Saturday, July 19, 2008

Thoughts on Beverly Gray Part II

Beverly Gray's Vacation was one of the books that the reviewer in MASR did not like. One of the reasons was because The Susabella goes to the rescue of another ship shortly before it reaches Canada. The rescue does not advance the plot in any fashion and is pointless aside from adding to the length of the book. This type of event frequently happens in the Beverly Gray series. To understand why, we must go back to the beginning of the series when it was first published by A. L. Burt.

In Yellowback Library, Issue No. 55, Anita Susan Grossman writes about the publishing history of the Beverly Gray series:
All in all, the correspondence with Burt reveals not only the astonishing speed of mail service by modern-day standards (letters pass between the New York office and Philadelphia and back in two days) but an equally commendable promptness with which the publisher read manuscripts submitted to them. The rapid pace set by the publisher--and followed by the author--found its counterpart in the plot of the Beverly Gray books themselves, where events follow one another in breathless, pell-mell fashion. A more demanding publisher might have asked about matters of coherence and plot logic, but from the written evidence, the Burt Company's chief concern was the number of words in the manuscript and the speed with which their commodity could be supplied to the juvenile market. Literary criticism was limited to general remarks in passing.
Also from the Yellowback Library article:
Within ten days Van Deventer reported that their reader enjoyed The Adventure Girls at K Bar O very much and "thought a series of this nature would be a good one to add to our list." How soon could she supply them with two other volumes of at least 45,000 to 50,000 words?
A. L. Burt apparently cared more about the length of the books and how quickly they could be published than the tightness of the plots. Since Clair Blank was asked to increase the length of her stories, she probably did this by adding events that were not necessary to the central plot. Each of the early Beverly Gray books is lacking a central plot that is followed from start to finish; rather, each story consists of several subplots that are loosely tied together. The typical Beverly Gray story often meanders from one unrelated event to another. I have to think that even Grosset and Dunlap did not make specific demands of Clair Blank, at least at first, as some of the Grosset and Dunlap books also have loosely-connected plots.

I did notice some changes in the Grosset and Dunlap books towards the end of the Beverly Gray series. In each of the earlier books, the main story arc (or the last part of the several unconnected story arcs) ends by at least one to two chapters before the end of the book. In the last one to two chapters, the story shifts into a new plot. This new plot is the lead-in for the next book.

By the final ten volumes in the series, the last chapter of the book resolves the plot of the current book, and there is no longer a chapter that leads into the next book. The final paragraph of each book may mention something about Beverly having further adventures, but there is not necessarily any indication of what the adventures will be. Some of the books have a short teaser that is placed after the end of the story, such as this one at the end of Beverly Gray's Vacation:
One of Beverly's most thrilling adventures lies ahead of her, as she and her gay companions set sail once more in the yacht Susabella. Don't miss the next exciting story, BEVERLY GRAY'S FORTUNE.
Another change that occurred is that the stories became shorter. The Burt books are around 250 pages each, longer than the usual Grosset and Dunlap series book, which in the 1930s, tended to be around 220 pages. The earlier Grosset and Dunlap titles up to Beverly Gray's Romance are around 230-250 pages. Beverly Gray's Quest and Beverly Gray's Problem are 210-220 pages long. Beverly Gray's Challenge is 207 pages. The rest of the books in the series are around 180 pages long.

—to be continued

No comments: