Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

The settings for novels on this page were in historic Illinois. Many of the authors lived in Illinois or one of the other Great Lakes states. See the right column for more info about this website.

The Free Rangers: A Story of Early Days Along the Mississippi

NY: Appleton 1934
Altsheler, Joseph A.Go to Book

Joseph Alexander Altsheler (1862 – 1919) was born in Kentucky, worked on a Louisville newspaper and later for the New York World. He published the first of over 50 books and numerous short stories in about 1896. The Riflemen of the Ohio is the sixth in an 8-volume series called “The Young Trailers”. He also published a six-volume series called “The French and Indian War series”.

A story of early days along the Mississippi. Continues the fortunes of the boys whose achievements were set down in “The Forest Runner”, and tells of their journey down the Mississippi to New Orleans whither they go to present to the Spanish Governor-General the true state of affairs between the American settlers in Kentucky and the emissaries of Spain. After numerous encounters with their old enemy, Braxton Wyatt, and a traitorous Spanish agent, they accomplish their object and help thru the safe voyage of a supply fleet from New Orleans to Kentucky.
– Book Review Digest

For information about authors, see: Sharp, Robert Farquharson, Dictionary of English Authors, Biographical and Bibliographical in Century Past Collective Biographies: Authors Q–Z and Adams, Oscar Fay, Dictionary of American Authors in Century Past Collective Biographies – Authors A–F

Wicked Nell, A Gay Girl of the Town

Chicago: Comet 1878
Andrews, ShangGo to Book

Hearts Undaunted; A Romance of Four Frontiers

NY: Harper. 1917
Atkinson, EleanorGo to Book

Eleanor Stackhouse Atkinson (1863 – 1942) was born in Rensselaer, Indiana, taught school in Indianapolis and Chicago, and wrote for the Chicago Tribune.

This story follows the forward movement of the frontier from northern New York to Chicago. The heroine, Eleanor Lytle, spends her childhood as a captive among the Indians. As a little girl of three, she attracts the attention of Chief Cornplanter, who kidnaps her and makes her an honored member of his tribe. She is grown to young womanhood before she is returned to her sorrowing mother. To make up to her for the years of suffering, Eleanor marries the man who is her mother’s choice, but later, after his death, she marries one she loves and goes westward with him, as a pioneer to the new frontier.
– Book Review Digest

Also see:
– Atkinson, Eleanor, Johnny Appleseed: The Romance of the Sower in Ohio Novels and Historical Fiction
Atkinson, Eleanor, Boyhood of Lincoln in Abraham Lincoln: Free online Books & other Resources

A Man for the Ages: A Story of the Builders of Democracy

Indianapolis: Bobbs: Merrill. 1919
Bacheller, IrvingGo to Book

“A story of the youth and early manhood of Lincoln. Opening in Vermont In 1831, the story carries a typical pioneer family across the country to Illinois, the land of plenty. The Traylors settle In New Salem where they meet the lean, gaunt youth known as Abe Lincoln. They become friends and the friendship stands the test of shared joys and sorrows in the primitive frontier community. The conditions of the time are pictured and the growth of the anti-slavery sentiment, although the narrative, ending with Lincoln’s departure to take his seat in congress in 1847, does not take in the active conflict. The “underground railroad” too has a part in the story. A concluding chapter in the form of a memoir sketches the later years of Lincoln’s life.”
“The Abraham Lincoln of Irving Bacheller’s new novel is not the half legendary figure of popular imagination or even of some biographers. It is a re-creation of Lincoln, the fellow human being.”
– The Book Review Digest

Also see: Abraham Lincoln: Free online Books & other Resources

The Prairie Schooner: A Story of the Black Hawk War

Boston: Wilde. 1900
Barton, William E. Go to Book

Rev. William Eleazar Barton (1861-1930) was born in Sublette, Illinois. As a minister, he served in parishes in Tennessee, Ohio, and Massachusetts, and finally in Oak Park, Illinois. He became one of the early twentieth century’s most prominent writers and lecturers on the life of Abraham Lincoln.

