Friday, July 31, 2015

Tom Quest #7 Inca Luck Piece and #8 Timber Giant

In Tom Quest #7, The Inca Luck Piece, Hamilton Quest is asked to study a stone that came from an Inca temple.  The stone contains uranium, and the United States government wants to locate the source of the uranium before communists can exploit the information.

This book feels different from the rest of the series.  Almost the entire book is set inside a mansion on an island in the St. Lawrence River.  The plot is solely a mystery and not an adventure.  Someone who is staying in the mansion is trying to learn about the source of the uranium, so Tom, Whiz, and Gulliver investigate.

The book strongly reminds me of a few of the higher-numbered Beverly Gray books that are mysteries.  While some of the similarity is because of the story, the rest is because of the actual book itself.  The book is a Clover edition, and the higher-numbered Beverly Gray books are Clover editions.  The pulp paper in the Clover books has a certain smell, which reminded me strongly of Beverly Gray.
 
The previous book, The Secret of Thunder Mountain, has an advertisement for this book.  The ad reads:
What was the significance of the Inca Talisman?  What connection did it have with the project Tom Quest and his friends were conducting in a hidden valley in the Andes?  You'll find the answers to these questions in the exciting story of Tom's next daring adventure, a story so packed with thrills and surprises that you won't put it down till you have finished it.  It's called

THE SEARCH FOR THE INCA TALISMAN
The title is a draft title that was changed before The Inca Luck Piece was published.  This is common to have a title that is wrong in a blurb for the next book in the series.  What strikes me as strange is that the plot is also wrong.  Tom and his friends do not conduct a search in a valley.  They spend nearly the entire book in a mansion and aren't searching anywhere for anything.

In Tom Quest #8, The Mystery of the Timber Giant, Tom, Whiz, and Gulliver come to the aid of two men who are at risk of being swindled out of their land which contains valuable timber.

By the title of the book, I expected a giant man to be the focus of the plot.  Gulliver is rather large, but he is not the timber giant.  The timber giant is the man in charge of the syndicate responsible for cheating men out of their land.

From page 170:
Gulliver's indifference to peril would never cease to be a source of wonderment to Tom Quest and Whiz Walton.  The big man sat grinning as if highly amused at the sight of the stranger who held the gun.

"Now," he said, "things are gittin' interestin'.  Speak yo' piece, stranger.  Why'd yo' come here wavin' that hardware?"
And that is why Gulliver is so amazing.  He is truly the star of the series.

This book is a rewrite of Fran Striker's book, Gene Autry and the Redwood Pirates.  I have not read the Gene Autry book, but I have heard that this book is better than the original version.

I greatly enjoyed this book.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sandy Steele #3 Stormy Voyage and #4 Fire at Red Lake

In Sandy Steele #3, Stormy Voyage, Sandy and his friend, Jerry James, are disappointed when they cannot get jobs at the Mesabi iron ore mines in Minnesota.  Fortunately, in a chance encounter with the owner of a long boat, the boys get jobs as part of the crew.  During the journey, the boys learn that the captain is dishonest.

In a manner similar to the Grosset and Dunlap travelogues, each Sandy Steele book imparts information about wherever Sandy is visiting.  That information was grossly overdone in the first book, but in these other books, the right balance was struck, making these books quite interesting.

This is an excellent book.

In Sandy Steele #4, Fire at Red Lake, Sandy, Quiz, and Jerry go on a hiking trip with Sandy's Uncle Russ in the woods of Minnesota.  Uncle Russ works for the government, and soon into the hike, a forest ranger locates Russ so that he can call Washington.  Uncle Russ learns that a bomber jet crashed, and the A-bomb on board is missing, presumably in the woods of Minnesota.  The situation becomes grim when a wildfire breaks out.

On page 57, the boys use DDT, which is now banned in the United States.

This book is unusual in that the book has no villain.  The book is purely adventure and danger.

This story is very exciting and thrilling.  It is an excellent book.

While my reviews ended up short for both of these books, I greatly enjoyed both of them, about as much as I enjoyed my most favorite Biff Brewster books.  This series is very similar to Biff Brewster.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Tom Quest #5 Hidden Stone and #6 Thunder Mountain

In Tom Quest #5, The Hidden Stone Mystery, Hamilton Quest has been accused of fraud!  Quest identified the Mandan stone as genuine, but experts have proclaimed that he was mistaken.  At stake are the minerals rights to a parcel of Mandan land.

