Sunday, April 27, 2008

Interesting Theory about Series Book Authors

In Issue 32 of The Mystery and Adventure Series Review, Fred Woodworth makes an interesting point. He mentions how, since he is in the printing business, he is aware of many instances in which a customer will pay someone to complete a print job and that person will farm the job out to someone else. The customer pays one person for the job and is unaware that the actual work was completed by someone else.

Woodworth makes the following comments:
A good guide in writing is style, and if several books sparkle and then two ludicrously dull-witted duds follow, all shown to be, by publisher's records, by the same author, then believe your own mind, not those records. If an author who cannot write at all suddenly, late in a series, produces two masterpieces in a row, assume a subcontractor.

Mainly, remember this: the truth is slippery. This is not to say that you can't get at it, but it IS to say that you don't stand a chance at all of getting at it unless you use YOUR OWN brain rather than someone else's. Be an independent thinker and a lone voyager, not a follower or a thought-commuter packed into an ignominious bus going in the common—and invariably wrong—direction.
In Issue 31, there was an article about the last 10 titles in the Beverly Gray series. The reviewer had no idea whether Clair Blank was a pseudonym for one or more than one person, and pointed out that some of the stories are uneven. For instance, a few of them have the usual extremely large cast of characters, and the reviewer expressed his disgust about their aimless wanderings in The Susabella. The comments about the accursed, idiotic boat were rather funny, and the reviewer expressed glee when the boat made its final voyage.

But I digress. The reviewer believed that the final volumes were written by more than one person since Beverly Gray's Secret and Beverly Gray's Island Mystery did not have the usual cast of characters, and Beverly worked primarily alone. What we now know that that Clair Blank was a real person who wrote the entire series—as far as we know. However, after reading the comments in both issues, I do have to wonder, what if? What if Clair Blank had someone else write a couple of books?

We do know of two instances in which the final volume of a series was not written by the person who received credit. Betty Cavanna stated that she did not write the final Connie Blair book, The Mystery of the Ruby Queens, but instead contracted to have someone else write it for her. We also know that the final Vicki Barr book, The Brass Idol Mystery, was written by Walter Gibson rather than by Helen Wells for the same reason.

The idea that the Beverly Gray books may not have all been written by Clair Blank is certainly something to consider. In fact, there is at least one instance in which the name of one of the major characters is incorrect. I have always passed it off as a just a random editorial mistake, but there is always a chance that it could have been something more. It is something to consider.

Friday, April 25, 2008

An Obituary for Harriet Adams

Today, I found a newspaper clipping of an obituary for Harriet Stratemeyer Adams tucked inside a Nancy Drew book.  Harriet Adams was the daughter of Edward Stratemeyer and took over the running of the Stratemeyer Syndicate in 1930 when her father died.  Mrs. Adams ran the Syndicate until her death in 1982.

During the 1970s, Mrs. Adams was very vocal about her role in writing the Nancy Drew books.  She claimed to be the author of all of the original 56 books, and her statements annoyed many people who knew that a few other people, including Mildred Wirt Benson, had written many of the manuscripts from outlines supplied by the Syndicate.  In fact, as I have been reading the editorials in various issues of The Mystery and Adventure Series Review from the 1980s, I have read quite a few bitter comments that some collectors made about Harriet Adams.

To get back to the obituary—needless to say, it has some glaring errors due to the statements that Mrs. Adams had made in the preceding years.  The clipping is from Monday, March 29, 1982, and Mrs. Adams had passed away on Saturday, March 27, 1982.  The text of the obituary follows (click on the image to read directly from the clipping):
Harriet S. Adams, who wrote nearly 200 children's books carrying on the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys and other series created by her father, died of a heart attack.

The Maplewood, N.J., resident was 89.

Mrs. Adams, who died Saturday night, was honored as mother of the year in 1979 but was better known by millions of readers as Carolyn Keene, the author of the Nancy Drew mysteries.

She inherited a flair for fiction from her father, Edward Stratemeyer, one of the most prolific writers of all time.

Her father wrote under many pseudonyms and was the creator of Tom Swift, the Bobbsey Twins, the Rover Boys, the Hardy Boys, Don Sturdy, Honey Bunch and even Nancy Drew, who was the heroine of three of his mystery novels.

His daughter later revised the three Nancy Drew books and then wrote all of the remaining novels featuring the young girl detective.

Carrying on her father's other series, Mrs. Adams also wrote under the pen name of Franklin W. Dixon for the Hardy Boys, Victor W. Appleton II for Tom Swift Jr., and Laura Lee Hope for the Bobbsey Twins.

In writing the Nancy Drew novels Mrs. Adams stuck to the cliff-hanger approach.

It was a successful formula for 50 years and more than 70 million copies of the books had been sold in the United States alone.  The Nancy Drew stories were translated into more than a dozen languages.

Mrs. Adams was born in Newark, N.J. on Dec. 6, 1894.  While attending Wellesley College, she worked as a student reporter for the Boston Globe.  A year after graduation from Wellesley in 1914, she married Russell V. Adams, an investment banker.

Stratemeyer died in 1930 and Mrs. Adams, who had been busy bringing up her children, immediately began working on the Nancy Drew series.
It has never bothered me that Mrs. Adams claimed more of the credit than perhaps she was due.  To Mrs. Adams, Nancy Drew was like her daughter, and she was very protective of Nancy Drew.  By the time Mrs. Adams was in her 80s, she very well may have convinced herself that she had written all of the original versions of the stories as well as the rewrites.

Additionally, as the head of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, it was Harriet Adams' duty to protect the interests of the Syndicate.  Since the Syndicate retained sole ownership of the stories, it was not in the Syndicate's interest for it to be known that many of the stories had been written by other people.  The point I'm making that I am very open-minded, and I do see Mrs. Adams' side of the story.

I feel that all of the people who contributed to the success of the Nancy Drew series were important.  Edward Stratemeyer created the series; Mildred Wirt Benson wrote most of the early books; Walter Karig wrote three of the early books; and Harriet Adams revised all of the original stories and wrote all of the new stories from the 1950s until her death in 1982.  Of all of these people, I feel that Harriet Adams' contribution was more significant than the others, simply because she kept the Nancy Drew series going for more than 50 years.  While she claimed too much credit, she rightfully deserved a large amount of credit for Nancy Drew's success.

While I am a big fan of Mildred Wirt Benson and feel that her influence on the early Nancy Drew books was significant and lasting, I have been concerned in recent years that Harriet Adams has been completely forgotten.  There are some people who feel that Mildred Wirt Benson deserves all of the credit for Nancy Drew's success.  Others say that it was Edward Stratemeyer who thought up the idea.  I want people also to remember the woman who kept the series going, who seems now to be all but forgotten.

Monday, April 21, 2008

April 2008 Penny Parker eBay Prices

Here are some recent prices for Penny Parker books on eBay:

#2 The Vanishing Houseboat, no DJ, $4.99
#3 Danger at the Drawbridge w/DJ, $33.29
#3 Danger at the Drawbridge, no DJ, $9.99
#4 Behind the Green Door w/DJ, $19.43
#5 Clue of the Silken Ladder w/DJ, $33.57
#7 The Clock Strikes Thirteen w/DJ, $43.57
#8 The Wishing Well w/DJ, $60.99
#9 Ghost Beyond the Gate w/DJ, $29.88
#10 Saboteurs on the River w/DJ, $12.72
#10 Saboteurs on the River, no DJ, $9.49
#12 Voice from the Cave w/DJ $36.79
#13 Guilt of the Brass Thieves w/DJ, $37.92
#16 Swamp Island, no DJ, $33.00
#16 Swamp Island, no DJ, $13.00

I have noticed that the Penny Parker books come up for sale far less often than they did around 5 to 6 years ago. The dust jackets have become particularly difficult to find. Most of these prices are lower than what I would normally expect to see.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

April 2008 Judy Bolton eBay Prices

There was a group of Judy Bolton auctions that ended this month in which the prices realized were outrageously high. They were higher than what we have seen in years and were reminiscent of eBay prices from around 7 to 10 years ago.

