Nelson the NewsboyJune 18, 2007
This week I finally got a chance to open a box of books that one of my uncles sent me during the winter. It included five Horatio Alger books, four of which I already had. That’s pretty weird, because I only had about twelve Algers, and he wrote about a hundred.
The one that I didn’t already have is Nelson the Newsboy. I don’t know how much of it Alger wrote, though. It’s one of several books left unfinished at Alger’s death and completed by Edward Stratemeyer under the name Arthur M. Winfield, which he also used for the Rover Boys series.
One of the reasons I’m doubtful about how much of this book was actually Alger’s work is that the plot seems to have been lifted straight from another Alger book. Remember Adrift in New York? Well, for starters, Nelson the Newsboy is subtitled “Afloat in New York.” Then, as in Adrift in New York, there is an invalid (Mark Horton) with a niece (Gertrude Horton) and a nephew (Homer Bulson) who are first cousins to each other.
Horton has a long-lost son, who, as we later learn, in now known as Nelson, and is living with a saloon-keeper called Sam Pepper. Horton wants Gertrude to marry Homer Bulson, but she dislikes him, and after discovering Gertrude and Nelson in his library surrounded by evidence of a theft, he kicks her out of the house. Nelson takes her under his wing and finds her a place to live, and she starts giving piano lessons. The theft, by the way, was committed by Bulson and Pepper, who are in league with each other.
One of the subplots involves Nelson being carried away on a boat bound for a distant destination. Gertrude, Horton, and Nelson — actually David Horton — are brought back together with the help of Horton’s nurse.
Other stuff happens. Nelson and a friend buy a newsstand. A couple of mean newsboys, who, according to Nelson, are bound for the electric chair, rob it. Bulson is trying to poison Horton. Gertrude is held captive upstate for about a day before Nelson rescues her. But everything in the preceding three paragraphs could accurately describe Adrift in New York if the names were changed.
Shame on you, Mr. Stratemeyer. I mean, if I wrote things like The Rover Boys on the Ocean, I’d be tempted to steal somebody else’s plots, too, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay.