Friday, February 29, 2008

eTexts of Older Series Books

When I search eBay for books, I frequently find etexts of various older series books for sale. Sometimes the seller offers a bunch of books on a disc, and other times the seller offers to send the etext via a file that can be downloaded. I always ignore these listings simply because I prefer to own the actual book rather than read the text on my computer screen.

There is another reason to ignore these listings. The sellers obtained the texts from various websites that have the files available for free download. There is no reason to pay any seller for these texts. Many of the older Stratemeyer Syndicate books are in the public domain because the Syndicate allowed the copyrights to lapse during the early part of the 20th century. The effort to prevent the Syndicate's most valued holdings from entering the public domain was likely one of the primary reasons that the Syndicate revised the texts of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.

Project Gutenberg has the texts of thousands of books available on its website. Enter a search for a series title such as the Bobbsey Twins or for the series author such as Laura Lee Hope, and the site's search engine will list all of the available titles. The site contains all seven of the Moving Picture Girls books as well as many of the Ruth Fielding, Outdoor Girls, Tom Swift, Betty Gordon, Dorothy Dale, Six Little Bunkers, and other early series books.

Perhaps you're interested in reading an excerpt of the first book in order to decide whether to collect the series? You can go to Project Gutenberg and read the first book before deciding whether to proceed.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

eBay Prices - Nancy Drew and Others

Nancy Drew:

#7 The Clue in the Diary w/DJ, 1932A-1, 1st printing, $2750.00
#22 Clue in the Crumbling Wall w/DJ, 1945A-1, 1st printing, $299.99
#3 The Bungalow Mystery w/DJ, 1933A-9, $251.99
#3 The Bungalow Mystery, blank endpapers, early printing, $152.49
#16 Clue of the Tapping Heels w/DJ, 1940A-4, $150.00
#11 The Clue of the Broken Locket w/DJ, 1934A-1, 1st printing, $118.49
#6 The Secret of Red Gate Farm, 1931C-2, blank endpapers, $92.50
#9 The Sign of the Twisted Candles w/DJ, 1933D-6, $91.00
#1 The Secret of the Old Clock, 1930D-4, blank endpapers, $89.88
#3 The Bungalow Mystery, 1930A-1, 1st printing, blank endpapers, $76.00
#5 The Secret at Shadow Ranch, 1931A-1, 1st printing, blank endpapers, $70.00

Dana Girls:

#1 By the Light of the Study Lamp w/DJ listing 3 titles, internals, $85.00
#5 The Secret at the Hermitage w/DJ, internals, $84.99
#6 The Circle of Footprints w/DJ listing 6 titles, internals, $84.99
#3 In the Shadow of the Tower w/DJ listing 3 titles, internals, $74.99
#17 The Witch's Omen, $66.00
#15 The Hundred-Year Mystery $19.95

Judy Bolton:

#33 The Secret Quest w/DJ, $53.99

Connie Blair:

#12 The Mystery of the Ruby Queens w/DJ $60.99
#5 The Green Island Mystery w/DJ $47.77
#8 The Gray Menace w/DJ $37.56
#4 The Secret of Black Cat Gulch w/DJ $25.00

Vicki Barr:

#15 The Mystery of Flight 908 w/DJ $134.99
#14 The Clue of the Carved Ruby w/DJ $40.99

All prices are from listings that ended with a winning bidder.

eBay Prices - Chalet School Series

Softcover Books:

#22 Chalet School and Rosalie GBP21.35 (~US$42.00)
#22 Chalet School and Rosalie AU$28.00 (~US$25.77)
#31 Changes for the Chalet School AU$56.00 (~US$51.55)
#30 Bride Leads the Chalet School AU$46.00 (~US$42.34)
#32 Joey Goes to the Oberland AU$31.00 (~US$28.54)
#58 Two Sams at the Chalet School AU$27.26 (~US$25.00)
#21 Tom Tackles the Chalet School AU$24.00 (~US$22.09)
#19 Jo to the Rescue AU$20.50 (~US$18.87)
#47 A Leader in Chalet School AU$20.00 (~US$18.41)
#54 Redheads at the Chalet School AU$18.50 (~US$17.00)
#25 Peggy of the Chalet School AU$14.50 (~US$13.35)
#10 Chalet School and the Lintons AU$14.50 (~US$13.35)
#51 Chalet School Triplets AU$13.50 (~US$12.43)