#33 The Secret Quest w/DJ, $480.00
#34 The Puzzle in the Pond w/DJ, $480.00, $66.78
#29 The Clue of the Broken Wing w/DJ, $279.00
#30 The Phantom Friend w/DJ, $265.00
#23 The Black Cat's Clue w/DJ, $192.50
#21 The Clue of the Stone Lantern w/DJ, $167.50
#25 The Haunted Road w/DJ, $157.50
#26 The Clue in the Ruined Castle w/DJ, $142.50
#33 The Secret Quest w/DJ, $100.00
#31 The Discovery at the Dragon's Mouth w/DJ, $96.00
#28 The Haunted Fountain w/DJ, $70.01
#32 The Whispered Watchword w/DJ, $55.22
#37 The Search for the Glowing Hand, $51.02
#36 The Pledge of the Twin Knights, $41.00
#24 The Forbidden Chest w/DJ, $37.49
#22 The Spirit of Fog Island w/DJ, $34.33
#27 The Trail of the Green Doll w/DJ, $32.05

What happened is that one person placed an early bid on each book, and this person's bid was extremely high. It was probably what we like to call a nuclear bid—a bid that is so high that no one can beat it. The person that did this probably has a high income and does not care how much the books end up costing. The second highest bidder continued to bid on the books, trying to outbid the first bidder. This is how a couple of books ended up at $480.00. Bidder #2 finally gave up and let Bidder #1 have them.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Betty Cavanna's Thoughts about Connie Blair

I have been perusing old issues of The Mystery and Adventure Series Review that I purchased recently. In the Summer 1985 issue, #16, Betty Cavanna wrote a letter to the editor.
Dear Mr. Woodworth: I have recently returned from a trip to China, followed by a summer on Martha's Vineyard, to find the back issues of your very interesting and novel publication, along with your cordial letter.

I had fun writing the Connie Blair series, which was off my beaten track but attempted in an effort to improve the writing in this genre. They sold quite well in hard-cover and paperback for a number of years, but were eventually dropped when the women's lib movement accelerated to the point where children's books came under scrutiny.

Connie, alas, in one of the books apparently used her attractive appearance as a stepping stone to a better job. What a gaffe! Girls are supposed to get ahead on their own ability, never on their good looks.

I think it is both entertaining and interesting that you've reviewed the series in your magazine.

—Betty Cavanna (Mrs. Elizabeth C. Harrison)

Each author has a slightly different take on why his or her series was discontinued by Grosset and Dunlap during the 1960s. Margaret Sutton, Helen Wells, and others felt that their series were discontinued due to pressure placed upon Grosset and Dunlap by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. From the above letter, Cavanna apparently blamed it on the feminist movement.

In truth, Grosset and Dunlap was lax in its promotions for its various series. The publisher had a successful enterprise in which it did not have to do anything in order to keep making sales, particularly for the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books. Lack of promotion is most likely the reason why all of the independent series ended. Ultimately, the Stratemeyer Syndicate sold the publishing rights to new titles in its series to Simon and Schuster since it was dissatisfied with Grosset and Dunlap's lack of promotion. From 1979 on, all new Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys titles have been published by Simon and Schuster. Grosset and Dunlap maintains the rights to just the original hardcover titles of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Relaunch of Sweet Valley High

Bantam Books just released the revised 25th Anniversary editions of the first two Sweet Valley High books, Double Love and Secrets. The stories follow the same plots as the original Sweet Valley High books, but the texts have been completely rewritten and modernized. Sound familiar? These "new" books are to the original Sweet Valley books what the revised Nancy Drew books are to the original versions. There are excerpts of the books available on Click here and here to view the Amazon listings and read the excerpts of the first two books. Volumes 3 and 4 will be released later this year, and excerpts from those books are also available. There is an interesting review of the rewrites in New York Magazine. The reviewer, Sarah Weinman, makes the following statement:
But by bogging the stories down in endless brand names and pop-culture references, Pascal's new-generation ghostwriter team misses the point: Liz & Jess were never meant to be contemporary, never mind middle-class West Coast Gossip Girls. They were bitchier Bobbsey Twins, more glamorous Donna Parkers, Nancy Drews who (usually) didn't solve crimes. By staying quaint they stayed timeless, palatable to legions of fans wanting teenage kitsch with a dollop of earnestness.
I agree totally. The early Sweet Valley High books have a timeless quality about them. On my website, I mention that the Nancy Drew series and the Sweet Valley series have the same target audience—only separated by 50 years. There are many similarities between the original Nancy Drew books and what we must now refer to as the original Sweet Valley High books. Nancy Drew is perfect and so are the Wakefields of Sweet Valley. Nancy Drew and the Wakefields live in a world that revolves around them and are held up as superior to everyone else. Nancy Drew's father is an attorney and so is Mr. Wakefield. Mr. Wakefield is even named Ned.....hmmm. And now we have one more important similarity: the Sweet Valley series must endure the same revisions as did Nancy Drew.

