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|Written by|| L. Frank Baum|
(as "Edith Van Dyne")
|Publisher||Reilly & Britton|
Aunt Jane's Nieces Out West is a juvenile novel for girls, written by L. Frank Baum. It is the ninth book in the ten-volume Aunt Jane's Nieces series, and carries forward the continuing story of the cousins Louise Merrick, Patsy Doyle, and Elizabeth De Graf. Like all the books in the series, it was published under Baum's "Edith Van Dyne" pseudonym.
The story of the ninth novel opens soon after the conclusion of the plot of the previous book. Uncle John, Patsy and Beth are still in southern California, where they have come to visit Louise, her husband Arthur Weldon, and their new baby.
Patsy and Beth are walking down a street in Hollywood when they stumble into a chaotic street scene: people are being evacuated from a collapsing building, which crashes to the ground in front of them. Only afterward do the girls learn that the scene was staged for a Hollywood film; in the following week they go to a local movie theater and see themselves on the screen, as inadvertent extras in the latest cinema product.
The girls are displeased and surprised by this highjacking of their images; and they develop a newfound interest in the burgeoning movie industry. Arthur draws upon an old contact from New York society to introduce the Merrick party to Maud Stanton, an eighteen-year-old actress with one of the most successful film companies in town. The Merrick cousins become friends with Maud and her family, and experience more of the film business at firsthand.
One day at the beach, Maud rescues a young man who was in danger of drowning; Patsy, Arthur, and Uncle John all assist in transporting him to a hospital and saving his life. The young man turns out to be a mysterious and eccentric youth called A. Jones — a descendant of John Paul Jones who owns his own island in the Pacific Ocean called Sangoa. Patsy and Beth become further involved with Jones, nicknamed "Ajo," when he offers to finance their plan for a children's film and theater business. Ajo, in gratitude for his rescue, presents the Merricks and Stantons with "mementos" of the event — pieces of jewelry that feature large, impressive, expensive pearls.
The story takes a new turn when Ajo is pursued by a detective who mistakes him for a wanted jewel thief. The detective manages to get Ajo arrested, in preparation for extradition to Austria, where the thief is wanted by the police. The Merricks and Stantons take up his cause, and amass evidence of Ajo's innocence; but the detective and a clever team of prosecutors manage to win the extradition hearing. Before Ajo can be shipped off to Austria, however, the real thief and the stolen pearls are recovered in New York, which secures Ajo's release.
Baum depended on his own intimate knowledge of the Hollywood film industry to provide background for this book. At the time he wrote it, he was actively and deeply involved in the Oz Film Manufacturing Company.
The plot of the book features a man misidentified as a professional criminal. His problem is resolved when the real criminal is apprehended by law enforcement. Baum had previously used the same plot device in Aunt Jane's Nieces on Vacation, regarding the character Thursday Smith.
Beth and Patsy's plan for a company to manufacture children's films, and a chain of theaters to exhibit them, touches upon a Baum pet project: he and other Chicago reformers pursued a plan for a children's theater for more than a decade, without ever achieving success. [See: Prince Silverwings.] It also reflects a real frustration and a major disappointment for Baum, in that the Oz Film Manufacturing Company was forced out of business when distributors would no longer accept its product. If the Company had had its own theater chain, this would not have happened.
Baum's view of the legal system, as expressed in this book, is quite checkered; he has little good to say about lawyers, judges, or the court system. The cause of his dark view is not immediately apparent; perhaps his experiences with bankruptcy had left a lingering bad taste.
Baum based a minor character in this book, movie man Otis Werner, on director Otis Turner.