On page 10, we learn that about a year has passed since Hamilton Quest returned from staying with the Mandan Indians.  This means that more than one year has passed since the early books in this series, yet Tom is still 17 years old.

In Tom Quest #6, The Secret of Thunder Mountain, Tom and Whiz stay with Gulliver on his ranch in Texas.  Tom found some strange rocks on nearby Thunder Mountain, but the rocks disappeared.  Soon, Tom learns that the rocks are important, and he is determined to find out more.

The meals are described in great detail in the Tom Quest books.  A particularly yummy meal is described on page 49.  The meal includes roast beef, smoked ham, turkey breast, homemade bread, strawberries and cream, milk, cold beans, apple sauce, jams, jellies, condiments, and an apple pie.  Gulliver declares that the meal is just a "snack."

The books are approximately 180 pages beginning with this title.  The first five books are over 200 pages.

I enjoyed learning about Gulliver's ranch and getting to know more about Gulliver, although I prefer the exotic locations.

I greatly enjoyed both of these books.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Sandy Steele #1 Black Treasure and #2 Mormon Crossing

In Sandy Steele #1, Black Treasure, Sandy and his friend, Quiz, take summer jobs in the Four Corners area.  They work for John Hall, who is president of a small drilling company.  The boys learn about oil, uranium, and the history of the Four Corners area.

A large amount of historical information about the Indians of the southwest is given.  While I found some of it interesting and learned a few things, I felt that there was way too much of it.  It went on and on, and I finally began skimming it.

The book also gives a large amount of information about how to locate an oil reserve and how to drill for it.  The reader also learns about geology and about how to locate uranium.  The information about geology, oil, and uranium is just as excessive as the historical information.  I also had to begin skimming this information as well.  This book is almost like a textbook because of how much information is in it.

The story doesn't get to the mystery part until around page 100.  Even then, lots of information about finding and drilling for oil is given in that part of the book, and the mystery is minimal.

The setting and the information about uranium and the Indians reminded me of Franklin Folsom's Search in the Desert.  However, Search in the Desert is a much better book.

This first Sandy Steele book is quite weak, unless the reader wants to learn everything there is to know about Indians, geology, oil, and uranium.  Otherwise, the book is mostly boring and mediocre.  I felt similar to how I felt while reading my least favorite Cherry Ames books, and I almost didn't make it to the second book.  In fact, I was concerned that I had just wasted money on my purchase of the set.  I bought the set because several collectors indicated that the series is quite good.  They didn't mention how boring the first book is.  However, I decided to try the second book just in case it was better, although I was tempted to abandon the set and read something else.

In Sandy Steele #2, Danger at Mormon Crossing, Sandy is invited to go on a hiking trip with Mike Cook and his father.  The destination is Mormon Crossing in Idaho.  The group hires an Indian guide, Joe, who is an excellent guide, but he seems afraid of something.  Joe refuses to talk, but Sandy is certain that something is wrong.

This book is much, much better than the first book in the series.  I was so afraid that I had built this set of six books for nothing. I was relieved to see some evidence of why collectors say this is a good series.

This book also gives some detailed information such as how to correct the sight on a rifle and how to properly cast a reel while fishing.  While that information is a little more than I'd like, it is brief enough that I was not annoyed like I was with the first book.

I enjoyed this book.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tom Quest #3 Cypress Stump and #4 Lost Mesa

In Tom Quest #3, The Clue of the Cypress Stump, Tom, Whiz, and Gulliver search the Florida everglades for a hidden cache of stolen uranium.  The only clue is a cypress stump.

I knew what the significance of the cypress stump would be as soon as I knew the basis for the mystery.  The plot summary on the dust jacket mentions how the climax of the mystery would be when the cypress stump "yields its secret."  The secret is obvious from the beginning.

This book features Captain Popple, who is a magnificent character.  Captain Popple is spunky, and he is a little man with a piping voice.  In his own way, Popple is as great of a character as is Gulliver.  I wouldn't have minded seeing Popple appear in a another book, but alas, this is the only one with him.

The fight scene near the end of the book is a bit long for my taste.  This lengthy fight scene is the only scene in the entire Tom Quest series that was tedious for me.

This is a very good book.

In Tom Quest #4, The Secret of the Lost Mesa, Tom, Whiz, and Gulliver search for a lost Aztec civilization in Mexico.  The civilization is said to be located on an isolated mesa.  Soon, the group realizes that someone is trying to keep them away from the mesa for some sinister purpose.

