Friday, December 23, 2011
Nancy Drew #5 The Secret at Shadow Ranch
I love the mystery of Dirk Valentine's missing treasure. This mystery has always been one of my favorites. As with Lilac Inn, I have always preferred the revised text.
I have always disliked the original text, although upon this reading, I viewed it much more favorably than previously. I have already mentioned that my reading of the early Stratemeyer Syndicate series in recent years has changed my perspective. This reading was the first time I had ever read the original text Shadow Ranch since reading all of the early series books.
Edward Stratemeyer died as the first three Nancy Drew books were published. Harriet Adams and Edna Stratemeyer Squier had to scramble to get their father's business under control in the months after he died. During the first few months, Edward Stratemeyer's secretary, Harriet Otis Smith, was responsible for keeping the business going. Lilac Inn was the first Nancy Drew book published after Stratemeyer's death, but that book had already been written by Mildred Wirt, and Otis Smith edited it.
Grosset and Dunlap wanted the next book in the series, the one that was to become Shadow Ranch. The trouble is that Shadow Ranch had no outline, and nobody knew what story Stratemeyer had wished to tell. On page 133 of Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, Melanie Rehak gives Stratemeyer's description of Shadow Ranch: "A thrilling tale of mysterious doings at various places in the valley and around the ranch. It remained for Nancy Drew to solve some perplexing situations."
Otis Smith wrote up an outline based on that vague description. Since Shadow Ranch reads so much like an Outdoor Girls book, I wonder whether Otis Smith could have gotten some ideas from an outline for an Outdoor Girls book and changed it up for Nancy Drew. She also could have used an outline for Billie Bradley or Betty Gordon, which were still in print during the early 1930s but soon ended. It would be reasonable to assume that some outlines for those series were never used for books in those series. They could have been used for Nancy Drew. This is pure speculation on my part, but I see such a strong similarity in tone between the original text Shadow Ranch and early Stratemeyer books that I feel this to be a possibility.
Back to my thoughts about the story. The original text Shadow Ranch has some crazy, improbable coincidences that go beyond any of the coincidences in the revised text. For instance, Alice Regor is looking for her father, who is found near Shadow Ranch, and it happens that Alice's father went missing because of the actions of Martha Frank and her brother, which occurred in a completely different part of the country. Yet somehow, Martha and her brother show up near Shadow Ranch, while Alice's father also shows up near Shadow Ranch unknown to them. Next, Nancy and her friends also show up at Shadow Ranch with Alice, and everything randomly falls into place. This kind of crazy coincidence is how all of the early Stratemeyer Syndicate books are, and as I already stated, I have a suspicion that the idea for this story came from one of those series.
If you are someone who enjoys the original text Shadow Ranch, I suggest that you try some of the Outdoor Girls books, say the second half of the series which are the best books. The Outdoor Girls books are great vintage stories that have the same tone as the original text Shadow Ranch. I always have to get in a good word about the Outdoor Girls series, which is a great series that is not collected by very many people.