the author of Mihawhenua and the missing lawyer. A final glimpse is a London death notice in 1907 which identifies him as a former solicitor of Dunedin and tells us he has been living in England with his wife and family for five or six years. I wonder if it was the same family.
The dedication, to the colonial press in "grateful acknowledgment", of one of his thrillers, 'By Passion Driven', was declined on conscientious grounds by the Christchurch Telegraph who said, "What object Mr Gilbert Rock could have had we do not know". Perhaps his dedication was for The Daily Telegraph who described his 'Colonists' as "not a badly told story".


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MITCHELL, J.A. The Last American. A fragment from the journal of Khan-Li, Prince of Dimph-yoo-chur and Admiral in the Persian Navy. NY, Stokes 1889. Octavo publisher's dark blue illustrated cloth blocked in black and gilt (tips rubbed); 78pp, illustrations. A couple of minor flaws and signs of use but a pretty good copy. Au$175

First edition of this amusing (if pun spattered) account of a voyage of discovery to the ruins of Mehrika at the end of the 30th century; it is filled with anthropological and archaeological revelations. The street scene showing daily life in ancient Nhu-Yok is particularly good. The end though is sad.


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WOOD, H.F. [Harry Freeman]. The Englishman of the Rue Cain. London, Chatto & Windus 1889. Octavo publisher's illustrated cloth blocked in black and grey (spine faded and a bit rubbed). Publisher's catalogue for October 1888 at the end. Canted but rather good and fresh inside. Au$135

First edition of this murder mystery set in Paris involving a missing heir, cross dressing villains, a cavalcade of detectives and all manner of complications.


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HUME, Fergus. The Dwarf's Chamber. London, Ward Lock [189-?]. Octavo publisher's colour illustrated glazed boards with cloth spine (this a touch faded); illustrations by Percy F.S. Spence and others. The title page - on cheaper paper - a bit browned, a bit of a lean, a little wear to corners and edges, a rather good copy. Au$185

A re-issue of the original 1896 sheets with a cancel title page and part of the appealing Ward Lock 2/- Copyright Novels series. This is the copy illustrated in John Loder's survey of the 2/- series. This is sort of intriguing as an exercise in marketing. The "other stories" - ie The Dwarf's Chamber and Other Stories as it was first titled - have been dumped - from the title, not the book. Perhaps a glut of short story collections on the market. The Dwarf's Chamber is the longest by far piece in the book but there are some other useful titles in there: Dead Man's Diamonds - too many diamonds in the thriller market ... Tale of the Turquoise Skull - too obvious a short story ... the Green-Eyed God and the Stockbroker - again too obvious as is the Ivory Leg and the Twenty-Four Diamonds - and there's diamonds again.


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WHITE, Caroline Earl. Love in the Tropics. A romance of the south seas. Philadelphia, Lippincott 1890. Octavo publisher's decorated cloth (spine a bit dull and rubbed). What looks like a smear on the front cover is part of the design. Au$85

Only edition. A Pacific thriller that sees a shipwrecked sailor cast ashore on an imagined island somewhere near Tonga where love, treachery and murder are almost overshadowed by the man eating Kaukevara Tree.


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Henry James Black. (Burakku Kairakutei). [Setsunaru Tsumi]. Tokyo, Ginkado 1891 (Meiji 24). 19x13cm publisher's cloth backed colour illustrated boards (mildly rubbed and worn at edges); one single page (I think a portrait of Black) and 15 double page illustrations three of which are in the text and repeated as frontispieces. Apparently reglued into its cover at some time. Signs of use but quite a good copy. Au$2600

