Nick Carter – One Against Twenty-One

| October 19, 2012

Nick Carter Detective Library

One Against Twenty-One;
Or, The Ranch Robbery
By Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey

This is issue #4 in the Nick Carter Dime Novel Library, originally published August 29, 1891 by Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey.

In the fourth novelette written for the Nick Carter Library (formerly the Nick Carter Detective Library) the author does not use the name “Nick Carter” in the story title. Perhaps this was to lend an air of mystery to it and encourage his young readers to decide for themselves who it was that was the “One” and who the “Twenty-One.”

Once again Frederic Dey appears to be making up much of his story as he goes along. Nick is called to Inspector Byrnes’ office and asked if he will undertake a case in the mining camp of Hellion City, Nevada. The detective is given $10,000 in expenses to go there and learn what it is the townspeople want him to do for them. He will receive an additional payment at the successful completion of the case. Intrigued by this, Nick undertakes the trip from New York City to the far west. He needs a change anyway, he says, and this just fits the bill. Exit Nick Carter. The next scene is Hellion City, Nevada, where a placard tacked on the side of a building warns that one Benton Hawley has been tried by the tribunal known as “Twenty-One” and found guilty. He has forty-eight hours to leave town. Soon afterwards Benton Hawley is found dead with a dagger in his chest and a note attached to him declaring he has been “Executed by 21.”

A stranger arrives in town and announces that his name is “One.” To the discerning reader, it should be obvious that this is Nick Carter in one of his disguises. It doesn’t take long for him to win over the confidence of the rough element of Hellion City. With two exceptions, men populate Hellion City. The exceptions are Juno, the woman who runs the local gambling den, and a boy named Chick.

Just before this point in the story there is a break to allow the author to explain how Nick made his way to Nevada, learned about the mysterious tribunal, and how he set up his headquarters in a cabin near town. It wouldn’t do for Nick Carter to be caught without a place to rest and change disguises. One day when he approaches the cabin he sees a boy crouched in front of his door. “He was a shock-headed, ragged fellow, but his eyes shone with unusual brightness, and his face was intelligent beyond his years, which couldn’t have numbered more than seventeen.” This is Chick. Though unable to read Chick is obviously quick-witted and observant and he soon joins forces with Nick. The detective is certain that between the two of them they can outwit the “21”.

At the end of the story Chick returns east with Nick. Was Dey uncertain what to do with this new character or did he have definite plans? All he says is that the readers “will hear more of Chick later, for he remained with Nick for many years, faithful and true.” Perhaps the author sensed that Nick Carter needed someone to talk to, someone to work with in solving mysteries. So far his closest confidant was police inspector Thomas Byrnes. Toward this end, Dey began expanding his cast of recurring characters. In time this new character will become Chick Carter, Nick Carter’s first assistant, but at this point he is just “Chick,” a boy of seventeen.

J. Randolph Cox
Editor, Dime Novel Round-Up



We have recovered the full length novel of Nick Carter’s – One Against Twenty-One and reproduced it for immediate download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format.

Category: Nick Carter

Dave Buchanan

About the Author ()

While I'm not the author of the books on this website, I'm a treasure hunter of sorts, collecting, archiving and reproducing rare, out-of-print books from some of the most talented writers in the world. Dime Novel Castle was created to be an online library featuring some of the world’s most famous characters from the dime novel era. My goal is to create textually correct reproductions of select rare, out-of-print Dime Novels and serials, published from 1860 thru 1915. My team of researchers has searched all over the country in order to locate the original newspapers, books and manuscripts. Each page of the original publication is scanned and archived in order to preserve the author's place in history and pass these great stories on to future generations.

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