Thursday, April 30, 2015

A-Z: Y is for The Yorkshire Witch and Z is for Edward Zane Carroll Judson

I'm posting for the letter Y and Z for the A-Z Challenge.  For the letter Y, I'm featuring Mary Bateman, the Yorkshire Witch and for the letter Z, Edward Zane Carroll Judson a.k.a. Ned Buntline.

"Mary Bateman, the Yorkshire Witch"

The penny dreadful, Mary Bateman the Yorkshire Witch, was written by Thomas Peckett Prest in 1840.  Under the direction of Edward Loyd, Prest endeavored to write bloody tales, often creating storylines from news headlines.  Mary Bateman (1768 – 20 March 1809) was an English con artist who would steal and pretend she had supernatural powers to deceive her marks.  She befriended a husband and wife ( William and Rebecca Perigo) who believed in her abilities.  They paid her a substantial amount of money for her magical potions, spells and such.  Rebecca eventually died eating pudding laced with poison.  Her husband grew suspicious and contacted authorities which led to Mary's arrest.  Mary denied any wrongdoing, but the authorities found poison and other incriminating items in her belongings.  She was sentenced to death by hanging in March 1809.  Afterwards, "her body was put on public display with strips of her skin being sold as magic charm to ward off evil spirits."  Ack!.  That's just gross.  You can read more information about Mary here.  Anyway, there are no known copies of the penny dreadful, Prest created based on that original story which is really too bad.  I suspect with his talent for flair and romance, there might have been a riveting read on our hands.

"Edward Zane Carroll Judson"

Since there is little on penny dreadfuls that begin with the letter Z, I focused on an author from the U.S. who wrote serials.  Edward Zane Carroll Judson was an American, using the pen name Ned Buntline, who wrote serials such as The King of the Sea. A tale of the fearless and free and The Virgin Bride. A romance and more.   Ned had a seasoned background in the Navy and military and later roamed the Wild West with the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Buffalo Bill.  This author led an amazing life to say the least.  He produced Wild West shows with Buffalo Bill and  Texas Jack Omohundro and even claimed he nicknamed "Buffalo Bill" for the hero of his serial novel Buffalo Bill, the King of the Border Men, published in the New York Weekly" in 1869. "Ned Buntline was an American publisher, journalist, writer, and publicist."  I was able to find most of my information about Edward Zane Carroll Judson here, but this image of him hanging with Buffalo Bill is perhaps my favorite.

Not too bad for Y & Z.   Anyway, that's a wrap!  I'm off this weekend to spend time reading the blog posts of other folks since I've been remiss this last week.  Enjoy your weekend!

Mina Burrows

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A-Z: X is for eXtra Penny Dreadfuls

The letter for today for the A-Z Challenge is the letter X.  Well, this one as you can imagine is a difficult letter to source.  In order to make the most of this challenge for my readers, I decided to source more penny dreadfuls and post where everyone could find them free.  I'm using the letter X for eXtra penny dreadfuls.  Please enjoy these exceptional serials

George W. M. Reynolds' The Mysteries of London

Overview: George W. M. Reynolds' The Mysteries of London is a sprawling tableau, seeking to depict life as Reynolds saw it in mid-Victorian London and expose what he viewed as gross injustice toward the poor. He wide range of tales included a clergyman as the main character and hump-backed dwarves, harridans and grave-robbers [who] groped past against a background of workhouses, jails, execution yards, thieves' kitchens and cemeteries.

Get your Free copy here via Gutenberg.

William Harrison Ainsworth's The Lancashire Witches

The serial which was later published as a novel is based on the true story of the Pendle witches, who were executed in 1612 for causing harm by witchcraft. It is considered one of the major English novels on witchcraft.

Get your Free copy here via

William Harrison Ainsworth's Jack Sheppard

Overview: A celebrated thief is the un-worthy hero of this early dramatic romance.

Get your #Free copy of Jack Sheppard via

William Harrison Ainsworth's Auriol: The Elixir of Life 

Overview:  On the night of the 1st of March, 1800, and at a late hour, a man, wrapped in a large horseman's cloak, and of strange and sinister appearance, entered an old deserted house in the neighbourhood of Stepney-green. He was tall, carried himself very erect, and seemed in the full vigour of early manhood; but his features had a worn and ghastly look, as if bearing the stamp of long-indulged and frightful excesses, while his dark gleaming eyes gave him an expression almost diabolical.

