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Joe Phenix; the Police Spy [Annotated]: An…
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Joe Phenix; the Police Spy [Annotated]: An 1878 Detective Thriller, Newly…

by Albert W. Aiken

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He is a crime-fighter of remarkable strength and cunning, a crack shot, and one who is able to blend in with criminals for undercover work. He could be a favorite character on TV from CSI or Hawaii Five-O, but not this time. Let me introduce Joe Phenix. One hundred thirty six years ago in 1878, the first Joe Phenix story appeared. Barely a dozen years after the American Civil War and long before TV, radio, or the movies, Joe was on the job catching the worst of the bad guys while narrowly escaping with his life. Written by actor and playwright Albert W. Aiken, these adult stories were created for working folks and sold in weekly publications for a dime (three dollars in today's money). Readers would sometimes line up at their favorite news dealer to wait for the latest edition to be delivered. This version of the Joe Phenix; the Police Spy is newly transcribed and specially edited for the tastes of the modern reader. While the original author's style is preserved, some spellings were changed and some of the form was altered to improve the reading experience in an ebook. Also, the ethnicity of a few minor characters has been made neutral to allow the story to flow with fewer distractions. Notes about original editions, about the author, and about detective equipment of the late 1800s help set the stage for this early detective adventure. Illustrations from early editions are included, along with period photographs of life in New York during the late 1800s. Public schools became more common in America in the middle of the 1800s, and the US population was soon considered the most literate in the world. Working people, such as store clerks, tradesmen, office and factory workers, sailors, and soldiers, quickly became a growing market for affordable stories in print. This adventure, "Joe Phenix the Police Spy" first appeared as a serial in a weekly story paper. Our story then was published in a "dime novel" the next year. A dime novel looked more like a large pamphlet and included a single complete story in each issue. Each of the 32 dime novel pages had three columns of tiny 8-point type, and added up to the length of a short novel. From the 1870s these were printed on the lowest grade of pulp paper and the few original copies of story papers and dime novels that remain today are very fragile. Copies of some titles are not even known to still exist. Fortunately, we do have this Joe Phenix tale! It has been newly transcribed, newly edited for the modern reader, and formatted to work as an ebook. Thrills and adventure have never been easier to enjoy.… (more)

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