See the resources on this site for: The Black Hawk War of 1832

Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

Female Robinson Crusoe; a tale of the American wilderness

NY: Bell. 1837
Bell, Jared W., ed.Go to Book

No information was found on the author. Supposedly it was an autobiography by Lucy Ford, who as a child became lost in the forest and survived there alone, although there is some doubt as to its authenticity.

Tried in the Fire; A story of the Life of Faith

Boston: Lothrop. 1871
Blanchard, LeoneGo to Book

Leone Blanchard authored numerous articles for the Ladies’ Repository; a monthly periodical devoted to Literature, arts and religion. Her works mainly had Christian themes.

The Romantic Woman

NY: Knopf 1920
Borden, MaryGo to Book

“The story of a Chicago heiress who marries into the British aristocracy. It opens in Chicago, here lightly disguised as “Iroquois,” with the heroine’s own account of her democratic and rather hoydenish girlhood and an introduction to the childhood friends, Louise, Phyllis, Jim Van Orden and Pat O’Brien, who play a part in her later life. Perhaps she should have married Jim and settled down to a conventional and comfortable American life, but traveling with her father In India she falls romantically In love with a handsome cavalry officer, not knowing that he is heir to a dukedom. He, on his part, though genuinely attracted to the girl, Is not unconscious of her wealth. Marriage brings disillusionments and introduces the naive American into a society whose standards are quite incomprehensible. There is considerable analysis of the two contrasting points of view and the story ends with a glimpse of the war.”
“Her picture of that city [Chicago] and its people is one of the very brilliant things in recent literature. Its temper is not harsh, but it has an edge and the edge cuts clean every time. Always she conveys the richness, the distinction, and the vigor of an arresting character and mind.”
– The Book Review Digest

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

The Wine of Astonishment

NY: Appleton 1919
Bradley, Mary HastingsGo to Book

“The scene, (with the exception of the last few pages) is laid in Chicago. The reader is introduced to Jim Clarke as a boy of eighteen, drawn by his curiosity to see the red light district under the guidance of a medical student, and impelled by his sense of decency to leave the low dance-hall where the trip ends. Later, he becomes engaged to a charming Smith college girl, Evelyn Day, whose mother, wishing Evelyn to make a wealthy marriage, disapproves of the poor law student. Under pressure Evelyn breaks her engagement, and marries Christopher Stanley. A garbled report of what took place, years before, at the dance hall, influences her final decision. After she has been Stanley’s wife, in name only, for six years, she finds out that she has been lied to about Jim, and decides to ask Christopher to set her free, but on thinking over her indebtedness to her husband, she finally tells him that she will be his wife in reality.”
“When we put the book down we have the feeling that we have been brought very close to
life as It manifests itself in two very real individuals.”
“The troubled Intensity of young emotions grips the reader. The despair of youth that lacks the money to marry is well portrayed. Then comes the war to solve everybody’s troubles.”
– The Book Review Digest

Diane. Mississippi Valley

NY: Doubleday 1904
Brown, Katharine Holland Go to Book

A romance of the Icarian settlement on the Mississippi river: a small body of French colonists with communistic views who had been brought to America by Pere Cabet; the story opens in 1856, when most of them were thoroughly tired of him. . . . But the schisms of the commune pale in interest beside the affairs of the American abolitionists who come into the story. … ln one chapter Robert Channing is carrying runaway slaves to safety; in the next Pere Cabet is preaching his flock into rebellion. The petty affairs of the Icarians and the quarrel that shall shake the states run side by side. Their separate currents meet in the loves of Robert and Diane.”
– Book Review Digest

Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

In the Boyhood of Lincoln: a Tale of the Tunker Schoolmaster and the Times of Black Hawk

NY: Appleton 1893
Butterworth, Hezekiah Go to Book

The adventures of a pioneer Dunkard schoolmaster serve to illustrate the life of a newly settled country as well as the hardships and manly struggles of the future statesman. Collects many Indian romances and cabin tales of the Illinois settlers, and gives a warmly sympathetic view of Indian character.

The Illini; a Story of the Prairies

Chicago: McClurg. 1912
Carr, Clark E. Go to Book

The author attempted to portray a number of real people who were significant in Illinois history by placing them in fictional situations. He says that, “The work might be called a drama in which characters appear upon the stage in connection with events in which they acted.” He has divided the volume into three ‘books’;

Book 1 – The Pioneer
Book 2 – Political Upheaval
Book 3 – In War-time

Some of the historical figures in the book are: Stephen A. Douglas, John Wentworth, Owen Lovejoy, Abraham Lincoln, John Hay, Lyman Trumbull, David Davis, Norman B. Judd and Richard J. Oglesby.