Hardcover Books:

#28 Shocks for the Chalet School GBP45.00 (~US$90.00)
#42 The Chalet School and Richenda AU$61.00 (~US$57.00)

Hardcover Books w/DJ:

#50 Feud in the Chalet School GBP64.53 (~US$127.00)
#15 Chalet School Goes to It GBP56.51 (~US$113.00)
#53 Jane and the Chalet School GBP46.54 (~US$93.00)
#16 Highland Twins at the Chalet School GBP41.00 (~US$82.00)
#18 Gay from China at the Chalet School GBP37.25 (~US$74.00)
#11 New House at the Chalet School GBP28.50 (~US$56.00)

All prices are from listings that ended with a winning bidder.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Final Thoughts on the Betty Gordon Series

I finished reading the Betty Gordon series. The last books in the series are not as good as the earlier books, but this does not mean that the last books are not good. The earlier books are outstanding, and the later books are just good or very good.

Volumes 1 through 11 are the ones that I consider to be outstanding. Most of these books had me hooked immediately and held my interest from beginning to end. There is one instance in which I had trouble getting into one of the first 11 books, and this occurred in Betty Gordon at Ocean Park. I found Sally Cutler's description of her father's circus to be overlong and tedious. The description takes up all of Chapter 3 and should have been cut done to a couple of pages at most. In all fairness, the book is a children's book, and the description would certainly have been of more interest to a child. Otherwise, I have no complaints about the first 11 books.

Volume 12, Betty Gordon and the Hale Twins, interested me greatly until the Hale twins are abandoned and thrust into Betty's care. From this point, the book centers a bit too much on the toddlers, and Betty and Bob are forced to act like parents as they care for the children. Their responsibility rather hinders them in their adventures. This is why series book heroes and heroines normally do not have young children in their care.

I had some trouble getting into volume 13, Betty Gordon at Mystery Farm, because of the strong Kentucky mountain dialect, as stated in a previous post. However, the book greatly redeemed itself by the second half, and Betty had some splendid adventures in some spooky passageways. I will remember Betty Gordon at Mystery Farm as a very good book.

I also greatly enjoyed volume 14, Betty Gordon at No-Trail Island, but I do have a complaint with the plot. The one vital piece of information about the whereabouts of Mrs. Britton's missing papers is completely ignored by Uncle Dick, Betty, and Bob the entire time that they search for the papers. On page 37, Mrs. Britton tells them that her husband exclaimed, "Martha! Papers under—" just as he died. This information is never mentioned again as the young people search for the papers. It never occurs to them to search for the papers under something. They search in a haphazard fashion, and it is quite by accident that the papers are found on page 201, under something. Nancy Drew would have done better; at least she would have remembered Mrs. Britton's comment and followed up on it.

Volume 15, Betty Gordon and the Mystery Girl, is another story that I had a little trouble getting into and caring about the plot. It had a weaker plot than most of the books in the series, but I did overall enjoy the story.

I enjoyed the Betty Gordon series more so than the Ruth Fielding series. My primary problem with the Ruth Fielding series is that Ruth is too independent, so there isn't quite as much jolly interaction between Ruth and her friends as there is between Betty and her friends. Also, Ruth's best friend, Helen Cameron, tends to be a bit annoying at times, kind of like Penny Parker's best friend, Louise Sidell.

