Thursday, February 5, 2009

Frank A Munsey's "Under Fire: A Tale of New England Village Life" (novel, non-genre, juvenile, free): Preaching "good conduct" to teenagers

There is only one reason for this non-genre post - the author. He's the inventor of "pulp" magazines, & the founder of Argosy. Argosy published Edgar Rice Burroughs, Murray Leinster, & P G Wodehouse, apart from a lot of forgotten ones.

It tells the story of a small town in the US before even my great-grandfather was born, but bits of it are probably still normal life in many a small town in current India (& may be elsewhere too).

Its worst negative is: it is preachy. And it's a predictable story. Plus it's targeted at those in their mid-to-late teens. But I still loved it, for reasons I cannot quite explain! Large parts of the story are about the value of reputation - what goes into making it, & the harm caused by losing it.

Story includes a rather long description of the technical aspects of a factory making woolen cloths - spread over several chapters; most of it just went over my head (video would have worked better).

Story summary.

Three main characters, apart from a lot of others: Fred Worthington (the hero); Matthew De Vere (the villain); & Nellie Dutton (girl that is the cause of conflict between hero & villain). All in their mid-teens.

Matthew is rich & used to have his way. Fred is from a humble background & a good boy. Nellie is ambivalent & wavering, though hero will win her. And she's a minor character, all considered.

Minor incidents, some started by villain, will dent hero's reputation: drugging him & leaving him in this state at the door of Nellie's house, making her family think he's a drunkard; spreading this news through the village, making everyone thing he's a drunkard; a misunderstanding that gets him fired from his job at a store, making everyone think he's a cheat; a robbery & arson that he gets wrongly blamed for.

Reparations begin when he's at his low. And, of course, he will overcome all obstacles, win back his reputation, & get both the girl & a promising career.

Fact sheet.

First published: 1897.
Rating: A.
Download full text from Project Gutenberg, or Manybooks.
Related: Stories from 19th century.