ISBN 1-896648-23-1 @ $10.00
1. The Path on the Hill
2. The Abandoned Farm
3. Inquiries On Foot
4. Miss Carrie
5. The Mole
6. Advice From Authority
7. Caught in the Act
8. Small Talk
9. We Enlist Mr. Elgy
10. The Apparition On The Lawn
11. The Watcher Is Taken
12. One Face Of Justice
Introduction by Richard Fawcett
Welcome to my time machine! Come with me on a journey into time past, a time when passenger trains stopped for riders in small towns all across America, when five cents bought fifty pieces of candy, horse-drawn wagons shared the road with automobiles, and kids were "turned loose" in the summer themselves. Welcome to a world without air-conditioning, television, boating permits, little league baseball or Pokéman, and discover what kids did to amuse themselves when, for better or worse, the division of labor between male and female, parent and child, was more rigid and clearly defined than it is today, when parents did not feel any obligation to entertain their children and the children would have found it strange if they had.
Many of the events pictured here may seem out of focus to a child of the twenty-first century, some like the open drain in the back of the butcher shop where Steve and Sim gather bits of animal internal organs to use as fish bait, may even produce a few chills; but this was the America of the 1920's and "little things" like that simply didn't bother people. No one (except Steve's Mom!) worried about kids in boats without life jackets, the kids all swam like fishes, and it's doubtful you could have found a life jacket for sale in the mid-west in those days if you'd looked for one.
There are lessons about life and living to be learned here. You are reading a series of books written by a man who observed life very closely and who wrote or edited over one hundred and fifty titles in his lifetime. When August Derleth speaks with the voice of grandfather Adams, listen and remember: "Life is not black and white, good and evil." Or as Steve observes, "There wasn't much you could pin down and keep pinned down. Everything you did depended on different circumstances the ‘understandings' didn't cover."
When Derleth writes about the world of Sac Prairie there is sometimes an almost painful vividness to the scenes:
"All along the south now, between us and the river, where the marshes were and the lowland meadows, a thin bank of fog was rising. With the moonlight on it, it looked like a distant lake. And with the fireflies flickering in it by the thousands, it looked as if a sunken city lay far underneath the surface of that mysterious lake out of which came the far sound of cow bells from cattle in night pasture."
And if you've ever been in a silent prairie town during a clear midsummer night, then you understand him when he says of the village street lights that "Somehow they made the evening seem so beautiful that it hurt."
You'll make a few new friends as you journey with me through time past. You'll come to understand how much people care for one another and how they show their caring in different ways: Mother through her constant worrying and "understandings"; grandfather Adams by letting a boy make his own mistakes, but not without sage advise and guidance and not without being there when he is needed; Sim's Dad, with humor; Sim by complaining constantly, but always "coming round"; and a host of other characters, all flawed in one way or another, who always manage somehow to do right in the end, often in spite of themselves.
Steve and Sim have more adventures, solve more crimes in a few short summers than most people, detectives included, experience in a lifetime. But for all this they are no less believable than today's weekly TV series starring Peter Faulk or Angela Lansbury. Old-fashioned traveling actors come to town, there's a visit from Buster Brown, criminals behind every tree, the boys are shot at, end up in jail from time to time; in short there is never a dull moment in these "dull old days" in a small country town before television.
Finally, the stories speak to a time when young people were taught to think for themselves without show biz and media influence, when principle held sway over expediency, and when one's "word of honor" was a tighter bond than any legal contract.
In the words of our late Mohegan uncle, you'll do well to "listen, observe, remember."
— Richard Fawcett
The Founder of The August Derleth Society
The Other volumes in the set of The Mill Creek Irregulars