Get your #Free copy via Amazon.

Mary Elizabeth Braddon 's Lady Audley's Secret

Lady Audley's Secret was first published as a serial in the mid 1800's.  Here is an overview of the story.  Lady Audley's Secret (1862) was one of the most widely read novels in the Victorian period. It exemplifies "sensation fiction" in featuring a beautiful criminal heroine, an amateur detective, blackmail, arson, violence, and plenty of suspenseful action. To its contemporary readers, it also offered the thrill of uncovering blackmail and criminal violence within the homes of the upper class. The novel makes trenchant critiques of Victorian gender roles and social stereotypes, and it creates significant sympathy for the heroine, despite her criminal acts, as she suffers from the injustices of the "marriage market" and rebels against them. 

Get your #Free copy via Amazon here.

Have you had a change to read any of these?  I haven't, but I can promise there are a few here I'll be adding to my TBR pile.

Have a fantastic day!

Mina Burrows

Monday, April 27, 2015

A-Z: W is for Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf

We're in the final stretch of the A-Z Challenge.  Yahoo!  The letter for today is W and I'm featuring, George Reynold's penny dreadful, Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf.   Earlier in the A-Z Challenge, I blogged about Reynolds and mentioned some of his accomplishments including Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf.  Today, I wanted to go into more detail about the penny dreadful and how important it's story was to the Gothic genre.

"Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf"

Like Varney the Vampire or Feast of Blood, Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf, is a classic piece of Gothic literature.  Aside from the pack with the devil, many werewolf characteristics we use today originated from this serial.  For example, Reynold's story was the one of the first English literature that mentions of a man transforming into a wolf-like creature.

From the back cover of Penny Dreadful Multipack Volume 1, (a book of the original penny dreadfuls with images) the series "is set in the sixteenth century and begins with a recently abandoned old man waiting in vain for his granddaughter to return and care for him as a storm rages in the ancient forest surrounding his isolated cottage. To his surprise, a stranger appears and offers him something he cannot refuse: beauty and youth. But it comes with a price as he must also suffer the curse of the werewolf. Love, violence, and intrigue are all weaved around Fernand Wagner as he struggles to balance being a human and a murderous animal. As things become more out of hand and uncontrollable, the secret he has been trying to hide may just have to come forth and be faced by all involved, including his beloved Nisida."

Where can I get a copy of Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf ?

I found my FREE copy of George Reynold's penny dreadful, Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf via Gutenberg ebooks.  Enjoy!

Have a great day!

Mina Burrows

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A-Z: U is for The Union Jack & V is for Varney the Vampire

The letters I'm posting for today is U & V for the A-Z Challenge. U is for The Union Jack and V is for Varney the Vampire or The Feast of Blood.

"The Union Jack"

The Union Jack was another half-penny dreadful created by Alfred Harmsworth in 1894.  In his quest to rid the market of penny dreadfuls, Harmsworth published serials like The Union Jack, offering readers morally cleaner stories with better writing.  In his first serial, he published an editorial statement, promising  his half-penny's featured "...No tales of boys rifling their employers' cash-boxes and making off to foreign lands, or other such highly immoral fiction products."  His strategy worked, of course, as the rise of the half-penny dreadfuls did end the penny dreadful era.  That might seem a bit depressing, but perhaps the violent trend had run it's course with the general public?  The Union Jack had a very successful run of over 35 years, hosting top characters from the penny dreadful era like Sexton Blake.  

I wasn't able to find an ecopy of this publication which seem strange.  There were a fair amount of original copies being sold online, but nothing in e-format.  Sorry. :(

"Varney the Vampire or The Feast of Blood"

Varney the Vampire; or, the Feast of Blood, was a penny dreadfrul written in 1845-47 by the duo goth writing team, James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Preskett Prest.  The serial is about a "exploits of a deathless creature with an insatiable appetite for blood."  And like many of these goth novels, there are a band of heroes wanted to track and kill the beast.

Varney gave birth to how many of us view vampires today with key characteristics such as "fangs, leaves two puncture wounds on the necks of his victims, has hypnotic powers, and has superhuman strength"  Vampires with their brooding and self-loathing seem to be a favorite pastimes with iconic vampire literature, right?  Did you know it originated from ol' Varney.  Even though many people today aren't that familiar with him, he was the first in a long line of "sympathetic vampires."  The ones we're more familiar with are Dark Shadow's Barnabas Collins, Anne Rice's Louis de Pointe du Lac, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Angel, and Charlaine Harris' Bill Compton.