A story of the prairies, written from the memories of over half a century lived in Illinois. The author has endeavored to present his views of the position and influence of Illinois among the states, to give an estimate of events, and of those Illinoisans who were conspicuous actors in them, from 1850, the year in which the Fugitive-slave law was enacted, to the opening of the Civil war.
— Bookman

Old Kaskaskia: a Novel

NY: Houghton, Mifflin. 1893
Catherwood, Mary HartwellGo to Book

Mary Hartwell Catherwood (1847 -1902) was born in Luray, Ohio and as an adult lived in several cities in the Midwest. She developed a signature style of incorporating Midwestern culture, dialect, and local color into her texts. Although most of her novels and stories are set in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, some are also based along the American border with French Canada and on colonial Mackinac Island.

See more of Catherwood’s works at: Great Lakes Novels and Historical Fiction and Michigan Novels and Historical Fiction

See also: Books about 19th Century American Women Authors

Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

Spanish Peggy; a Story of Young Illinois

Chicago: Stone. 1899
Catherwood, Mary HartwellGo to Book

See the biographical note on the Catherwood novel on this page; Old Kaskaskia.

The Spirit of an Illinois Town, and The Little Renault; two stories of Illinois at different periods

Boston: Houghton, Mifflin. 1897
Catherwood, Mary HartwellGo to Book

See the biographical note on the Catherwood novel on this page; Old Kaskaskia.

The Two Circuits; a Story of Illinois Life

Chicago: Jansen, McClurg. 1877
Crane, J. L. Go to Book

According to the dedication in this volume, James L. Crane had been a chaplain in the Union army during the Civil War. This novel is about the humorous adventures of a young preacher who has recently begun riding the circuit.

Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

A Little Girl in Old Chicago

NY: Burt. 1904
Douglas, Amanda M.Go to Book

Amanda M. Douglas (1831-1916) was raised in New York city and lived as an adult in New Jersey. This novel is one of many in her “Little Girl” series; stories set in various U.S. cities for young audiences. Among other books, she also authored a “Helen Grant” series which was more of a ‘college girl’ genre.

The Graysons; a Story of Illinois

NY: Century. 1887
Eggleston, EdwardGo to Book

Edward Eggleston (1837-1902) was born in Vevay, Indiana. He was both a novelist and a historian, authoring several texts of U.S. history.

More of Eggleston’s novels are at: Great Lakes Novels and Historical Fiction and Indiana Novels and Historical Fiction

Can Such Things Be? A Story of a White Slave

Chicago: 1915
Gleeson, WilliamGo to Book

Struck a Lead; an historical tale of the upper lead region

Chicago: Jameson & Morse. 1883
Goodhue, James M.Go to Book

James M. Goodhue (1810-1852) was born in New Hampshire and migrated west as a young man. He lived about three years in Plainfield, Illinois and then was a lawyer and newspaperman in Lancaster, Wisconsin. When Minnesota territory opened for settlement he moved to St. Paul and established the first newspaper in Minnesota. He was well-known for a lively writing style.

Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

Black Partridge, or, The Fall of Fort Dearborn

NY: E. P. Dutton. 1906
Gordon, H. R.Go to Book

Col. H.R. Gordon was one of many pseudonyms used by Edward Sylvester Ellis (1840-1916). Ellis authored dozens of adventure stories for boys.

“Auric Kingdom, a Fort Wayne lad, his chum, Jethro Judd of Fort Dearborn and Black Partridge, the Pottawatomie chief and friend of the white man, are the most prominent figures in this story which culminates in the destruction of Fort Dearborn. The book is full of adventure, of bad Indians, brave settlers, and the woodcraft dear to all boy hearts.”
– The Book Review Digest

For information about authors, see: Sharp, Robert Farquharson, Dictionary of English Authors, Biographical and Bibliographical in Century Past Collective Biographies: Authors Q–Z and Adams, Oscar Fay, Dictionary of American Authors in Century Past Collective Biographies – Authors A–F

The Wilderness and the War Path

NY: Wiley. 1849
Hall, James. Go to Book

James Hall (1793-1868) lived in Ohio and Illinois, editing a magazine in Cincinnati. He authored many stories of adventure on the western frontier and at that time was considered one of the most talented writers in the ‘West’.