First edition of this detective story told as a serial to an audience by a gay Australian who became a professional Japanese story teller and actor, taken down in shorthand and published as this book.
Black was born in Adelaide and arrived in Japan in 1865 at the age of almost seven - his father, up until now a singer, had bought into the Japan Herald. Henry seems to have grown into something of a no-hoper in the eyes of some of his family at least and rather than settle to respectable work became first a proponent of progressive reform, like his father, then a professional rakugoka - story teller - and even a kabuki actor playing women. His reaction to his siblings' disapproval was to change his name to Burakku Kairakutei (Pleasure Black), marry a Japanese woman and become a Japanese citizen.
Ian McArthur, Black's biographer, quotes from a police report made at this time that he was living in "virtually a husband and wife relationship" with a young Japanese man but otherwise there was nothing untoward to worry about. At the height of his fame - 1891 and 92 - maybe six or seven of these stenographic novels were published and other stories appeared in newspapers. It's a bit hard to unravel as a couple appeared more than once with different titles. Even the concise and acerbic Edogawa Rampo gets muddled and misled trying to work out a bibliography at the end of his 1951 essay translated as 'Fingerprint Novels of the Meiji Era'. This handful of detective stories or thrillers was bracketed by two translations or adaptations of novels: Mrs Braddon's Flower and Weed in 1886 and Dickens' Oliver Twist in 1895. Of the thrillers from these two boom years, two are known to be adapted from stories by Mrs Braddon and one from a story by Fortune du Boisgobey.
Macarthur offered synopses of some of Black's works in his 2002 Phd. thesis - presumably those works he could find. For the rest he relied on second hand information. The account of this book - which has no known antecedent - is brief and confusing but probably no more confusing than any murder mystery of the period. For now we need only know that it involves a double love triangle - or maybe a square - and that the murder weapon is powdered glass.
The illustrations might baffle anyone expecting the characters to be in England where the story is set but Black made it a point to give his characters Japanese names and to digress with explanations of strange customs and laws for his audience. These stenographic books - sokkibon - were hugely popular, distributed largely through lending libraries and have a pitiful survival rate. They are credited with playing a large part in transforming Japanese literature from the classical and formal to colloquial.
This is also a 'ball cover' (boru hyoshi) book - a symbol of modernity and the Japanese equivalent of a yellowback: flimsy western style bindings with lithograph covers that rarely survive in decent shape. The comparative plethora of pictures and the good quality paper indicate the publishers thought this was better than the usual run of the mill thriller. Worldcat finds no copy of this outside Japan.


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BRADLEY, Charles. The Red Cripple. A Tale of the Midnight Express. Melbourne, George Robertson & H.W. Mills 1891. Octavo publisher's colour illustrated wrapper; [6],186pp. Price changed by hand from one to two shillings. An outstanding copy. Au$1500

First edition of this scarce, busy murder mystery, a tangle of disguise, false identity, astounding coincidence and extended comic relief. Despite the often repeated note this has nothing to do with a diamond robbery but in passing near the end. Almost all of this takes place on the Manchester-London train - though the unsolved murders started seven years ago - with hair-raising action, comedy, tragedy and mystery piled upon mystery.
An all round Melbourne production though disguised as the account of detective Medway of Scotland Yard sent to Bradley in Melbourne. Bradley was in theatre - manager of the Walter Bentley company's tour of Australia and New Zealand at about this time. He was busy in 1891: he published another thriller, had plays produced and, at the end of 1892 went off to conquer America with his plays. He puffed the forthcoming New York production of 'The Gold Escort' - the introduction of Australian theatre to American audiences. I can't discover that America ever saw the drama, action and slaughter promised but Bradley does surface here and there over following decades as a manager, producer and maybe playwright. If he'd managed to carry off setting the whole thing on the train this would now be hailed as a pioneering modernist work.


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ROBERTSON, Andrew. The Kidnapped Squatter and other Australian stories. London, Longmans 1891. Octavo, fresh in publisher's fawn cloth (spine rubbed and a touch worn at the tips). A 24 page 1891 publisher's list at the end. A pretty good copy, uncommon as such. Au$200

First (only?) edition of Robertson's first book, a gathering of four stories. Austlit separates the Rev Andrew Robertson, essayist, from our author; they had been blended by Miller and Macartney. The Spectator, relieved to find no bushrangers, gave this a good, barely patronising, review - remarkable treatment for a colonial book. I'm less forgiving. It is outrageous providence - a lazy author I say - that catches the miscreants in the title story, not a 'tec or bloodstain in sight. Jack Reeveley, the long piece of the book, does have a detective - one who quotes Shakespeare in his report - violence, convoluted mystery and outrageous coincidence enough for any three books.