Where can I get a copy of Varney the Vampire?

A copy of the Varney the Vampire or The Feast of Blood can be found at Gutenberg.

Wow!  We're getting close the end of A-Z.  You guys having fun yet?

Mina Burrows

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A-Z: T is for Trials

It's the A-Z Challenge challenge again and today I'm posting for the letter T.  My choice of penny dreadfuls in an interesting one.  As I mentioned, the penny dreadfuls were often written about real-life crimes and were often embellished to drive the public into a reading frenzy.  One source of these works comes from a publication called The New Newgate Calendar which published stories based on the hottest crimes and trials.  It's subtitle was Remarkable Lives of Trials of Notorious Criminals.  Past and Present.  Below is a few images of the original versions I found.


"The New Newgate Calendar - Trials"

The Newgate Calendar, the original publication started in the late 1700's as an account of notorious characters, and their infamous stories which let to their inevitable incarceration at Newgate prison.   From the Hathi Trust Digital Library, here is the The New Newgate Calendar synopsis:  "The new Newgate calendar : being interesting memoirs of notorious characters, who have been convicted of outrages on the laws of England, during the eighteenth century, brought down to the present time ... With occasional essays on crimes and punishments, original anecdotes and observations on particular cases; the speeches, confessions, and last exclamations of sufferers, to which is added a correct account of the various modes of punishment of criminals in different parts of the world / By Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin, attorneys at law."

Where can I get a copy of The New Newgate Calendar ?

Thankfully there were a a couple of versions of The New Newgate Calendar available online. I found this one, Beau Langley, Scholar and Libertine here and The Murder of Maria Marten in the Red Barn at Polstead here.

It's fascinating how the illustrations sensationalize these crimes, isn't it?  

Mina Burrows

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A-Z: S is for Sexton Blake

Today's letter for the A-Z Challenge is S for Sexton Blake.  Like many pieces of literature, sometimes the characters outlast the stories.  Take Sherlock Holmes for instance, there have been countless detective stories created from his original character.  He's been a household name for over a century, but he's not the only one from this era.  Like Sherlock Holmes, Sexton Blake was a famous fictional detective and he was created during the penny dreadful Victorian era.  Sexton Blake was extremely popular and since then, his character has also been reinvented in numerous works.

"About Sexton Blake"

Sexton Blake first appeared in the Half Penny Marvel in 1983, a publication created by Alfred Harmsworth.  The character detective was dubbed the "poor man's Sherlock Holmes" and grew so wildly popular that the character grew into a veritable comic icon.  There were thousands of versions stemming from the original which continued well into the 1970's.  Beside penny dreadfuls, he appeared in dime novels, slicks, novels, movies, plays, radio shows, TV shows, and comic books. The first penny dreadful was called "The Missing Millionaire" and was written by Harry Blyth.  If you're interested in learning more about this fictional character, visit ReoCities and the ComicVine.  Unfortunately, there were no original copies of the penny dreadful version.  There were, however, dozens of authored variations about this character on Amazon.  

Are you familiar with this English legend?  I had heard of him, but never knew he was so popular or that he originated from the penny dreadful era.

Mina Burrows

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A-Z Challenge: Q for FAQ & the letter R is for Risen from the Dead

The A-Z Challenge continues with the letter Q & R! For the letter Q I'm posting a few important facts and questions about penny dreadfuls. For the letter R, I'm featuring the penny dreadful, Risen from the Dead or The Medical Student.

Q is for Penny Dreadful FAQ's

There were few penny dreadfuls I could find for this letter. I did find The Divorced Queen (published in 1868) but beyond that, nothing more. In doing my research, I discovered some interesting facts about penny dreadfuls.

* Many penny dreadfuls did not last throughout time due to their poor quality paper know as cheap pulp paper.

* Its been stated repeatedly that the penny dreadfuls were low quality writing from hack writers.  Knowing how much the industry has changed in recent years, do you believe that statement is true?

* Plagiarism found a happy home during the penny dreadful years. Publisher Edward Lloyd, for example, created titles such as Oliver Twiss and Nickelas Nicklebery based on Dicken's classics. I wonder what Dickens thought about that?