Since I read Sweet Valley High in the mid-1980s, I, of course, do not approve of these new-fangled stories. I read the excerpts with great interest, but it is not my Sweet Valley. It is because of how I feel about Sweet Valley post-volume 35 or so that I recently came to understand how older fans of Nancy Drew feel. I could always accept that they like the original text Nancy Drew books better because those are the ones that they read as children, but I didn't completely understand their feelings. I couldn't understand how the revised Nancy Drew was not at all Nancy Drew. I read the revised text Nancy Drew books, so I like all of them.

Since I can't stand reading the high-numbered Sweet Valley High books simply because it isn't the same as the ones I read (insert temper-tantrum here), I now understand exactly how original text Nancy Drew fans feel. Boy, do I ever understand.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

RARE Nancy Drew Cameo and Applewood Editions

One of my pet peeves is the overuse of the word rare to describe vintage series books on eBay. By definition, the word rare refers to something that seldom occurs—something that is infrequent. In the world of book collecting, a rare book is a book that comes up for sale once or twice every 10 years. Some people state that a truly rare book is one that a dealer will see only once or twice in his or her entire career. On eBay, the word rare is grossly overused. I understand why sellers use it; it draws people into viewing the listing, and it is shorter than the word scarce. I am one of those sellers who refuses to use the word unless I feel that a book is extremely uncommon. I am certain that this causes me to get fewer views on my listings, but I wish to avoid misleading buyers about the scarcity of certain books. The word rare is used on a majority of the listings for the Nancy Drew Cameo Editions (the book club editions illustrated by Polly Bolian) and the Applewood Facsimile Editions. These books are up for sale on eBay nearly all of the time. They cannot possibly be rare when they are always available. Granted, an occasional week or two may pass when a certain title may not be up for sale, but it does show up again and again. I just looked at closed eBay auctions for the last two weeks. For completed listings, it is only possible to search the titles, so I am likely missing a few books. I found the following listings for Cameo Editions: Wooden Lady w/DJ, closed 3/30/08 at $31.50 Wooden Lady w/DJ, closed 4/05/08 at $47.50 Wooden Lady, no DJ, closed 4/05/08 at $15.00 Scarlet Slipper, no DJ, closed without a buyer, 3/25/08 Ringmaster's Secret, no DJ, closed 4/01/08 at $0.99 Golden Pavilion, no DJ, closed 4/03/08 at $12.49 Golden Pavilion w/DJ, closed without a buyer, 4/05/08 Hidden Staircase w/DJ, closed 4/05/08 at $74.99 Witch Tree Symbol w/DJ, closed without a buyer, 4/05/08 Hidden Window, closed without a buyer, 4/05/08 Haunted Showboat, closed 4/05/08 at $15.00 There are several current listings that offer Cameo Editions: Lot of 5 with Velvet Mask, Scarlet Slipper, Hidden Window, Golden Pavilion, Witch Tree Scarlet Slipper w/DJ Witch Tree Symbol w/DJ Lot of 4 with Old Clock, Witch Tree Symbol, Velvet Mask, Hidden Window So, they are out there. Yes, they are scarce, and supply is less than demand. What I have noticed is that some buyers are now paying high prices for Cameo Editions that have reproduction dust jackets—sometimes as high as $100. Conversely, the Cameo Editions that have their original dust jackets seem to sell for lower prices than some of the ones with reproduction dust jackets. This is one of the most bewildering observations about eBay auctions. Let's go on to the RARE Applewood Editions which are selling for outrageously high prices. I searched completed listings for the last two weeks, again title only, and I came up with a total of 48 books. I have decided not to list all of them here as it would be too time-consuming. The very fact that there are 48 closed listings of Applewood Editions proves that the books are not rare. The prices range from a few dollars for a few scattered books up to near $100 for some of them. The sad thing is that several of the books that sold for under $10 were sold to someone who will be placing them back up for sale in a few weeks at grossly-inflated prices—and I'm sure the books will sell at the higher prices when that occurs. For current listings of Applewood Editions, there are 21 auctions plus 53 eBay store listings. The Applewoods are plentiful and are always up for sale, but for some reason people are willing to pay huge prices for them. I have been trying to figure out why some buyers seem to value the Applewood Facsimile Editions more highly than they do the older books which have the original dust jackets. Most collectors want to obtain older printings, especially first printings, as the older a book is, the closer it is to the author and the origin of the book. It is for the same reason that people collect autographs of celebrities. So why do so many newer Nancy Drew collectors want to pay far higher prices for the recent Applewood Editions than they do for the older editions? All that I can guess is that these people want something that is new and pristine, yet has the old artwork.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Japanese Editions of Series Books Part II