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FALK, David G. Rick; or, The Recidiviste. A Romance of Australian Life. London, Trischler 1891. Octavo publisher's textured pink cloth blocked in black (spine and around the edges faded). Patterned endpapers browned, signs of use but a pretty good copy. Au$375

Only edition of this elusive thriller set in and around Melbourne that exploits that timeless Anglo-Australian characteristic - fear of foreigners. In this case it's the Recidivistes, escaped French convicts from New Caledonia. Falk prefaces the book with an extract from the Melbourne Argus noting the disquieting increase of French convicts in Australia. Rick and the Recidiviste are not the same person, Rick is an orphaned young woman with a mysterious past and the Recidiviste is Ranq, by name and nature. The young detective Sprowde solves both problems before the most overstretched deathbed scene I've skimmed in years and a gently melancholic but happy enough ending.
Falk appears to have written a fair bit for papers and journals but only two novels were published as far as I can work out. Trischler & Co. used to be the Hansom Cab Publishing Co and published a few Australian authors during its brief life.


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GROWDEN, Oliver H. Matthew Redmayne. A New Zealand Romance. London, Melbourne &c, George Robertson 1892. Octavo publisher's red cloth (spine a touch faded or rubbed). Quite a good copy. Au$350

Only edition. A thriller involving a woman falsely accused of murder, an insane sister, secret correspondence, bigamy and much more. "To give an outline of the plot would be difficult, owing to its complexity, devious windings, and numerous bypaths" writes The West Australian (14th July 1893) who gives it a good review and notes that the author is believed to be a young public servant resident in Perth. Growden published more fiction in The West Australian and the Western Mail but this seems to be his only book.


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BERRY, Edward Payson. Where the Tides Meet. Boston, Arena Publishing 1893. Octavo publisher's cloth; a most misleading nautical extra lllustrated title. A rather good copy. Au$400

First (only?) edition? A New York novel that isn't in Hubin and should be. Mostly set in the grimmer parts of New York and featuring a wealthy young do-gooder - fitting the Arena imprint - we have a murder, a detective, a scheming lawyer, a pickpocket with a monkey accomplice; what else do we need? A gunfight? a crushed and bloody corpse? a river of blood? Yes indeed.


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[CAMERON, John?]. Wulla Merrii. The Fire Stick: Incidents in the shearer's strike. A tale of bush life. n.p. [Brisbane 1893?]. Octavo publisher's illustrated boards. A few small knicks, a rather good copy. Au$150

The attribution to Cameron seems fairly well accepted. A virulently anti-union novel so it's no surprise that neither the printer nor author dared put their name on it (both the title and last leaf appear to be cancels - redone without colophon or any other details). Can we presume that fear of retribution also accounts for the fact that so many copies were clearly never circulated until recent decades? Surely it couldn't be the writing, plot, paper thin characters: villainous unionists and cartoon blacks? Plenty of other novels have done well on worse.
Cameron was a pastoralist and politician, a leader of the anti-union movement (they "aimed at nothing short of REVOLUTION") and a central figure in the strike. A confirmed White Australian he was known to declare, I gather while campaigning for office, that "I have never believed in the principle of one man one vote, and nothing will ever convince me that men should have equal voting rights".


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FAWCETT, E. Douglas. Hartmann the Anarchist; or, the doom of the great city. London, Edward Arnold 1893. Octavo red cloth blocked in black (spine browned and worn at the ends); illustrated by Fred T. Jane. Some scattered spotting. Au$125

First edition but a later issue with a publisher's list dated 1902 inserted after the 1893 list at the end. Futuristic adventure, with flying machines of the best type, and the destruction of London.


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