"Risen from the Dead or The Medical Doctor"

Now this penny dreadful sounds wonderfully wicked,doesn't it. From the first glance, it reads like a zombie story straight out of the Victorian era.  I regret to inform you that I was unable to find anything about this serial.  Drat!  Boy did I want to read it!  Still, I enjoyed the illustration since it left much to my imagination which is why I chose to feature it. I also researched information about Boys Weekly Reader, but alas my search gave me squat.  During this era there were far too many publications using the name "Boy" which probably caused much brand confusion. Back then, there were publications such as Boys Library, The Wild Boys of London, Boys Own Paper and the list goes on... I suspect they did that on purpose to gain more readers. Think about it...competing publications could look like other best-selling penny dreadfuls, feature a similar story and header line and countless readers would probably purchase a leaflet for a penny, right? It didn't cost the reader more that a penny, right?  Right! Yeah, that's certainly a strategy.   As far as this one here, the story might not be memorable because it was a bad as the paper it was printed on. Who knows? It still looks interesting though.

That's my Q & and R.  How's everyone's week so far?

Mina Burrows

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A-Z: O is for the The Castle of Otranto & P is for The String of Pearls

The letters I'm posting for today is O & P for the A-Z Challenge. O was not easy so I decided on the The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, published in 1784.  And for P, I've decided to feature one of my favorites, The String of Pearls.

"The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole"

Although this one is not a true penny dreadful, The Castle of Otranto, an original Gothic novel, fueled many of the great Gothic horror stories such as Dracula and Frankenstein.  In addition to these classics, it also lead to many Gothic penny dreadfuls in the 19th century.  According to the British Library, the story is about "Manfred, the prince of Otranto, who is keen to secure the castle for his descendants in the face of a mysterious curse. The novel begins with the death of Manfred’s son, Conrad, who is crushed to death by an enormous helmet on the morning of his wedding to the beautiful princess Isabella. Faced with the extinction of his line, Manfred vows to divorce his wife and marry the terrified Isabella himself."  The novel was responsible for creating some of the many Gothic horror supernatural elements we us today such as, "secret passages, clanging trapdoors, hidden identities and vulnerable heroines fleeing from men with evil intent."   

Where can I get a copy of The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole?

Get your free e-copy of The Castle of Otranto via Gutenberg.  Wahoo!  I love Free shit!

"The String of Pearls"

Edward Lloyd's The People's Periodical and Family Library, first published The String of Pearls penny dreadful serial in 1847.  The famous tale, also known as Sweeney Todd, the Barber on Fleet Street (a.k.a. The Demon Barber) had two authors linked to the writing, James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest.  For those that aren't familiar with the Demon Barber's story, its about a bitter barber who slits the throats of his patrons and robs them of their personal property.  The remains of the dead customers are then put into a pie by Margery Lovett as depicted in the illustrations below.  The story is a love story and is quite more involved than that description I gave you.  I've read the book and reviewed it here and also had the chance to see Tim Burton's musical version featuring Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Alan Rickman.  I found both the original penny dreadful and the movie exceptional!

Where can I get a copy of The String of Pearls?

A copy of the The String of Pearls can be found at ManyBooks here.

Have you had a chance to read either one of these creepy classics?  I haven't read The Castle of Otranto yet, but it's on my must-read TBR list!

Mina Burrows

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A-Z: N is for Charles Peace or the The Adventures of a Notorious Burglar

I'm back with the letter N for the A-Z Challenge! The penny dreadful I'm highlighting for N is the Charles Peace or the The Adventures of a Notorious Burglar.

"Charles Peace or The Adventures of a Notorious Burglar"

Charles Peace or the Adventures of a Notorious Burglar was another penny dreadful ripped from the headlines. The story was based on Charles Peace, a real-life infamous burglar and murderer. He had a history of thievery and later his crimes turned more sinister when he stalked a neighbor's wife and eventually killed the neighbor. After his arrest, the police reports about the criminal's exploits were published with elaborate illustrations, prompting more public intrigue. In 1879, the penny dreadful was published as serial for two years. The information I found about this penny dreadful was from John Adcock's Yesterday's Papers. In the archive, you can view some of the original illustrations and writings as well as a more thorough back story about the notorious Mr. Peace and of course, the penny dreadful.

Where can I get a copy of Charles Peace or the The Adventures of a Notorious Burglar?