On page 13, we learn that Tom found a camera on a beach in Mexico.  The camera contained a roll of film that had been fully exposed.  Tom removed the film and mailed it to his father so that his father could develop it.  Meanwhile, Tom advertised in a couple of papers in an attempt to find the owner of the camera so that it could be returned.  Um, what about the film?  I thought it a bit high-handed that the film was removed and mailed away to be developed.  Wouldn't the owner want the film as well as the camera?

Of course, the film is the clue to the lost mesa and necessary to the plot of the book, but still, Tom had no right to mail the film to his father to be developed.

On page 63, Tom, Gulliver, and Whiz are driving through the jungle in Gulliver's jeep when they spot a map that has been pinned to a tree.  The map appears to show the path to the lost mesa.  So of course, Tom and Whiz decide that finding the map is fortuitous and that they should change paths to follow it. 

It's just like if I were to walk out on my porch one morning to find a mysterious cupcake waiting for me.  I don't know who put it there, so I should eat it, right?  No!

At least Gulliver is suspicious of the map and investigates its path alone, or else the entire expedition would have been doomed.

This book is so full of adventure that by page 92 I felt like the book ought to be almost over.  So much had already happened!

On page 104, Gulliver thinks about how the "Indians in Texas and in Oklahoma were primitive people."  He concludes that he could interact with the lost Aztec civilization in the same manner in which he has dealt with the Indians of Texas and Oklahoma.  This book was written in 1949.  The Indians of Texas and Oklahoma couldn't have been that primitive in 1949, certainly not so much as an Aztec civilization that supposedly had been isolated for centuries.

But then again, the lost Aztec civilization was not quite so primitive as one would expect.  A couple of the Indians could speak some English, so they had been in contact with modern civilization.

This book is also very good.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Another Nancy Drew Lilac Inn First Printing DJ

Note:  If you are a seller trying to identify whether you have a valuable book, please read the comment in bold at the end of this post for more information.  Many sellers read these blog posts, which are written for advanced Nancy Drew collectors, completely misunderstand the content, and misidentify books that are not valuable.  If you have a 1930A-1 Lilac Inn book, you can identify it through the above link.  If you have a 1930A-1 Lilac Inn jacket, it must match the below jacket in every single detail on both the front and reverse sides with no differences whatsoever.  Anything different means it is not the same.

Second, this post is in no way critical of Farah's Guide, so please do not read meaning into this post that is not present.

...................................................................

A recent eBay auction featured Nancy Drew #4, The Mystery at Lilac Inn, with the 1930A-1 dust jacket.  The book sold for $4,302.22.




  




According to the seller, the post-text ads were Nancy Drew, followed by the Blythe Girls, and then Amy Bell Marlowe.  Those ads in that order make the book the 7th printing, 1931D-7.  I now know of four different first or second printing Lilac Inn dust jackets that have sold on eBay, and every single one of them was matched with the wrong later printing book.

The first three books from the following list sold on eBay in 2010, and the last one is the above book.

1930A-1 jacket paired with a 1931D-7 book
1930B-2 jacket paired with a 1930C-3 book
1930B-2 jacket paired with a 1935B-22 book
1930A-1 jacket paired with a 1931D-7 book

I own the first and third books in the list.  For the books that I purchased, the wear patterns on the books and jackets matched, which indicated that they had probably been paired together from the early 1930s.

I find it very strange that my first printing dust jacket was paired with the 7th printing book, just like with the book in the recent auction.  While books and jackets do sometimes show up mismatched, they are matched with a printing from Farah's Guide the vast majority of the time.  I'm not sure how often they match precisely as Farah has observed, but I'd guess that they match at least around 85% of the time.  For the four Lilac Inn first or second printing jacket sales of which I am aware, 0% were matched correctly.  This is very unusual.

Sometimes stores kept the jackets separate from the shelved books for sale, and this was one reason why books and jackets ended up mismatched.  Additionally, books and jackets were printed separately from each other, so the jackets from the same batch could have ended up on books from separate printings.

Most of the early and first printing Nancy Drew books from 1930 to 1932 have shown up fully matching what Farah has observed and noted in this guide.  It is only The Mystery at Lilac Inn where most copies showing up do not match the guide.  I don't have the answer for what the real reason is, but I find it fascinating.  Whatever the reason, I believe it is why the first printing book and jacket for the The Mystery at Lilac Inn are both so extremely scarce.

The Mystery at Lilac Inn first printing book appears to be the scarcest of all the first printing Nancy Drew books.  Farah's Guide identifies the first printing of The Clue in the Diary as extremely scarce and gives it a much higher value than the first printing book for The Mystery at Lilac Inn.  However, The Clue in the Diary shows up more often than The Mystery at Lilac Inn in the first printing.  The first printing book for The Secret of the Old Clock is also assigned a higher value, but it also shows up more often.