To the left is a Japanese edition of a Connie Blair book. This one was left out of the previous post, and I was not about to try adding yet another image to that post. It is terribly difficult to get multiple images placed in a single blog post and have the post look even halfway decent.

Japanese Editions of Series Books

I found a website that appears to be in Japanese (at least this is what stated when I queried it for information concerning the site). The website has information about the Japanese editions of several American series and includes scans of a few books. Since I do not read Japanese, I cannot translate any of the text, but I can view the images just fine. The pages are:
Penny Parker:

Kay Tracey:

Connie Blair:

Beverly Gray:

I have copied the scans here, mainly in case the site disappears, as web content frequently does. The three scans along the upper left are all Vicki Barr books. The three scans along the upper right are all Kay Tracey books. The scan at the lower left is a Penny Parker book. The scan at the lower right is a Beverly Gray book.

The format of this post is rather messy, as I have very little control over where Blogger will allow me to place my images.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Inscriptions and Bookplates

There are some collectors who seek pristine copies of books for their collections, and one of their most important stipulations is that their old books have no writing inside. I have never minded inscriptions; in fact, I tend to like books that contain inscriptions. The inscriptions give the current owner a glimpse into the past history of the book.

Sometimes I will keep a book in my collection solely because of a certain inscription or bookplate that I rather like. Pictured at the right is one such bookplate. It is pasted to the inside front cover of a solid blue Nancy Drew book from the late 1940s that has the blue silhouette endpapers. The book has no dust jacket and is worn. Since I own many nice, dust-jacketed Nancy Drew books, I have no use for the book. I have kept it only because of the delightful bookplate. The bookplate reads:

The errant cat,
though oft astray

Comes back to home

at last one day,

Ah, may this book

when lent be feline

Enough to make

a homeward beeline!
My copy of The Curious Quest by Virginia Fairfax has a message inside it from the original owner, and I have kept this particular book instead of another one that I later acquired that was in slightly better condition. On the reverse side of the front free endpaper, the original owner, Elaine Fredrick, wrote her name and address. Underneath her address, Elaine wrote, "Better look at page 89 if you find this book—"

The message sounded rather ominous, so of course my reaction when I first read the message was to do exactly what Elaine wanted me to do. I turned to page 89. On page 89, Elaine had written "turn over a leaf" and so I turned to the next page. On page 90, Elaine had written, "You are a thief."

Ouch! While the message is kind of rude, actually, it delights me each time that I read it. I didn't steal the book, Elaine! I bought it on eBay, fair and square! It was probably sold at your estate sale to a dealer who in turn sold it to me.

I love reading messages such as Elaine's which reveal exactly how much the original owner cherished his or her books.

