Nick Carter's promise, or, Millions at stake

Nick Carter's Promise, or, Millions at Stake

Nick Carter’s Promise or Millions at Stake, published November 6, 1897 by Street & Smith Publishers, appeared as part of the Nick Carter Weekly Series.


Many writers for Street and Smith wrote anonymously as did the writer of Nick Carter’s Promise. Some of the authors that contributed to issues within this series are A. L. Armagnac, Frederick Russell Burton, O. P. Caylor, Weldon J. Cobb, William Wallace cook, Fredrick W. Davis, Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey, and E. C. Derby. It is important to note that the majority of issues within the New Nick Carter Weekly were written by Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey (Cox 193).


Nick Carter – Detective who uses his intelligence and instincts to solve cases

Marcus Astorel – Millionaire, victim of a robbery

Chick – Nick’s reliable assistant

Albert Dellman – Kidnapper and robber of Mr. Astorel’s family and wealth

Hester Astorel – Daughter of Marcus Astorel, kidnapped by Albert Dellman

Mrs. Astorel – Wife of Marcus Astorel, kidnapped by Albert Dellman

Boston Sam – Police officer assisting Albert Dellman in his crimes

Flat-nosed Batson – Assisting Albert Dellman in his kidnapping of Marcus Astorel’s family

Serena Dave – Maid taking care of Hester and Mrs. Astorel


The dime novel is set in Los Angeles, California and includes trips to Oakland, California.

Plot Summary

As the dime novel opens, we hear of a conversation between Marcus Astorel, millionaire, and Nick Carter about the abduction of both his wife and daughter. The kidnapper first abducts his wife and demands $10,000 in exchange which Mr. Astorel pays. Two weeks later his daughter, Hester, is abducted along with his wife once again. Nick Carter agrees to help Mr. Astorel in search for his wife and daughter. Nick Carter begins his investigation by following the confirmed suspect Albert Dellman throughout Los Angeles. Mr.Dellman is seen conversing with Flat-nosed Bratson and Boston Sam about making a joke on someone. Nick soon discovers that, that certain someone was himself. Nick is captured and imprisoned multiple times along with his assistant, Chick. Meanwhile, Mr. Astorel is on his way to Honolulu seeking medical attention. The story’s climax involves Nick Carter fighting a muscular hunter hired by Mr. Dellman while being trapped in a cabin with four rattlesnakes. As Nick and the hunter fight, Mr. Dellman is on his way to Oakland for Hester Astorel. At the conclusion of the novel Flat-nosed Bratson and Boston Sam are arrested, Albert Dellman is killed and both Hester and Mrs. Astorel are safe and reunited with Marcus Astorel, who returns from Honolulu after receiving medical attention.


The dime novel’s main theme involves a greedy mastermind who kidnaps the wife and daughter of a millionaire in hopes of receiving thousands of dollars in exchange for their safety and return. Additionally, the novel has instances where people of lower classes are portrayed in tough living conditions. This is seen when Nick Carter disguises himself as Nevada Saul, a friend of Flat-nosed Bratson, and explains his feelings towards fighting “Spar! Now you shout. I kin spar for anything from a drink to a square meal” (8). This quote critiques people who are in the lower class, assuming that all they do is drink and consume adequate meals daily.

Contextual Analysis

Nick Carter’s Promise or Millions at Stake represents the recurring theme of organized crime within modern literature. Albert Dellman accomplishes a number of kidnappings and abductions of victims who are connected to a wealthy millionaire, in hopes for a large sum of money, but is distracted with his desire to out-whit and defeat Nick Carter. Kidnappings and abductions are a common theme in organized crimes, especially when these crimes involve wealthy individuals (Montana). The headings of “kidnappings” and "abduction" began to appear in the middle 1850s within America (Alix).  During this time, abductions gained popularity along with holding victims for ransom; in the early 1870s, nineteen abduction cases were reported, ranging from New York, to Missouri, to Mississippi (Friedman). Under the heading of "kidnapping," five cases involving the stealing of adults appeared, along with eleven cases of child stealing (Bowers). Organized crimes have evolved immensely over the years and contributed a major influence on American writers, as depicted in Nick Carter’s Promise or Millions at Stake.


Alix, Ernest K. “Ransom Kidnapping in America, 1874-1974: The Creation of a Capital Crime.”  Southern Illinois UP 13.4 (1978): 13-38. Print.

Bowers, William J., Andrea, Carr and Pierce, Glenn L. “Executions in America.”   Lexington        Books 24.3 (1974): 38-45. Print.

Cox, Randolph J. Dime Novel Companion: A Source Book. Westport: Greenwood, 2000.

Friedman, Lawrence M. “Crime and Punishment in American History.” BasicBooks 34.5 (1993)   54-67. Print.

Montana, Patrick J., and Roukis, George S. “Managing Terrorism: Strategies for the Corporate     Executive.” Quorum Books 68.9 (1983): 54-89. Print.