Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Revisiting Quarry Ghost Part 2

I have a carbon copy of a letter Mildred Benson wrote to her editor at Dodd Mead concerning the rewriting of Quarry Ghost. The letter is dated October 3, 1958.
I have the first chapter rewritten on GHOST and am awaiting the complete manuscript. It will be possible, I think, in the early chapters to make use of the old pages, or some of them, which will greatly reduce re-copying time. The second half of the manuscript will be the trying part.

The scientific material will give the story more substance and I believe, is an improvement on the tin soldier idea. Anyway, the story is starting out with promise--and hard work!
I wish we could see the original manuscript to get an idea of how the tin soldier idea would have played out. I find it interesting that Quarry Ghost was rewritten after the original manuscript was finished. This is from a letter written by Benson's editor, Dorothy M. Bryan, on October 28, 1958:
I hope that, now it is all over, you feel the change was a wise one. I would not want you to be unhappy about it. I do feel that it is better to try for a more permanent value and an underlieing [sic] substance, in addition to the entertainment aspect in our young books, particularly since over eight per cent of our sales are to institutions, such as libraries, state reading circles, school libraries, etc. I certainly do not want any author to feel "pushed around" by me, though!
It sounds like Dorothy Bryan was a nice editor.

This is from Bryan's letter to Benson from December 2, 1958:
Your manuscript for QUARRY GHOST has gone to the printer and now I can take time to congratulate you on your good rewriting. All the ends seem safely tied together. I checked on the long hair for the Ghost and the turkey egg for Cookie. Also, I straightened out any other minor inconsistencies. The only thing that I could not explain was how a group of boys could stay away from school on a weekday and huddle around the police while they were searching the quarry and not be questioned or even sent packing off to school for playing hookey!

The most important fact is that your story seems to have more substance now - your heroine more character. I think that the touch of the dinosaur egg will intrigue more readers. I know how much interest the fact that the young hero of another of our books wants to become an archaeologist has aroused, particularly in the libraries and schools.


I think that you are going to be delighted with the jacket for your book. The artist works for the Ford Company and Coca Cola and he has made an intriguing watery scene with a flash of excitement.
The main reason I decided to read Quarry Ghost again is that I could not remember the exact details about the turkey egg or the long hair on the Ghost. As I suspected, the editor must have been checking up on whether dinosaur eggs are at all similar to turkey eggs in appearance.

Long hair is mentioned at one point in the book, but I do not know of more than one occurrence. It may be that an inconsistency was removed. For instance, it is possible that the hair could have been short in one scene and long in another.

I really enjoyed revisiting Quarry Ghost. This book is well worth purchasing, if you can find one. It was published in both hardcover and softcover editions. The softcover version, while quite scarce, is normally less expensive than the hardcover edition. The UK edition, Kristie at College, is also a relatively inexpensive way to acquire a copy.


Paula said...

You have gotten me very interested in reading this book! I'm going to keep my eye out for a reading copy. If she were writing today, perhaps Wirt would be in the ranks of Mary Higgins Clark and other successful mystery writers.

Sorry this is off topic, but there are two things :

1) There is a special right now on ebay - listing fee for collectible books is 5 cents regardless of starting price. Starting today up through June 9. Link for details:

2) Has anyone else noticed that there have been quite a few Nancy Drew auctions on ebay that the seller "ends early" due to errors or whatever, and then doesn't relist? I have the feeling that it's a case of illegal, off-ebay, pre-bid sniping in at least some of the cases. It's usually an inexperienced seller (in regard to ND books), with a desirable item or lot of books. I put it on my watch list and - whoosh! -it's ended! Not with "Buy It Now" but with the seller ending the listing early. I have watched the items for days afterwards and they usually are not relisted. I realize that the seller may have sold the item in another marketplace, but it has happened with enough frequency now, that I am getting annoyed and suspicious (as any true Nancy Drew fan would ;D ). Here's the latest one to tumble down my watch list: Item 250430571815. I guess the only way to prevent this is to bid right away on items I want. Anyone else have this happen to them?

Jennifer White said...

