On a dark evening in 1890, a murderer strikes in the middle of New York City’s Washington Square Park. Seemingly no one has seen the attack. Both the police investigators and private detective Joe Phenix are at a loss as to how they can proceed. However, Joe Phenix begins to get tips from a veiled woman who seems to have been mesmerized. The veteran detective doubts the powers of clairvoyance, mesmerism, and second sight, but his doubts are challenged as more mysterious revelations appear.
Joe Phenix’s Shadow, was written by Albert W. Aiken, first appeared as a complete story in Beadle’s New York Dime Library in the spring of 1890. Dark Lantern Tales’ editor Mark Williams has carefully recovered this lost story from original sources, editing and adding information to help illuminate the settings in which the action unfolds.
The late 1800s in America are sometimes portrayed with artificial nostalgia as a simple, cozy, and well-behaved time. In reality, our forebears experienced a turbulent post Civil War culture, severe economic swings, and the visible contrasts of grinding poverty next to opulent wealth.
Low cost stories for the working class were sold on the streets at news stands, usually for a dime. Hard-living writers hammered out novels in just days each, writing manuscripts in long hand by gas light with little or no editing. Printing was on the lowest grade of pulp paper, and 130 years later many titles are not even known to still exist. Drawing stories from his own collection of originals and other sources, Mark Williams has respectfully and carefully edited the stories, and added information and illustrations to each title. The Joe Phenix stories were intended for adults and contrast the seamiest side of New York with the elegance of the world of the wealthy. Here is Historical Fiction written when it was simply, fiction. And here also is one of the earliest detectives in popular fiction. Your first chapter is waiting for you.