In closing, I would highly recommend the Betty Gordon series to other series book enthusiasts. I will add a Betty Gordon section to my series book site soon. I need to finish writing around five of the summaries. I enjoyed each book so much that I was more interested in reading than in writing summaries.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kingsport Press File Copies

Kingsport Press in Kingsport, Tennessee was the bindery that printed all of the Grosset and Dunlap juvenile series books for a number of decades up until the mid-1980s. Occasionally, collectors will find books that were Kingsport Press file copies. These books have a label which is pasted to the inside front cover and gives information such as how many books were bound. This is very interesting information to have.

I recently bought a Judy Bolton book which is a file copy. The book is The Vanishing Shadow and is a tweed copy from 1961. The label is dated April 17, 1961, gives the printing as the 45th edition, and states that 10,000 books were bound. I was actually surprised that 10,000 copies were bound since I have heard that the Hardy Boys books had lower print runs than 10,000. It may perhaps be because it was the first title in the series, and the first title in any series consistently sells more copies.

I also have a file copy of the Nancy Drew book, The Witch Tree Symbol. The label is dated May 5, 1972 and states that the printing consisted of 10,000 copies. In this case, the number of books printed does not surprise me simply because the Nancy Drew series was probably the best-selling Grosset and Dunlap series.

Additionally, I have two file copies of the lavender spine Grosset and Dunlap library editions of the Nancy Drew series. Both of these file copy labels state that 2,500 books were printed. It makes sense that the library binding would have a lower print run than the regular editions.

If you ever run across a Grosset and Dunlap book which has a file copy label on the inside front cover, you have a book which contains valuable information for series book researchers.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Betty Gordon at Mystery Farm

I have finished reading Betty Gordon at Mystery Farm. The book did begin to redeem itself by around halfway through it. Overall, I ended up enjoying the book by the end. The "Kentucky mountain dialect" became more bearable the further into the book I read, and the story became more compelling. In one scene, I greatly enjoyed the dialect, simply because the entire scene was so ludicrous. From pages 100-101:
"Watch her!" jeered the old man bitterly. "Her kind needs watching. So clean and r'aring to get eddicated. My oldest sis wuz like that thirty years ago. Just as purty a gal! Just as—" he gulped and covered his unwilling emotion with a mutter. "But the eddication she got down civilization way ruined her and she turned agin her kin to marry a Stolling!" He spat out the word venomously. "And she dared to come and live with the varmint in these here mountains. I filled his arm full of shot once, but I could nevah reach his heart."

Betty looked at the man in horror, but he went on: "You'd bettah skip out and leave the farm to them as has a bettah right to it, for my dead sistah's spirit air roaming through the rooms a-crying for the sin she darst to do agin her own blood kin."

With this amazing statement, the big mountaineer started to stalk disdainfully away. But Bob restrained him.

"Look here!" cried the boy angrily. "It is you who should leave, not I. The farm belongs to me. What do you mean by talking in such a fashion? You're on my land right now, and I don't care for any of your insolence. Now go and don't let me catch you or your son hanging around here again or I will call the sheriff."

"You'd call the sheriff, huh? Ha! things have come to a purty pass when a feller cain't walk on his own land. This land should be mine, I tell you."

The mountaineer was working himself into a towering rage.

"Should be and being are two different things," said Bob coolly.

The man raised his gun to his shoulder, thought better of it, then, glowering, turned away, too full of rage for speech. But before the laurel bushes hid him from view he threw a parting shot: "My time air coming, youngster! And watch that woman! She and my sistah air made of the same tan bark!"

"Bogy-man! Bogy-man!" shrilled the boy, sticking his tongue at them before he, too, disappeared in the laurel.

"What disagreeable people!" cried Betty.
The sad thing is that I actually know a few people like that.