See more works by James Hall at: Ohio Novels and Historical Fiction; and
– a biographical chapter about James Hall in Venable, William H., Beginnings of Literary Culture in the Ohio Valley; Historical and Biographical Sketches in Great Lakes Region Cultural History

Old ‘Kaskia Days

Chicago: Schulte. 1893
Holbrook, ElizabethGo to Book

Elizabeth Holbrook was from Randolph county, Illinois, the home of Kaskaskia. Her novel is said to have closely followed what was known about the town’s history.

See also: Schlarman, J.H. PhD., From Quebec to New Orleans: The Story of the French in America in Great Lakes General History

Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

A Desperate Woman

Chicago: Laird & Lee 1886
Holmes, M.E.Go to Book

Ella Lincoln, or, Western Prairie Life. An Autobiography

Boston: French. 1857
Hopkins, Eliza A. Go to Book

Eliza Ann Woodruff Hopkins (1813-1878) was born in New Jersey. In 1837 she married Charles Hopkins and went with him to the western frontier. He went further west to California in 1850 to search for gold and did not return for 13 years, leaving her to raise their children. In Illinois she wrote for the Joliet Signal and the True Democrat, then moved east to Pennsylvania and later Boston, where she continued to write, primarily for newspapers.

The Mississippi Bubble; How the star of good fortune rose and set and rose again, by a woman’s grace, for one John Law of Lauriston

Indianapolis: Bowen-Merrill 1902
Hough, EmersonGo to Book

Emerson Hough (1857-1923) was an American author best known for writing western stories and historical novels. Raised in Newton, Iowa, he graduated from the University of Iowa and was admitted to the bar in 1882. He lived in New Mexico for a time, which helped him with the background for his westerns. After he married a Chicago woman in 1897 he moved to Chicago permanently.

Hough was a conservationist who, among other causes, worked for creation of a national park system. He also wrote an out-of-doors column for the Saturday Evening Post. The Mississippi Bubble, one of the best-selling of his many books, is a historical novel that revolves around the story of John Law and an economic bubble of speculative investment in the French colony of Louisiana.
– Wikipedia entries for Hough and The Mississippi Bubble.

See more of Emerson Hough’s works at: Fiction – Novels from Authors G & H

Zury, the Meanest Man in Spring County; a novel of western life

Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1887
Kirkland, JosephGo to Book

Joseph Kirkland (1830-1894) was a businessman in Chicago and a Union officer in the Civil War. He founded a Midwestern literary periodical called Prairie Chicken, and also worked as a lawyer. In addition to the two novels on this page, he authored The Story of Chicago.

Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

The McVeys (an episode)

Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1888
Kirkland, JosephGo to Book

Sequel to “Zury, the Meanest Man in Spring County”, also on this page.

The Log Cabin; or, The World Before You

Philadelphia: Appleton. 1847
Lee, Hannah F.Go to Book

Hannah Farnham Sawyer Lee (1780-1865) also wrote a history of the Huguenots, biographies of Pierre Toussaint and Thomas Cranmer, and sketches of the lives of famous painters.

Ongon: A Tale of Early Chicago

NY: 1902
Loux, Dubois H.Go to Book

Children of the Market Place

NY: Macmillan. 1922
Masters, Edgar LeeGo to Book

Edgar Lee Masters (1868-1950) grew up in Lewistown, Illinois and moved to Chicago in 1892, where he was a law partner of Clarence Darrow. He is mainly known for his poetry, especially for his best-selling collection Spoon River Anthology. He published approximately 40 books during his career. While this one is ostensibly the story of an English immigrant to Illinois in pioneering days, it presents Stephen A. Douglas as representative of the American spirit. 1833-61.