It's amazing there aren't more e-book versions of this story.  Unfortunately, I could only find a hard copy of the book from Google Books here.

Mina Burrows

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A to Z Challenge: M is for The Miser's Daughter

Today's A-Z Challenge letter is M and the penny dreadful I'm featuring is The Miser's Daughter by William Harrison Ainsworth.

"The Miser's Daughter "
Ainsworth's The Miser's Daughter had illustrations from George Cruikshank and was published in 3 volumes by Cunningham and Mortimer, London in 1842. Later it was published as a novel in 1872. This penny dreadful is a "historical romance about a young man pursuing the daughter of a miserly rich man during the 18th century." When the novel was published, Ainsworth dedicated it to his three daughters: Fanny, Emily Mary and Blanche. It's too adorable that he wrote a romance novel and dedicated to his daughters, huh? Anyway, I found this really cool copy of the book to embed in my post. Feel free to scan the pages.

The Miser's Daughter by William Harrison Ainsworth?

Google books has a Free e-copy. Woot! I couldn't believe it, but I found one. Yay!

Mina Burrows

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A-Z: L is for The Wild Boys of London

The A-Z Challenge continues on with the letter L and the penny dreadful of choice is the Wild Boys of London!  Published as children's literature by Newsagents Publishing Company, The Wild Boys of London; or, the Children of the Night had quite a history.


"The Wild Boys of London; or, the Children of the Night"

The Wild Boys of London, was a controversial serial about a gang of young criminals, which according to the British Library featured salacious and inappropriate tales and illustrations for its boy readership.  But don't my word for it.  Here is a sample of one of the versions featuring a topless female being whipped. The Wild Boys of London's author was unknown, but there were several created linked to it such as Edwin J. Brett the founder of Newsagents Publishing Company.  The British Library mentioned The Wild Boys of London was "first published as a serial" and then later a novel like many penny dreadfuls during this time.  This one, however, once released as a novel, "became one of the most notorious books of the age."  The public grew outraged over the disturbing writing and the later British law intervened, prosecuting those who tried to sell it under the Obscene Publication Act

Where can I get a copy of The Wild Boys of London; or, the Children of the Night?

Unfortunately, I was unable to find an ebook or printed version of the penny dreadful.  It could be because of all the litigation The Wild Boys of London received.  Who knows?  Some of the printed material and images are available online via the British Library and if you click on the images you can read a page or two of the original versions.

Mina Burrows

Monday, April 13, 2015

A-Z: K is for Black Bess or the Knight of the Road

Week three into the A-Z Challenge and we are onto the letter K!  The penny dreadful I'm featuring today is Black Bess or the Knight of the Road by Edward Viles, 1866-68.

"Black Bess or the Knight of the Road"

According to the British Library, "Black Bess is a heavily fictionalized account of the life and death of the infamous English highway bandit Dick Turpin (1705-1739)."  The series romanticized an outlawed, unattractive legend and turned him into a hero with gentleman-like qualities.  And the name "Black Bess" in the title, was actually the name of the real Dick Turpin's horse.  Fitting since he was primarily a horse thief.  How cool is that?  The British library has a wonderful collection of both the text and colorful illustrations here.  These successful penny dreadfuls were like many at the time, focused on real-life crime, romance, and mystery.  

Where can I get a copy of Black Bess or the Knight of the Road?

The only ebook I was able to find...FREE was quite shockingly at Barnes & Nobles!  Wow!  I didn't expect that one from B&N.

Happy Monday, everyone!  How's the challenge going for you?  Have you met new friends?

Mina Burrows

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A-Z: I is for Ned Kelly, The Ironclad Australian Bushranger & J is for Spring-Heeled Jack

Today I'm posting for the letter I and J for the A-Z Challenge and the two penny dreadful topics are Ned Kelly, The Ironclad Australian Bushranger by J. S. Borlase and Spring-Heeled Jack.

"Ned Kelly, The Ironclad Australian Bushranger"

Ned Kelly, The Ironclad Australian Bushranger by James S. Borlase was a serial publication published as a novel in 1887 by General Publishing Company.  It was based on the infamous outlaw of the Victorian age, Ned Kelly. There were many books, plays and movies about the notorious Ned Kelly and the Kelly Gang.  In fact, Heath Ledger played Ned Kelly in the 2003 flick, depicting how and "innocent man became the most wanted criminal in the world."  Now during the Victorian era, penny dreadfuls about highwaymen and adventure were largely popular.  Borlase must of have seen the potential of publishing a penny dreadful that embellished Ned's real-life story, right?  If you think about it, authors and publishers are still doing this, aren't they?