The first few chapters of the book were uninteresting and, at times, not very well-written. For instance, pages 13 and 14 contain this horrible paragraph:
It was fun to wander with Bob along the beautiful streets of Cleveland. It was fun to visit the different shops and ask Bob's opinion as to color and weight. It was fun to help select Bob's outfit. It was fun to pile their purchases into the car and hunt an ice-cream parlor. It was fun to linger over the tall parfait glasses and exchange confidences and plan for the trip into the Kentucky mountains, for Betty and Bob had had many good times together since they had first met at Bramble Farm.
Okay, I get it—it was fun. Now, can we move on?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dialect in Old Series Books

The old series books often have exaggerated dialect in them. Most frequently the dialect is "negro dialect" and is very unflattering to the character who speaks the dialect. Sometimes the dialect is that of a foreigner, such as a Chinese person, or that of someone who lives in the mountains or in the Deep South. I almost always find the various dialects to be extremely annoying because the words are spelled phonetically and have to be sounded out in order for the reader to interpret what the word is supposed to be. I am the type of person who prefers to read stories in which the words are spelled correctly. So to me, the dialects are pointless distractions from the story. Additionally, the dialects are almost always rather offensive.

I am now reading Betty Gordon at Mystery Farm. Betty Gordon, Bob Henderson, and Uncle Dick travel to the mountains of Kentucky to inspect a property that Bob has inherited. I am having to endure the "Kentucky mountain dialect" on almost every page of this book. I'm not used to seeing hit for it and sot for set—at least I think sot means set—I could be wrong. Needless to say, the dialect is obnoxious and slows down my reading. I will say that it is a little easier for me now since I'm around a third of the way through the book. However, I still don't like it.

Here is one sample from page 28:
"Hit's this-a-way, stranger. Thar's abandoned coal mines underneath. I heerd you-all coming down thar and I told Ramsey I knowed you wouldn't see hit quick enough, noway. I reckon you-all haven't been here afore? Have you?"
And another quote from page 32:
"I hope you won't think hard on me, for Gus is powerful sot agin me and my pappy. He called we-alls thieves. I reckon he ain't got no call to say that, noways. Me and my pappy nevah took nothing of his'n. You say now that the farm is yourn?"

I could give many more examples. I am glad that this book wasn't the first in the series. If it had been the first book, I might not have ever picked up another Betty Gordon. I am beginning to agree with people who have stated that the last few titles in the Betty Gordon series are not as good as the earlier titles. The series does seem to be on the decline with the books that I am currently reading.

To go back to the subject of dialects and how much they annoy me—it is in part because of the grossly-exaggerated "negro" dialects of Sam and Dinah that I have never been able to stomach reading the Bobbsey Twins books. I remember picking up one of the earliest Bobbsey Twins books, and Dinah spoke in such a way that it was extremely difficult to follow. Additionally, I noticed a certain word, which was spoken by Dinah, spelled phonetically on one page, and then spelled correctly when spoken by Dinah just a couple of pages later. It disgusted me that the author would belittle the character in such a way and not even be able to be consistent about it.

I did read and enjoy several of the revised-text Bobbsey Twins books as a child, so I am aware that the books are worthwhile. However, I remain unmotivated to build a set. I do not like the series books which were written for younger children quite as much as the ones which were written for older children.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The National Road

Having lived entirely in the South, I had never heard of the National Road until I read about it in Betty Gordon and the Hale Twins. This is one of the reasons I love series books; I am always learning something new. As Uncle Dick, Betty, and Bob travel on the National Road, Uncle Dick tells them about it:
"I doubt if many Americans know that the National Road is one of the greatest wagon roads in the world and was, at one time, the most widely known and heavily traveled road in the United States. In the old days, before the time of the 'steam king,' the coachman, blowing his bugle at every town, would dash up to the tavern, handling his four matched horses with masterly art. He would bring the latest gossip from the east or the news from the west while the teams were changing, then he would dash away over the mountains to the next tavern. Of course the stage-coach driver was a romantic figure to all children."
Uncle Dick goes on to explain that the road was planned to run from Cumberland, Maryland, to St. Louis, passing through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, but that the western part of the road was never finished.

On page 44:
"Oh, look!" exclaimed Betty. "What are those queer, little octagonal houses, Bob? I've noticed a number of them along the way."

"I've been wondering myself," replied Bob.