An historical novel In the form of a fictitious autobiography of an Englishman who, as a youth of eighteen, came to America where his father had preceded him and, dying, had left him an estate in Illinois. He landed in the New York of 1833 and traveled by canal, lake and stage to Illinois, finally taking up his residence in Chicago. His life develops with the growth of this pioneer region and, thru his early meeting with young Stephen Douglas and life-long friendship with him, becomes a panorama of the history and politics of the country in the stormy period which led up to the Civil war. The canvas is so broad that a full cross-section of history is shown. The story of Douglas rather overshadows the hero’s own. Lincoln, too, Is shown, appearing out of obscurity, encountering the “little giant,” coming into the presidency. And then the war! A brief epilogue brings the book to the beginning of this century, with a rapid summing-up of America’s new problems, social and political.
– Booklist

Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

The Glenns: A Family History

NY: Scribner. 1851
McConnel, John LudlumGo to Book

McConnel (1826-1862), son of a prominent pioneer in Jacksonville, Illinois, was considered by the eastern literary establishment to be second only to James Hall (see above) as an early Illinois writer of fiction. He served as a captain in the Mexican War, where he was seriously wounded. McConnel focused most of his energy on his legal and political career but continued to write short stories until his untimely death at 36 – a result of his battle wounds.

Western Characters, or Types of Border Life in the Western States

NY: Redfield. 1853
McConnel, John L.Go to Book

See the note at McConnel’s book above.

Gentle Ann: A Tale of the Sangamon

NY: Beacon. 1943
McNamar, MyrtleGo to Book

Myrtle Leoan Garrison McNamar (1884-1969) was born in California and became the editor of her husband’s newspaper in Cottonwood, CA. In addition to writing a number of novels and a history of the state of Oregon, she was a family historian. Her husband was a direct descendant of the McNamar in Gentle Ann.

Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

The Totem of Black Hawk: A tale of pioneer days in northwestern Illinois & the Black Hawk war

Chicago: McClurg. 1914
McNeil, EverettGo to Book

Henry Everett McNeil (1862-1929) was born in Stoughton, Wisconsin and was a leading author of novels for young people in the 1910s and 1920s.

A story of pioneer life in northwestern Illinois in the eighteen-thirties. The Clays, father, mother and three children, are among the first settlers in the Rock river valley, and the story follows all the incidents of the making of a frontier home, the building of the log house, the hunt for meat, and so on. Later comes the outbreak of the Black Hawk war, the capture of Mrs. Clay and the children, and their escape from death by virtue of the little image worn by Ruth—a little black hawk carved in stone which had been given her by an Indian girl she had befriended.
– Book Review Digest

See the resources on this site for: The Black Hawk War of 1832

Alice Ashland, A Romance of the World’s Fair

NY: Collier 1893
Neville, EdithGo to Book

The Man with the Iron Hand

Boston: Houghton, Mifflin 1922
Parish, John C. Go to Book

About Henry de Tonty and his fellow French explorers, based on historical letters and documents of Tonty, Father Marquette, Joliet, La Salle and others.

See the resources on this site for: La Salle the Explorer

The Devil’s Own: A Romance of the Black Hawk War

NY: Burt. 1917
Parrish, RandallGo to Book

George Randall Parrish (1858-1923) grew up in Kewanee, Illinois and began a legal career in Wichita, Kansas. In the early 1880s he left his law practice and worked at a number of odd jobs throughout the west, eventually becoming a newspaper reporter. When Wilderness was King (below) was the first of many novels.

The time of the story is the year of the Black Hawk war, and that outbreak has a part in the climax of the tale. It is with one of the problems of slavery, however, that the plot is concerned. In journeying down the river, Lieutenant Knox falls in with Joe Kirby, the gambler. Kirby has been playing cards with Judge Beaucaire of Missouri and has taken from him his home and all his possessions, including his slaves. From Kirby himself, Lieutenant Knox learns that the gambler’s main motive is to gain possession of Rene Beaucaire, the girl reputed to be Judge Beaucaire’s daughter, although in reality she is his granddaughter, the child of his son and a quadroon girl. Technically she is his slave. Moved by the tragic fate of this unknown girl, Knox sets out to save her a task which involves the rescue also of Eloise Beaucaire, the judge’s real daughter.
– Book Review Digest

See the resources on this site for: The Black Hawk War of 1832

Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

A Sword of the Old Frontier; A Tale of Fort Chartres and Detroit, being a plain account of sundry adventures befalling Chevalier Raoul de Coubert, one time Captain in the Hussars of Languedoc, during the year 1763

Chicago: McClurg 1905
Parrish, Randall Go to Book

See the biographical note for Parrish at his novel above.

