So, yes, the other day I did hunker down and read Dave Fearless and the Cave of Mystery by Roy Rockwood on Project Gutenberg. It was a very cute adventure tale for kids.
This book was the 3rd in the Dave Fearless series. From what I saw on Goodreads, there seem to be at least 12 in all. The author is actually a pseudonym for multiple writers working for the Stratemeyer Syndicate–a book publisher responsible for spawning several major book serials like Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and The Bobbsey Twins! [All of which I read as a kid…]
As a writer, there are writing choices that make my skin crawl:
They were two sturdy boys. The flavor of the briny deep was manifest in their bronzed faces, their attire, their clear bright eyes, and sinewy muscles. They had known hardship and peril such as make men resolute and brave. [Chapter 1]
“Well, all I’ve got to say,” observed Bob at length, with a great sigh, “is that it’s pretty tough.”
“I fancy,” responded Dave, in a set, thoughtful way, “it’s a case of three times and out. We fished it up–one. We’ve lost it–two. We must find it again–three. That’s all.”
“You’re dreaming!” vociferated Bob. “Say, Dave Fearless, you’re a genius and a worker, but if you mean that there is the least hope in the world in going back over a course of over a thousand miles hunting up men with a two weeks’ start of us–desperate men, too–scouring a trackless ocean for fellows who have to hide, and know how to do it, why, it’s–bosh!” [Chapter 1]
“Bob Vilett,” said Dave, with set lip and unflinching eye, “we are only boys, but we have tried to act like men, and Captain Broadbeam respects us for it. We have his confidence. He is old, not much of a thinker, but brave as a lion and ready for any honest, logical suggestion. Here’s a dilemma, a big one. You and I–young, quick, ardent–we must think for him. We have been robbed. We must catch the thieves. We must recover that treasure. Where’s the best and surest, and the quickest way to do it? Put on your thinking-cap, Bob, and try and do some of the hardest brain work of your life.” [Chapter 1]
In the first volume of the present series, entitled “The Rival Ocean Divers,” it was told how they one day learned that they were direct heirs of the Washington family, who twenty years previous had acquired a fortune of nearly a million dollars in China. This, all in gold coin, had been shipped in the Happy Hour for San Francisco. A storm overtook the vessel, which sunk in two miles of water in mid-ocean with the treasure aboard. [Chapter 1]
[This little announced recap goes on for several paragraphs and is followed by another similarly written one for the second book in the series! All-in-all, this “aside” covers the second half of the first chapter.]
I stopped counting the writing choices that made me irritated after the first chapter. There were too many.
However, the story moves at a fast clip from adventure to adventure in each chapter with Dave Fearless saving the day (with very little help from anyone else). He should be dead (or murdered) half a dozen times over in this book alone. I’m not sure how a kid manages to suss out the nefarious plans of the villains–who make a taunting Snidely Whiplash-like cameo appearance–and their cohorts (who play a much more central bad-guy role) with the greatest of ease. He is always in the right place at the right time. He can spot treachery in the night from his bunk at 100 paces. He can fight a jaguar and kick it in the teeth while being tied to a tree. He can find a small boat–complete with emergency food and water–in the middle of the Pacific Ocean after being swept off his ship in a storm. He’s like a mini super-hero!
Was it fun? Yep. It was absurd and ridiculous, but it amused me for a few hours.
Who would like it? Young kids just beginning chapter books. Or anyone wanting a bit of outrageous impossibility in their reading material.
I also have finished Stone of Tears by Terry Goodkind this morning.