It's usually an inexperienced seller (in regard to ND books), with a desirable item or lot of books. I put it on my watch list and - whoosh! -it's ended! Not with "Buy It Now" but with the seller ending the listing early.

This does frequently happen. This is why on the message boards people recommend that sellers never ever end auctions early due to a private offer. The person making the offer is always looking out for himself or herself and not the seller.

Some people like to play dirty. This does not happen nearly so much with series books as it does in other collecting circles. I have had some bad experiences in another area of interest in which someone who pretended to my friend would get auctions closed so that I wouldn't have a chance at them. I'll spare you the details as it would take a lot of explaining. The point is that some people are very dishonorable.

I like to play fair since I do care what others think of me. I may outbid some of you sometimes, and I always bid at the end so that sellers can't shill me, but I never get auctions closed behind people's backs. Everyone has a chance at anything I want.

I was pretty lucky that I was able to buy something today that is rare. Yes, rare! I didn't notice the auction until yesterday, and it could have disappeared in the six days before I noticed it. I actually was worried since last night that it would disappear, but someone had bid on it, so I was hopeful that it would last until the end, which it did. I checked on it a number of times to make certain it was still there. It's a Nancy's Mysterious Letter book with a dust jacket with the incorrect number 2 on the spine! Those types of items get pulled so often when people make private offers.

Here's the latest one to tumble down my watch list: Item 250430571815.

The auction you mentioned is odd. I had noticed it right after it was listed. The Buy It Now was a little steep, in my opinion, but the opening bid was reasonable. It is odd that the listing disappeared. My thought is that someone made a private offer, but that offer would have surely been for below the Buy It Now. Why would the seller have closed the auction to accept a lower amount?

I guess the only way to prevent this is to bid right away on items I want.

When an extremely desirable and truly rare book that I badly want comes up for sale, I do often place an early bid just to prevent (hopefully) the auction from getting closed early. I checked on it a number of times to make Sometimes it is more important to keep the listing open than to hide one's interest in the listing.

Paula said...

Yes, I saw the rare Mysterious Letter - congratulations on your win! I was watching it just to see what would happen. This is part of the fun of the auction format - even if you're not buying or selling it's fun to watch sometimes....

I never feel resentful when I'm outbid - usually that just means someone valued the item more. But the early closings are annoying - as you said, the seller should realize that a private offer is being made for a reason and it's not to help out the seller.

I just read a Deborah Knott's mystery called "Slow Dollar". The term was new to me. It means some sellers would rather wait and get more money for their items, the "slow dollar", while others would rather just take the "quick dime". Private offers that get the auction closed early are counting on sellers taking the quick dime. What kind of person makes private offers? I guess they think they are outsmarting everyone but it is really a low thing to do IMO. Some people have no scruples.

The item I mentioned was a bad example - may have been a legitimate early close - but you knew what I was talking about. Thanks for your thoughtful comments on the topic!

Amanda K Allen said...

First, let me just say: THANK YOU! I love your blog!

And now, to business: I'm fascinated by the two letters from Dorothy Bryan that you quote in this blog entry. Could you please tell me where those letters are from? Are they published anywhere?

I'm at the very beginning of researching Maureen Daly (alas, not a series writer, but still a force for girls in 1942!), and Dorothy Bryant was her editor. If you could point me in the direction of any information about Bryant, I'd much appreciate it!

Jennifer White said...

I can give you the letterhead information on the letter, although I don't know if decades-old information would be helpful at all.

Dodd, Mead & Company Incorporated
Publishers since 1839

Editorial and Business Offices:
432 Fourth Ave., N.Y., 16

Receiving and Shipping: 601 West 26th St., N.Y. 1

Canadian Branch: 25 Hollinger Road, Toronto 16, Canada

Cable Address: Dodd, New York

The above is all of the information in the letterhead.

The letters are both signed:

Dorothy M. Bryan
Director of Books for Young Readers

All of the content of the letters pertains to Quarry Ghost, so there is no information in them about Dorothy Bryan herself.

Amanda K Allen said...

I'm SO embarrassed by the terrible delaying in replying... but I just wanted to say:

Thank you!

Right now, all the little bits of information that I can gather are helpful!