Where can I get a copy of Ned Kelly, The Ironclad Australian Bushranger?

Once again, I was not able to find the penny dreadful version in an e-copy format.  The only one I found was a hard copy via Google Books.

"Spring-Heeled Jack - The Terror of London"

Spring-Heeled Jack was based on an English myth from Victorian times, originating first from ghost sightings and then later as a devil-like creature who jumped buildings and preyed on young women.  Part real-life incidents and legend spurned the creation of the penny dreadful which was published in the late 1800s by an unknown author.  Like many stories ripped from the headlines, this penny dreadful takes the legend and created Jack Dacre.  Jack has his own back story about family, fortune, betrayal and more.  In the comic genre, Spring-Heeled Jack is an icon and there is ongoing speculation that Batman was based on the original legend.  Now that sounds interesting, doesn't it?   

Where can I get a copy of Spring-Heeled Jack - The Terror of London?

Great news!  I found a FREE ebook copy of Spring-Heeled Jack - The Terror of London from Manybooks. Woot!  How awesome it that?

Mina Burrows

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A-Z: H is for The Hangmans Plot

A-Z Challenge continues with the letter H and today I'm focusing on The Hangman's Plot.  My initial goal was to feature The Calendar of Horrors, an earlier publication of Gothic penny dreadfuls, but in truth, there was little information to find.  That said, I switched penny dreadful topics to another more robust story, The Dance of Death; or, The Hangman’s Plot.

"The Dance of Death; or, The Hangman’s Plot"

Newsagents' Publishing Company, a publishing company known for it's bloody content created The Dance of Death; or, The Hangman’s Plot in 1866.  It was a serial publication that originally referenced Detective Brownlow and Sergeant Tuevoleur of the French Police as authors. had an extremely detailed article on this publication.  It mentions that those names were pseudonyms and that the "real author was unknown." Additionally, when I searched for the book, I found it lists Newsagents' Publishing Company as the author.

The Dance of Death and Newsagents' went overboard with the blood and other graphic writing that was not suitable for their target readers, young boys.  According to Yesterday's Papers, a blog by John AdCock, "this penny dreadful ran to 182 pages approximately 23 weeks of 8 page penny parts and reads like each part was written by a parliament of drunken hacks fighting a deadline."  When the tale turned sordid, with the sex, violence and even a mention on incest, the public eventually lost interest.  What's also disturbing were the promotions these publishers ran at the time.  E.S. Turner's wrote about a penny dreadful publication, 'Boys' Weekly' in a book he wrote called Boys Will Be Boys.  He explains the publishers created elaborate promotional drawings, inviting readers who were mostly boys to participate and the prizes were "'six splendid guns', 'sixteen costly stilettos', and twenty volumes of Lives of Notorious French Criminals."  Seems a bit odd to be giving away guns after you've fed your readership with nothing but violent tales, huh?  

Where can I get a copy of The Dance of Death; or, The Hangman’s Plot?

I was not able to find the penny dreadful version in an e-copy format.  The only one I found was a hard copy via Google Books.

That's it for the Letter H.  How's the A-Z Challenge treating you guys?

Mina Burrows

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

A-Z: G is for Penny Bloods Author, George W. M. Reynolds

The A-Z Challenge is back with the letter G.  I had an incredibly difficult time searching for a penny dreadful title that had the letter G.  It took some time, but I decided to feature author, George W. M. Reynolds.  And what a treasure trove of information I found on our penny blood author.  I'm glad I decided to feature him because he was like an icon in his day.

"Penny Bloods Author, George W. M. Reynolds"

George W. M. Reynolds and his works were so popular during his time it's a wonder why we don't hear more about him today.  It's been said that more people read Reynolds than Dickens during his time.  Can you imagine that?  Yes, well that one is true.  Some of his best known penny dreadfuls were The Mysteries of London, which according to Wikipedia sold over 40,000 copies of penny reads weekly.  His other wildly popular novel Wagner, the Wehr-Wolf, was a gothic novel about a man who makes a deal with Satan in exchange for money and youth.  It sounds great but there's always a catch with Satan. He ends up turning him into a werewolf.  Now doesn't that sound like a great book?  Anyway, more to come on these penny dreadfuls and more throughout the A-Z challenge.

