Six years before she wrote Little Women, and in financial straits, Louisa May Alcott entered "Pauline's Passion and Punishment, " a novelette, in a newspaper contest. Not only did it win the $100 prize, but, published anonymously, it marked the first of the series of "blood & thunder tales" that would provide her livelihood for years. For as she said, "They are easy to 'compoze' & are better paid than moral...works." The gruesome, passionate stories reveal a darker side of Alcott. Published anonymously or under the pseudonym of A. M. Barnard, they appeared in weeklies over a century ago. In their mastery of suspense and psychological drama, and in their embodiment of a startlingly intense - if oblique - feminism, they attest to the multifaceted genius of their creator. "Pauline's Passion and Punishment" features a woman who is scorned by her lover and left with her fury and her desire for revenge. The male hero of "The Mysterious Key" must unearth secrets hidden away in a family tomb if he is to realize true love. Mysterious pasts and all-too-present jealousies conflict for some surprising effects on the holiday mood in "The Abbot's Ghost." And "Behind a Mask" tells the chilling story of a woman thwarted by love, whose main motivation becomes her desire to dominate an entire family.
Louisa May Alcott was a nineteenth century American novelist best known as author of the novel "Little Women" and its sequels "Little Men" and "Jo's Boys." Early in her career, she sometimes used the pen name A. M. Barnard. She began to receive critical success for her writing in the 1860s. Alcott never married and died in Boston.
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