"Those are toll-houses," Richard Gordon explained. "In the olden days when the National Road was in the height of its power and glory, these toll-houses, supplied with strong iron gates swung to massive iron posts, were located about fifteen miles apart to enforce the payment of tolls for the upkeep of the National Road. A few of these toll-houses, relics of olden times, remain and are now kept up by the D. A. R."
This was all very interesting to me. I found some information about the National Road on several websites, including the National Road Heritage Corridor. I also found pictures of couple of the toll houses on this page of that site.

Chalet School Series eBay Prices

I have been busy building a set of the Chalet School Series books by Elinor Brent-Dyer. I am only seeking the hardcover books with intact dust jackets, so I'm going after the highest-priced books. I discovered early on that fixed-price sites like the Advanced Book Exchange are not the way to go. The prices on ABE are outrageous, and the books can be found for lower prices on eBay.

Part of the reason why the prices are so high on ABE is because the U.S. dollar is so weak against the British pound. The British dealers take their high-end prices which are sometimes already well above what the books would ever bring on eBay and then double the prices since the listings on ABE are in U.S. dollars. This makes for prices that are quite exorbitant.

Even on eBay, the prices are still quite steep due to the weakness of the dollar. However, the prices are lower and sometimes a bargain can be found.

Naturally, the first five or so titles in the series are the least expensive, and softcover versions can be had for under $5.00 before the postage cost is added. Hardcover versions of the first five books will run at least $10.00 before postage, and with intact dust jackets, the books will run $20.00-$40.00.

What I have noticed is that even the softcover versions of many of the mid-range titles in the series sell for rather high prices. I feel like there is no series in the United States that currently sells for these kind of prices consistently. It is amazing how collectible the Chalet School books are and how in demand they are. It makes me wonder why on earth none of them have ever been published in the United States.

I have made note of some of the recent higher selling prices of the Chalet School books so that others can get a feel for what these books are worth. Keep in mind that none of these prices include postage and that the postage cost would add around U.S.$10.00 to the selling price.

Softcover books:

#50 The Chalet School Reunion AU$142.50 (~U.S.$127.00)
#32 Chalet School Does It Again GBP46.00 (~U.S.$92.00)
#26 The Chalet School in the Oberland GBP20.00 (~U.S.$40.00)
#54 Summer Term at the Chalet School GBP36.00 (~U.S.$72.00)
#53 Adrienne and the Chalet School GBP26.00 (~U.S.$52.00)
#29 Joey Goes to the Oberland GBP20.00 (~U.S.$40.00)

Hardcover books with no dust jacket:

#38 Excitements at the Chalet School GBP31.00 (~U.S.$62.00)
#27 Bride Leads the Chalet School GBP27.00 (~U.S.$53.00)
#40 Chalet School and Richenda GBP24.12 (~U.S.$48.00)
#57 Althea Joins the Chalet School GBP23.09 (~U.S.$46.00)
#17 Lavender Laughs at the Chalet School GBP18.50 (~U.S.$36.00)
#3 Princess of the Chalet School GBP18.00 (~U.S.$36.00)
#10 Chalet School and the Lintons GBP16.00 (~U.S.$32.00)

Hardcover books with dust jacket:

#58 Prefects of the Chalet School GBP150.00 (~U.S.$300.00)
#46 Chalet School Wins the Trick GBP56.67 (~U.S.$113.00)
#41 Trials for the Chalet School GBP56.00 (~U.S.$112.00)
#35 A Chalet Girl from Kenya GBP51.00 (~U.S.$102.00)
#55 Challenge for the Chalet School GBP46.00 (~U.S.$92.00)
#50 The Chalet School Reunion GBP43.50 (~U.S.$86.00)
#36 A Problem for the Chalet School GBP37.80 (~U.S.$75.00)
#35 A Genius at the Chalet School GBP36.11 (~U.S.$72.00)
#16 Highland Twins at the Chalet School GBP30.00 (~U.S.$60.00)
#14 Chalet School in Exile GBP26.00 (~U.S.$52.00)
#21 Chalet School and the Island GBP25.00 (~U.S.$50.00)
#19 Jo to the Rescue GBP16.11 (~U.S.$32.00)
#5 The Rivals of the Chalet School GBP14.99 (~U.S.$30.00)

