Reading the Classics: Review of Paul Creswick's "In a Hand of Steel"

In the late 1800s to early 1900s, Nelson's Library for Boys was an imprint of Nelson's & Sons publishing house, a publishing and printing house begun in 1798. The imprint specialized in adventure books for boys, most of which have a more estimable vocabulary than most adult books do nowadays. The publisher kept a canon of various authors, one of whom was Paul Creswick, the author responsible for the greatest retelling of Robin Hood (or Robin Wood or Whode, if you want to get pedantic about it). He wrote quite a few adventure stories for Nelson's, including Greypaws, Hastings the Pirate, and In a Hand of Steel.

In a Hand of Steel is more a suspense novel than it is an adventure. It discusses the solemn life of a young man by the name of Dick Milcrest, heir to the Thatchmere estate, an old region of what used to be Cumberland. The young man's uncle was part of a secret organization involving the protection of a steel hand, what it was for I won't tell you so as not to ruin it for you. Many of those outside this secret society attempt to kill Dick and his friend Jimmy, but the two boys, though frightened of the opposition, will not surrender easily. The book has excellent prose and whimsical dialogue for what promises to be an excellent suspense book. Though the end is somewhat predictable, the journey is exciting; murder, fires, fights: everything one needs to keep interested.

My version has additional charm: it's an original from 1923, hardcover, hand-stitched, but the glory of the piece is the insert on the front cover. The book I have was given to a young boy for "good attendance" on Christmas of 1923, and has somehow wound up in my hands in tolerable condition. I thank that child for being very careful with his book, for now it's being preserved in my home library and is loved as it ought to be.


  1. This sounds like a very special book. I love tales of Robin Hood so I'll have to check it out.

    I have a few lovely editions on my shelf that have been preserved well too. Such treasures!


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