A plain account of sundry adventures befalling Chevalier Raoul de Coubert, one time captain in the Hussars of Languedoc, during the year 1763, in which he gallantly draws his sword for France and his English lady-love in the stirring times of Pontiac’s conspiracy. Meeting with treachery from both white men and red, he takes desperate chances, escapes from his enemies and wins honor, wealth, and love.
– Book Review Digest

When Wilderness was King: a Tale of the Illinois Country

NY: Burt. 1905
Parrish, RandallGo to Book

See the biographical note on Parrish above.

“Mr. Parrish writes with colour and spirit, and his ingenuity in devising new variations in adventure is admirable.”
– The Book Review Digest

From Timber to Town: Down in Egypt

Chicago: McClurg. 1891
Perley, T. E.Go to Book

No information about Mrs. T. E. Perley or any other works by her were found. From Timber to Town Down in Egypt was written in local dialect and for that reason can’t be read quickly, but is very entertaining.

Illinois Novels and Historical Fiction

Bolanyo; A Novel

Chicago: Way & Williams 1897
Read, Opie PercivalGo to Book

A Yankee from the West

Chicago: Rand, McNally 1898
Read, Opie PercivalGo to Book

The Shadow of Victory: A Romance of Fort Dearborn

NY: Knickerbocker 1903
Reed, MyrtleGo to Book

A story of this frontier fort and the Indian wars; strongly anti-English and imbued with the Monroe doctrine.

Hardscrabble, or, the Fall of Chicago; A Tale of Indian Warfare

NY: de Witt. 1856
Richardson, John (Major)Go to Book

Major John Richardson (1796-1852) was a Canadian who fought as a British soldier alongside Indian forces led by Tecumseh in the War of 1812. After leaving the army about 1818 he divided his time between England and Canada, publishing newspapers and writing a number of military adventure stories.

Wau-nan-gee, or, The Massacre at Chicago. A Romance of the American Revolution

NY: Long and Brother 1852
Richardson Major Go to Book

See the biographical note on Richardson at his other novel, above.

Dynasty; A Novel of Chicago’s Industrial Evolution

Americana House 1958
Sklovsky, MaxGo to Book

Racer of Illinois

NY: McClure, Phillips 1902
Somerville, Henry (Mary Gay Humphreys)Go to Book

Ray Burton: A Chicago Tale

Chicago: 1895
Train, M. Go to Book

Mary Wollaston

Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill 1920
Webster, Henry KitchellGo to Book

“Two emotional situations complicate this novel. One is the triangular relationship involving Mary, her father, and Paula, her beautiful stepmother. The other grows out of the fact that Mary, while engaged in war work in New York, has had a casual love affair with a young soldier bound for overseas. Once she tries to tell her brother, but he will not listen. Again she tries to tell her father, but he refuses to believe, thinking that Mary in her innocence doesn’t know what she is talking about. Finally she flings the truth in the face of young Graham Stannard, who in asking her to marry him, persists in treating her as a whited saint. The situation is saved by Anthony March, who listens to Mary’s story, understands it and loves her none the less for it. Anthony also resolves the difficulty in the other situation. Anthony is a composer of genius and Paula is an opera singer, and there is much musical talk in the story.”
“This will be pronounced immoral by some readers. The analysis of women’s thoughts and emotions is illuminating; a book that women rather than men will read.”
“This novel has both the faults and the merits of its subject-matter, which is a representative cross-section of American metropolitan life in the immediate wake of the great war.”
“The most interesting thing about ‘Mary Wollaston’ and the chief reason for reading it is that it is so accurately contemporary. The young generation seem to be frightening their elders in these days, and perhaps this novel will explain the fear without allaying it.”
– The Book Review Digest

The Russells in Chicago

Boston: Page 1901
Wheaton, Emily Go to Book

You can find more works like these at our other History of the Great Lakes States ‘Fiction’ pages.

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