The book is apparently quite genuinely by George Manville Fenn, judging by its style and content. Yet it does not appear on any list of his books, and copies of it seem to be very rare. For that reason we have not been able to put a verified publication date on the book. It does not even appear in the British Library's catalogue, indicating that it was possibly not registered for copyright. It is fairly short, taking but three hours to read aloud. It was published in the same cover as "The New Forest Spy," which is approximately of the same length, so that they can both be regarded as longish short stories.
The book can be regarded as a sequel to "Nat the Naturalist", except that the action takes place somewhere in the jungles of South America. Teenager Nat and his uncle are the protagonists in both books. The Quetzal is a beautiful bird with a long tail, and beautifully coloured, similar to the birds of paradise of the earlier book. The object of the expedition is to shoot, skin, and mount specimens. There is a passing reference to Ebo, who appears in "Nat the Naturalist" between chapters 25 to 43, so that gives us some kind of a date, for that book was first published in 1883. Let us say 1884 or 1885. Possibly Fenn was asked by members of his young readership for more about Nat and his doctor uncle, and this is the result. There are also references to Aunt Soph.
The co-hero is Pete, whom we first meet on board ship being maltreated by the captain. When Nat and his uncle are dropped off with their own small boat, and are camping ashore for their first night, they discharge their fire-arms at sounds they take to be enemy locals. The noises turn out to be Pete and Cross, the ship's carpenter, who had jumped ship, and followed them in a small dinghy. Pete had been a dirty-looking frightened boy on the ship, bullied by all members of the crew except the ship's carpenter, but with a quick wash of the face he turns out to be quite a useful lad, and plays a full part in the expedition.
There is the usual Fenn style of apparently mortal perils, overcome by cunning or luck, and it is quite a good read or listen.
George Manville Fenn lived from 1831 to 1909, and was a prolific writer of boys' adventure stories. He also wrote serialised books for the various boys' periodicals.
The feature that is common to most of his books is the method of sustained suspense that he employed. He wrote, in explaining this, that he relied upon the human desire to unravel a mystery, to retain his readers' attention. He was able to retain their interest right up to the very last page, by building up mysterious and dire situations one upon the other. You are constantly left asking, "How does he get out of this one?" It is just this aspect that makes transcribing his books to e-texts such fun.
George Manville Fenn, English writer of juvenile stories, was born in London January 3, 1831. He was educated at private schools, then attended Battersea Training College for Teachers from 1851 to 1854. He was Master of a small school in Lincolnshire for a time, then became a printer and published a small magazine of poetry, "Modern Metre," in 1862. Two years later he was part owner of the Hertfordshire and Essex Observer, another unsuccessful venture. He then began writing for various periodicals, such as Chamber's Journal and All the Year Round, and was editor of Cassell's Magazine in 1870, and of Once a Week from 1873 to 1879. He soon began to pour out a flood of books for boys, as well as a few novels, many of which were reprinted in America, and before his death he had published between 175 and 200. He was married in 1855 to Susanna Leake, and by her had two sons and six daughters. He died August 26, 1909.
A PDF of scans and an HTML version of this book are provided. We also provide a plain TEXT version and full instructions for using this to make your own audiobook. To find these click on the PDF, HTML or TXT links on the left.
These transcriptions of books by various nineteenth century authors of instructive books for teenagers, were made during the period 1997 to the present day by Athelstane e-Books. Most of the books are concerned with the sea, but in any case all will give a good idea of life in the nineteenth century, and sometimes earlier than that. This of course includes attitudes prevalent at the time, but frowned upon nowadays.
We used a Hewlett-Packard scanner, a Plustek OpticBook 3600 scanner or a Nikkon Coolpix 5700 camera to scan the pages. We then made a pdf which we used to assist with editing the OCRed text.
To make a text version we used TextBridge Pro 98 or ABBYY Finereader 7 or 8 to produce a first draft of the text, and Athelstane software to find misreads and improve the text. We proof-read the chapters, and then made a CD with the book read aloud by either Fonix ISpeak or TextAloud MP3. The last step enables us to hear and correct most of the errors that may have been missed by the other steps, as well as entertaining us during the work of transcription.
The resulting text can be read either here at the Internet Archive or at www.athelstane.co.uk