I also love reading inscriptions which reveal how much a mother or father loved their son or daughter. I bought a book that had an inscription from a mother to her daughter. The mother wrote, "For 'our Janie.' " The quotes around "our Janie" said it all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Late March 2008 eBay Prices

Nancy Drew:

#2 The Hidden Staircase w/DJ, blank endpapers edition, $343.88
#3 The Bungalow Mystery w/DJ, blank endpapers edition, $355.00
#4 The Mystery at Lilac Inn w/DJ, 1931B-5, blank endpapers edition, $405.01
#7 The Clue in the Diary, blank endpapers edition, no DJ $560.00
#12 The Message in the Hollow Oak w/3rd art DJ (Nappi art), $62.16
#16 The Clue of the Tapping Heels w/DJ, 1st printing, $202.50

Penny Parker:

Complete set of 17 books, 16 w/DJ $450.00
Hoofbeats on the Turnpike w/DJ, $13.63

Outdoor Girls:

Hostess House w/duotone DJ, $25.38
Wild Rose Lodge w/color DJ, $15.00
Ocean View w/duotone DJ, $20.50
in Florida w/plain DJ, $12.38

Kay Tracey:

In the Sunken Garden, 1940s DJ, $18.51
Mansion of Secrets, 1940s DJ, $26.00

Judy Bolton:

The Pledge of the Twin Knights, picture cover, $89.99
The Puzzle in the Pond w/DJ, $66.00
Seven Strange Clues w/DJ, glossy internals, $62.00
The Whispered Watchword, picture cover, $55.77
The Phantom Friend w/DJ, $42.05
The Whispering Belltower, $41.00
The Clue of the Stone Lantern w/DJ, $35.00
The Living Portrait w/DJ, $37.27
The Spirit of Fog Island w/DJ, $32.69
The Puzzle in the Pond, picture cover, low grade, $34.65
The Secret of the Musical Tree w/DJ, $33.76
The Trail of the Green Doll w/DJ, $31.00
The Clue of the Broken Wing, no DJ, $31.00

Dana Girls:

#30 The Phantom Surfer, 1960s PC, $93.92
#9 The Clue in the Cobweb, possible 1st printing, w/DJ, $76.04
#28 Mystery of the Wax Queen, 1960s PC, $35.50
#29 The Secret of the Minstrel's Guitar, 1960s PC, $34.99

Trixie Belden:

#39 Galloping Ghost, $76.00
#39 Galloping Ghost, $75.90
#39 Galloping Ghost, $71.00
#39 Galloping Ghost, $66.60
#38 Indian Burial Ground, $83.50
#38 Indian Burial Ground, $76.00
#37 The Pet Show Mystery, $57.00
#37 The Pet Show Mystery, $52.79
#37 The Pet Show Mystery, $50.00
#37 The Pet Show Mystery, $41.00
#36 Antique Doll, $41.50

Blythe Girls:

Disappearance of Helen w/DJ, $67.99

Late March 2008 Chalet School Prices

All prices reflect auctions that closed with a winning bidder. I have listed just the higher selling prices.

Softcover reprints from the last 10 years:

#32 The Chalet School Does It Again, GBP87.00 (~US$174.00)
#14 The Chalet School in Exile GBP50.00 (~US$100.00)
#14 The Chalet School in Exile GBP43.00 (~US$86.00)
#53 Adrienne and the Chalet School AU$79.00 (~US$72.14)
#27 Bride Leads the Chalet School GBP31.00 (~US$62.00)
#28 Changes for the Chalet School GBP30.00 (~US$60.00)

Hardcover without Dust Jacket:

#52 Redheads at the Chalet School GBP33.10 (~US$66.00)

Hardcover with Dust Jacket:

#19 Jo to the Rescue, 1st printing, GBP82.00 (~US$164.00)
#58 Prefects of the Chalet School GBP78.16 (~US$156.00)
#56 Two Sams at the Chalet School GBP59.99 (~US$120.00)
#34 Mary Lou of the Chalet School GBP51.00 (~US$102.00)
#34 Mary Lou of the Chalet School GBP47.11 (~US$94.00)
#2 Jo of the Chalet School GBP36.00 (~US$72.00)
#4 The Head Girl of the Chalet School GBP31.50 (~US$63.00)
#19 Jo to the Rescue GBP30.00 (~US$60.00)
#18 Gay from China at the Chalet School GBP25.98 (~US$52.00)
#32 A Genius at the Chalet School GBP25.00 (~US$50.00)