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Betty Gordon Learns a Lesson

I am now reading Betty Gordon and the Lost Pearls, which is volume 10 in the 15 title Betty Gordon series. In this book, Betty Gordon learns a valuable lesson about accepting rides from strange men. From pages 33-35:
"My name is Walter Brisket and my buddy's name is Sidney Gold," said the darkly handsome young man, taking a cigarette from a little blue and gold pasteboard box. He lighted the cigarette and leaned familiarly toward Betty, fixing his bold, questioning eyes upon her face.

"How about a date this evening?" he inquired. "The minute I set eyes on you I said, 'That is the girl for me!' "

"Oh!" exclaimed Betty, startled. She moved a little closer to Norma. Alice glanced back and Betty was aware that her friend's face was white with anxiety.

The car dashed madly on at the rate of sixty miles an hour.

Walter Brisket laughed loudly and edged nearer to Betty. "Must not spring the shy violet act. It isn't done these days, you know."

"Please sit over," demanded Betty, suddenly losing her temper. "I'm not springing any kind of an act and I'm not making dates. All I want is to get to Maysville. I shall gladly pay you for your trouble if you'll only behave yourself and get us there."

Walter Brisket laughed loudly.

"Pretty little spitfire! Pay? Pay? Your payment is goin' to be a kiss and I'm goin' to get payment in advance!"

He seized the indignant girl in his arms. Betty felt his foul breath upon her cheek, and she screamed in terror.

As Betty Gordon cried out in terror Alice and Norma screamed in sympathy. The whole affair seemed like some dreadful nightmare to the three schoolgirls.

Sidney Gold chuckled wickedly to himself and stepped on the gas. The car shot forward at such terrific speed that it swayed from side to side and was in danger of overturning.

"Make her kiss you, Walt!" Gold cried, with a grin. "Have your fun. You always were a winner with the girls!"
Fortunately, Betty, Alice, and Norma are able to escape from the automobile before anything does happen. Even so, this scene is quite unusual for a series book, particularly one from 1927. I am finding the Betty Gordon series to be remarkable in a number of different ways.

I continue to greatly enjoy the Betty Gordon series. So far I like the Betty Gordon series better than the Ruth Fielding series. On my ratings scale of 1 to 5 that can be found in a previous post, I would give the Betty Gordon series at least a 4. I still feel like the Betty Gordon series has a lot more in common with Trixie Belden than it does with Nancy Drew. Even so, the Betty Gordon series is a definite precursor to the Nancy Drew series. It is interesting to see how bits and pieces of both Ruth Fielding and Betty Gordon became Nancy Drew.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Betty Gordon and the Peabodys

When Betty and Bob left Bramble Farm during Betty Gordon in Washington, it troubled me that they left Mrs. Peabody behind with her mean, miserly husband. I felt like it was a stray loose end that needed tying. The one common thread through most all series books is that unhappy people who deserve happiness always manage to achieve some level of happiness. I wanted so much for something to happen to make things better for Mrs. Peabody!

During Betty Gordon in Mexican Wilds, Betty and Bob briefly revisit the Peabodys at Bramble Farm. They don't stay with the Peabodys; after all, Mr. Peabody hates them, and they are hardly welcome at the farm. Rather, Betty and Bob stay with Dr. Guerin and his family and go with Dr. Guerin one afternoon to Bramble Farm. I was very pleased that during Betty and Bob's brief visit with Mr. Peabody a confrontation occurred that resulted in Mrs. Peabody finally having something go right for her. I won't get into the specifics here as I don't want to spoil any details. The end result is that Mrs. Peabody's situation at the farm was going to be better from that point on and that she would have to put up with less out of Mr. Peabody.

I am so pleased that the series finally tied up that one loose end from the first two books.