This list of George W. M. Reynolds complete penny dreadfuls was provided by Penny One Penny. A Database of Cheap Literature, 1837-1860.  

Tomorrow I'll feature the Calendar of Hours and Friday I'll be featuring Ned Kelly, the Ironclad Australian Bushranger and the Spring-Heeled Jack.

Have a great Wednesday!

Mina Burrows

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Book Release: Dragon of the Stars By Alex J. Cavanaugh

Hang on, sci-fi fans. The blogosphere may get a bit rocky! I am interrupting this regular scheduled A-Z craze to bring you something truly amazing! Alex J. Cavanaugh, the Ninja Captain, A-Z Co-Host and Amazon best-selling author has officially launched his latest novel, Dragon of the Stars.

Get ready because the internet has already started breaking! And we didn't need Kim K's naked body to do it either. Instead, we have out own sensation, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Dragon of the Stars By Alex J. Cavanaugh

Science Fiction – Space Opera/Adventure/Military
Print ISBN 9781939844064 EBook ISBN 9781939844057

The ship of legends…
The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter. But when the Alliance declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray and told he won’t make captain. One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?

Where to Purchase:

Barnes and Noble
Amazon UK
Amazon print
Overdrive -

But wait...there's more! 

Visit, to participate in the SCAVENGER HUNT! You could win an autographed copy of Dragon of the Stars, tons of bookmarks & postcards, and a $20.00 iTunes gift card. Visit Alex for a list of the participants. (Open through April 11 – winner announced April 13 at Alex’s blog.)

Go Alex! Everybody, go get your copy of Dragon of the Stars today!

Mina Burrows

A to Z Challenge: F is for The Flying Dutchman

It's time for the letter F for the A-Z Challenge and today I'm featuring The Flying Dutchman created by Thomas Peckett Prest.  According to Wikipedia, The Flying Dutchman originated from a centuries-old sailor superstition about a legendary phantom ship that could not make land and was cursed to sail the ocean for an eternity.  Wow, that's some deep stuff, huh?  Anyway, the myth started in the mid 17th century and since then sparked a flurry of other creative works like Prest's penny dreadful.

"The Flying Dutchman or The Demon Ship"

The British Library has the most information about this penny dreadful, including amazing images of the original text.  As I mentioned above there were plenty of novels written over the years about The Flying Dutchman including an opera created by composer Richard Wagner.  During the Victorian era, I'm sure the fear alone of being lost at sea would be enough to launch a lifetime of wicked tales.  Right?  Right!  Interestingly and not surprising at all, it was Prest who created a version that feed public's appetite for Gothic literature.  His version used the beautiful illustrations, action, romance and suspense thrilling the fans of his generation.  And personally, I would have gone with the name, The Demon Ship instead of The Flying Dutchman, but that's me.

Another aspect about this book that I wanted to mention was although Prest was a definite creator, he wasn't the only author mentioned in this 96 page novel.  In addition to Prest, W Johnson Neale was also listed a author on a few of the versions I found.

Where can I get a copy of The Flying Dutchman; or, the Demon Ship?

Well, there are versions aplenty based off of the original myth.  Feel free to browse the ones I found on Amazon.  I was not able to find the penny dreadful version I mentioned in an e-copy format though.  Sorry!  I did discover a way to source the hard copy here via Google Books.

And there you have the letter F!  Whew!  This whole penny dreadful theme is HARD!

Make it a great day!

Mina Burrows

Monday, April 6, 2015

A-Z: E is for Ela the Outcast by Thomas Peckett Prest

A-Z Challenge again for the letter E. The penny dreadful I'm featuring today is Ela, the Outcast; Or, The Gipsy of Rosemary Dell by Thomas Peckett Prest.  Thomas was an icon in the penny dreadful sensation and was most known for authoring the penny dreadful Varney the Vampire and also co-authoring the timeless horror tale, String of Pearls.   More on those tales later throughout the A-Z Challenge, but for today, I'll be focusing on Ela the Outcast.

