I am (like many writers) a sucker for books. And like (I imagine) many historical fantasy writers, I am a sucker for OLD books. Over the past couple of days I have picked up a few doozies from the comfort of my own internet shopping terminal. Check these out:
Midnight Scenes in the Slums of New York
Frederick Bell | 1881
This is a published version of an 1875 lecture given by the Reverend Fred Bell at the DeKalb Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, under the auspices of the East Brooklyn Young Men’s Christian Association. According to a notice in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on March 23, 1875, Bell was ”well-known as the reformed drunkard and pugilist,” and the lecture recounted how he had been called by God to labor in the Fourth Ward of New York City, “thickly populated with thieves, pugilists and all kinds of men, women and children who were deeply sunk in poverty and sin.”
“At first he wondered what he could do to reach these people. Finally one afternoon, about a month after his entrance into the field, he dropped into a boarding house in Cherry Street, where he found twelve or fourteen sailors who were “three sheets in the wind,” and having a good time. One of the number was singing a comic song, and after he got through he (Bell) was asked to favor the company with a song, which he agreed to do if good order was maintained. One of the men then raised his fists and exclaimed, “I’ll swell the head of the man who disturbs the stranger,” which had the effect of producing order, and then he sang the song “Scatter Seeds of Kindness,” which was heartily applauded. There were two or three wet eyes in the room when he got through. They encored him, and he was obliged to sing “I’m so glad that Jesus loves me.” Then they asked him if he was a minister, and when he owned up that he was they promised to come to the Mission, and some of them did go and were saved.”
To be honest, I mostly got this one for the beautiful cover. But I think it will be a fun read, as it sounds both lurid and uplifting!
Behind the Green Lights
Cornelius Willemse | 1931
Speaking of lurid, but perhaps not so uplifting, I picked up an early edition of “Behind the Green Lights” (without a dustjacket; the picture shown is the only one I could find.) It’s the memoir of a Tenderloin beat cop in the early 1900s, in which he recounts his rise from patrolman in the mainly Irish-American NYPD, to acting Captain in the homicide squad. It describes his service in some of the roughest neighborhoods of the city at the time. Wikipedia promises me that I’ll be treated to “candid revelations of the often brutal police methods used at the time, as well as a rare law enforcement perspective on the gangs of New York during the Prohibition and pre-Prohibition era. Willemse also describes his confrontations with major gang members of the early 20th Century, including Kid Dropper, Little Augie Orgen and Tom Flanagan.”
This one I am really, really looking forward to reading.
My Son’s Manual
Anonymous | 1838
And last, but certainly not least, is this addition to my collection of antique manners and deportment books. This one is quite a bit earlier than the mid- to late-19th century ones I usually buy, but I scooped it up at an obscenely good price on Ebay. I’m quite pleased with this, as someone on Amazon is selling a similar copy for $75. All self-satisfied cackling aside, the book should be an interesting peruse, as it was “meant as a guide to lead the boy into manhood” and includes sections on “Classical Learning, Industry, The Imagination and the Importance of its Proper Regulation, A Good Heart Necessary to Enjoy the Beauties of Nature, Filial Love, Fraternal Love, The Want of Decision of Character, On Buffoonery in Conversation, etc.”
I’ve really been needing a lesson in the importance of properly regulating my imagination, so this book can’t come soon enough for me.