My goal for today was to take a look at some of the George Griffith books I'd never read, and see if they're possibilities for future Forgotten Futures projects. The answer to that is unfortunately a resounding NO - three of the five I looked at are very much the mixture as before, Griffith's A-Plot, as used in The Angel of the Revolution and several other books, in which a plucky scientist finds true love, develops new technology which eventually ensures that Britain is saved from all enemies and brings about world peace, the others were a collection of stories and a psychic crime novel.
So, let's begin with The Great Pirate Syndicate (1899), which is a "Big business saves the world" novel and the one I read most thoroughly. The premise of this one is that the USA, Russia, and France are conspiring together to weaken the British Empire by a plot to move the border between Canada and Alaska, making the Yukon American and thus denying its gold to the Empire. This involves forged documents from the 18th century and an assumption that Britain will do anything to avoid war. Meanwhile patriotic British industrialists have banded together to spend a few million quid developing super-weapons and use their immense financial leverage to suck vast amounts of gold out of Europe.
This ends with the industrialists owning a fleet of super-fast ships armed with aerial and submarine destroyers (basically electrically-powered RPVs equipped with bombs or miniature torpedoes) and eventually a magnetic ray that makes metals brittle and stops machines (especially guns) from working. When war comes they set up as privateers, destroy the French fleet, blockade Russia, and use their wily financial acumen to dissuade American involvement. Eventually the European powers cave in, and there's world peace.
There are also some subplots about Russian secret agents and terrorist groups, which don't really have a huge effect on the plot, and of course a love story.
It's actually a reasonably fun read if you ignore all of the dodgy politics etc., but it really doesn't do anything new.
Gambles with Destiny (1899) is a collection of five stories:
Hellville, U.S.A. is an "honest politician becomes president" story - basically, the USA gets a new president who cleans up politics, finance, and crime, and puts all of the "criminal elements" responsible for the bad stuff into Coventry in a town called Halleyville, eventually renamed Hellville. The occupants start to prey on each other, and eventually the place is obliterated by meteorites. There's presumably a moral lesson there somewhere...
The Great Crellin Comet is a short version of the comet disaster subplot later used for The World Peril of 1910 - it's so similar that I don't see much point detailing it, since the story is on my site.
A Corner In Lightning is also on my site here
A Genius for a Year is about an author who goes mad on hashish, convinced it's making him a great writer (it isn't).
Finally, The Plague-Ship "Tupisà" is a sea story about a naval captain forced to sink another ship because there's mutiny and smallpox aboard; sad, but not especially memorable.
The Great Weather Syndicate (1906) is another variation on "science saves the empire and brings about world peace," but this time the science is weather control, and the eventual utopia has plants blooming in the Sahara etc. I have to admit that I only skimmed the first two and last chapters; it may have more to offer, but I doubt it.
The World Masters (1903) is another version of this plot, but this time the main McGuffin is a version of the magnetic weapon seen in The Great Pirate Syndicate - again I skimmed this fairly quickly, about the only novel feature is that unless I missed something there aren't flying machines involved, which given the date is possibly a little unfortunate...
Finally, A Mayfair Magician - A Romance of Criminal Science (1905) seems to be a fairly basic mesmerism / mind control / telepathy story, which I again didn't read in much detail. I wasn't able to get into it enough to make sense of the plot, but what I saw of it really didn't make me think it was worth much effort.
So - which of these would I put on line given the availability of a cheap copy? Probably all of them apart from the last - I don't think I could summon up enough interest in that to want to do the proof reading etc. But I don't think any of them have enough intrinsic interest or merit to make it worthwhile spending a lot of time and money tracking down copies.
I hope to get over there again on Friday and look at some other books and authors that might be suitable for future projects. I'll let you know how I get on.