Collectors covet the 1930A-1 dust jacket for The Secret of the Old Clock more than any other dust jacket.  As incredibly scarce as the Old Clock jacket is, that jacket is slightly more common than the 1930A-1 dust jacket for The Mystery at Lilac Inn.  In my opinion, the first printing dust jacket for Lilac Inn is the toughest first printing Nancy Drew dust jacket to find, although its value will always trail behind Old Clock simply because collectors covet Old Clock so much.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Damaged Rick Brant Books

I received a package today that consisted of one of the large Ready Post mailers that can be purchased at the post office.  Likely, the seller shoved the books in the mailer while standing at the counter inside the post office.

This is what the package looked like from the outside.


With the books stuffed inside, the mailer was five inches thick.  The dimensions of the mailer while flat were 12 1/2 inches by 17 inches.  I wasn't that concerned, since I hadn't received damaged books in quite some time.  Now that I think about it, I should have been concerned, since my luck was bound to run out.

I opened the package and got a good whiff of cigarette smoke.  Of course, the seller didn't mention the odor.  While annoying, this is a minor problem that will be fully solved once the books have enough time to air out.  No big deal.

This is what I saw inside the package after I ripped open one end.


I wasn't even concerned at this point, although I went ahead and snapped the above photo just so that I could post a comment on Facebook about how old books deserve better than this.  Then I pulled the books out of the package and discovered the damage from the books shifting back and forth during their journey.

One book was inside another book positioned like this.


This was the result.


The Electronic Mind Reader was not in good shape before it was mailed.  The book already had a split hinge with old tape on it and had heavy wear.  You can see all the additional damage caused by the other book sliding inside.  The pages are now creased and folded.  While annoying, this wasn't enough to upset me.  I didn't buy the books for this one and don't care about it.

What does upset me is that I bought the lot to get two of the books with dust jackets, and both jackets were damaged by the careless packaging.

This jacket was torn in the upper left corner.


And this jacket was torn in the lower right corner.


The seller's photo shows both jackets as undamaged.

I decided earlier this year that I liked the Rick Brant books enough that I wanted a set with jackets.  I didn't want to pay high prices, so I have been waiting for bulk lots.  I bought a bulk lot last month that got me most of them.  The Pirates of Shan and The Blue Ghost Mystery are two of the books that were not part of that bulk lot.  That's why I bought this small bulk lot.

It is the bulk lots where I do have most of my problems with damaged books.  The sellers don't understand that they can't just throw the books in a box or large envelope and ship them off.

It should be noted that the books from this transaction would have been fine if the seller had just wrapped some plastic wrap around the books before placing them inside the mailer.  Just anything to secure the books shut and in two small stacks so that they wouldn't shift around each other and cause damage. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

An Introduction to Brad Forrest

I decided to collect the Brad Forrest series after reading a few positive reviews.  The series was published in Canada, and Brad Forrest is a Canadian.  The series consists of eight titles.

I read the first book, Brad Forrest's Hong Kong Adventure, which is a mess.  Undaunted, I read the second book, Brad Forrest's Los Angeles Adventure, which is better but not that good.  The first two books are overall so bad that they are almost good in the sense that they are good for laughs.  The books remind me of some of the more ridiculous of Nancy Drew #41 through #56, which means that they provide great material for blog reviews.

So this is Brad Forrest, eh?  Still undaunted, I was determined to read all eight of them, whether good, bad, or ugly.  I kept reading and was delighted as the books get much better starting with the third book.  In fact, #3 through #7 range from pretty good to excellent.  Unfortunately, #8 is not as good, ranking somewhere between #1 and #2 in its mediocrity.  The series starts bad and ends kind of bad, but the middle part is great.

If you want to try Brad Forrest to see if you would like this series, try any of volumes three through seven.  The series does not have to be read in order.  While the books all provide a brief statement near the beginning alluding to a previous adventure, each story stands alone and has nothing to do with any previous adventures.

If you live in the United States, you will in most cases have to purchase the books internationally, which will add to the cost of each book.  The books were published in Canada and in the United Kingdom.

I decided to put up a page for the Brad Forrest series, but only after I read up through volume four.  These days, I will only put up a page if I like a series enough to do so.  I didn't like the first two books, and if all eight had been like those books, I wouldn't have bothered.

Brad Forrest Adventure Series