Monday, January 25, 2010

First Impressions of Deadwood Dick's Last Adventure

Each of the first two chapters is dedicated to a damsel in distress, which is interesting for a novel which names Calamity Jane, one of the West's famous cowgirls, in its title.  Death Notch is a town full of men of dubious character, and any women in the area are at risk for rape and perhaps worse--and I couldn't argue with this as a danger of the west, but I'm growing ever more curious to see how Jane will fit into this world of oversexed miscreants.

The racial politics of the early chapter also raises one's eyebrow.  Siska, the distressed damsel of chapter II, is half white, half Native American, which seems to make her all the more alluring and vulnerable.  The vengeful chief of the tribe who had possessed Death Notch before its capture is also an interesting figure.  They note early on that he speaks English well, showing that he's"not untutored, like many of his race," and yet the dialogue that's written for him is strange to say the least.  Take this speech:  "Red Hatchet once great brave, but his limbs no longer strong for war-path. He can only meditate vengeance upon his enemies, instead of performing it."  His first sentence reads like the worst of stilted "Indian" dialect ever written for fiction, but the second seems to come from a university scholar.  It's like the writer couldn't decide how to write Red Hatchet.  He wants him to be "tutored," but didn't know how to show his racial heritage without corrupting his dialogue.

I'm very curious to see how Red Hatchet develops.  His character, along with the introduction of Hank Shakespeare in Chapter I, seems to highlight an interest in the presence of educated men in the West.  I wonder how their education will help or hinder them?


  1. Hey, so where can I find these novels? I skimmed these posts really quickly and I love the sound of the language in the quotes you've posted, the kind of sounds I think I'd like.

  2. The easiest way is to google "stanford dime novels" The first link you get ("Welcome to Dime Novels") should get you to the main page, then scroll down to the bottom and you'll see a hot link that says "reading one of the dime novel texts" which will give you a bunch of options.

    Here's the URL for that page, which includes selected texts--

    (Unfortunately, this link wouldn't work for my students when I gave it to them, which is why I gave the Google instructions--but you may have better luck.)

    Aside from the selected texts, there's also a larger archive.

    The reading is a TRIP. I'm loving them, though the racism and narrow-mindedness is tough to swallow at times...though sadly, not so far removed from today as I'd like to think!

    I do love the language. I find myself continually pulling quotations out. Dime novel poetry! Could be a book project, right?

    Happy reading!!