"Ela, the Outcast; Or, The Gipsy of Rosemary Dell"

Ela the Outcast was one of Thomas Peckett Prest's most successful penny dreadfuls.  According the British Library, among other sources, Ela the Outcast reported weekly sales at 30,000 copies which was incredibly impressive for the mid 1800s.  The successful romance "publication extended to 104 numbers over two years."  It had a "melodramatic plot" which we can probably compare to many of today's soap operas.  What I found most interesting about this series was even though it was undoubtedly successful in 1840's, it's popularity hasn't stood the test of time like String of Pearls or other penny dreadfuls.  In fact, from what I was able to find, there is little written about the series at all.  Isn't that strange?  I did a bit more research and I discovered that the series had such a following during it's time that there were successful plays produced based on the series which I suspect further enhanced its popularity.  If you're interested, take a look at the author's preface and read how he thanks his readers, mentions the plays and actresses and acknowledges the series success.

Where can I get a copy of Ela, the Outcast; Or, The Gipsy of Rosemary Dell?

Thanks to Google Books, I found my FREE e-copy and boy was I surprised because I couldn't find it anywhere else!  Click here, you can read the story online there too!

Have an awesome day!

Mina Burrows

Friday, April 3, 2015

A to Z Challenge: C & D is for Charles Dickens' Bleak House

I'm finishing off the first week with a double post for the letter's C & D for the A-Z Challenge.  This may seem like a stretch but when you consider Charles Dickens and the novel, Bleak House, you can understand why I'm doing a double post.

Written from 1852- 1853, Bleak House was Charles Dickens ninth novel and was to many classic lit enthusiasts, considered one of Dickens greatest works.  Even though I'm a huge fan of Dickens, I actually didn't know much Bleak House.  What I found in my research was so extensive, it was somewhat overwhelming.  Below is my best attempt highlighting some of particulars about this wonderfully written story.

Bleak House

Dickens' Bleak House, like many of his novels was written in a series and then published later in novel format.  During the Victorian era, penny dreadfuls were very popular.  I found an interesting book called, White Magic: The Age of Paper, written by Lothar Müller, where he discusses how the invention of the paper machine led to the many penny dreadfuls.  It also mentions how Dickens, not being a fan penny dreadful authors like G.W.M. Reynolds, did capitalize on the "newly literate audience" by writing his own detective story which featured key characters like the narrator and heroine, Esther Summerson.  The cast of memorable characters feels endless and I won't even dive into that.  In typical Dickens fashion, his storytelling is legendary, using perfectly flawed characters and tying them into an real-life intricate plots and subplots.  The Bleak House was a detective story and it's premise provided a window into how the English Chancery court system worked during the early to mid 1800s.  Trials and legal proceedings could remain stagnate for decades, leaving the poor to carry the brunt of the farcical legal system.  In truth that same process can be similarly compared to many of the legal cases or proceedings we see today.  Dickens mocked his time's legal system which many surmised was based on her own personal experience.  Did you know Dickens worked as a law clerk and court reporter?  Yes he did.  Additionally, his father was sent to prison for debt which undoubtedly had an impact on how he perceived and wrote about the system and all it's follies.

Although this book isn't a classic horror tale, it certainly highlights the darkness of humanity.  Greg Buzzell from the British Library wrote an articulate piece called  Charles Dickens, Victorian Gothic and Bleak House  where he discusses how Dickens' "incorporates and evolves Gothic imagery, settings and plot devices."  Dickens did have a knack for writing incredibly descriptive scenes that gave a dark or goth-like vibe to the reader.  He could easily shine a harsh and often truthful light on the people's ignorance, inadequacies and even stoic heroism.

Lastly, the artwork in Bleak House was amazing to say the least.  The illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne (pen name Phiz) "is most known for David Copperfield, Pickwick, Dombey and Son, Martin Chuzzlewit and Bleak House."

Where can I get a copy of Bleak House?

I found my e-copy on Amazon again and you guessed's free!   Click here to get your copy.  

PBS's Masterpiece Theater

Did you know the PBS's Masterpiece Theater produced a mini series back in 2005?  And apparently in 1985 as well.  Yup.  The reviews for both series were high.  The most recent one had reviews listed at above an 8 on IMDB which is pretty impressive.  The latest version had classically-trained actors like Anna Maxwell Martin, Carey Mulligan, Denis Lawson, Charles Dance and cult-fan X-File's favorite, Gillian Anderson.

And to answer your question, no I haven't seen it yet.  I've put it on my watch-list though.

Have your read classic tale? What about the mini-series?  Do you have a favorite Dickens novel?

Have a great weekend!

Mina Burrows