Friday, March 30, 2012

Nancy Drew #17 Brass Bound Trunk

The revised text of Nancy Drew #17, Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk, has always been one of my favorites. I am happy to report that upon this reading, my memories of the book held up.

The book does not feel choppy or flat like some of the revised text books. The revised text books that have the same story as the original text books suffer from the attempt to take the original text and cut it down to fewer pages. Red Gate Farm is one of the rare exceptions in which all the good parts were kept so that it is just as good as the original text.

Other revised text books, like Brass-Bound Trunk, are completely different stories from the original text. I would like to say that the ones that were completely rewritten have smoother, more interesting stories than the revised text books that were heavily edited, but this is not true. Hollow Oak is a revised text book that is completely different from the original text, and it is pretty bad.

For whatever reason, the revised text Brass-Bound Trunk is very good. It might perhaps be due to the enthusiasm of Harriet Adams and Nancy Axelrad after their cruise in which they saw a total solar eclipse. That cruise trip was part of the research for the revision of Brass-Bound Trunk, but instead, the main material gathered was used for The Bobbsey Twins on the Sun-Moon Cruise. Despite the change in plans, the revision for Brass-Bound Trunk has the setting of a cruise just like the original text, and some ideas gleaned during Adams and Axelrad's cruise were likely still used. The best writing comes when a writer is enthusiastic about the idea, and it shows in this revised text story.

I enjoy the clandestine searches for hidden jewels in the mysterious brass-bound trunk. I particularly like the camaraderie between Nancy, Bess, and George and their new friends, Nelda Detweiler and Rod Havelock. Most Nancy Drew revised text books keep the mystery solving to the core group of six, Nancy, Bess, George, Ned, Burt, and Dave, which grows a bit tiring. This book makes for a pleasant change.

I have nothing bad to say about the revised text.

In the original text, Nancy sails to South America on a cruise with the girls from Laurel Hall. Just like in the revised text, the story involves two trunks that look almost identical, this time Nancy and Nestrelda's. At times, the trunk switching is a bit silly. In particular, Bess has trouble figuring out which trunk is Nancy's on page 147, but she finally points out the correct trunk. As Bess is watching, the man grabs the wrong trunk, and she says nothing, thus causing more problems. Seriously?

On pages 61-62, a young man randomly recites a limerick. Nancy Drew books usually do not have limericks. In the revised text, Bess makes up two short rhymes on pages 22 and 23. I guess the revision needed to have at least one rhyme like in the original text.

On page 193 of the original text, Nancy is allowed to go into another person's hotel room to check on her trunk. The hotel employee allows this, even though he has never seen Nancy before and can have no way of knowing whether Nancy is telling the truth. This seems strange.

The original text has some qualities that remind me of the Dana Girls and Kay Tracey books. In this case, the similarities to those series are not nearly as strong as with some original text books that were completely rewritten, such as Broken Locket. This particular original text book could probably have been revised with the same story intact and have remained a good book. Nevertheless, I am glad that the Stratemeyer Syndicate chose instead to do a complete rewrite of this title, since the revised text has always been one of my very favorite Nancy Drew books.

This brings me to the question of which text is better. The original text is a solidly good book. I do not believe that I liked it a great deal when I read it years ago, but I very much enjoyed it this time. I also enjoyed the revised text just as much.

The stories are not the same, and they cannot be fairly compared since the lengths are different. Certainly, the original text is more detailed and descriptive, and as we know, was written by a better author. Regardless, both stories are very good, so good that I put them on approximately the same level.

Since I have always dearly loved the revised text, I have to give it my vote for the better book.


Mike G said...


I just wanted to put in a brief comment. I have been enjoying your originals vs revised text commentaries. For the vast majority, I think you have been right on target. I still disagree with Lilac Inn. I really enjoyed evil Mary Mason on the boat with Nancy. I thought it was quite inspiring to have a female character be so cruel -- it seems a little ahead of it's time for early 1930s. Being from a Midwest city, on a river, the idea of the revised version having a submarine that could navigate the river seemed pretty farfetched, (and still does)!

As far as Brass Bound Trunk, I felt the original text writing lacked authenticity about any description of Buenos Aires. I never really felt that the writer made me feels like the characters were actually in Argentina, perhaps because originally the plan was to have the ocean cruise to Europe. I also felt similarly with the Beverly Gray volumes when the characters were abroad, such as in China.

I am greatly looking forward to giving the revised edition another chance. I originally read it in the late 1970s, when I was becoming more and more disappointed with the newer volumes (and internal artwork!). I haven't read it (or most of volumes 52-56) since. Based on your recommendation, I'll give it another chance with a more open mind.


Jennifer said...

Now that you mention it, a submarine in a river is unlikely. It would probably work fine in the Mississippi but would be very difficult in other rivers. I can tell you that it would be totally impossible here in Oklahoma. Our "rivers" are more like glorified creeks. The only time they look anything like rivers is right after a rain.

Good point about Buenos Aires.

I am finding that upon this reading, I have enjoyed several of the original text books much more than I did years ago. As I explained in one of my earlier reviews, the fact that I have read so many girls' series from before the time of Nancy Drew has made me much more open to enjoying the original text stories.

As I mentioned in this post, I am pretty sure that I did not like the original text of Brass Bound Trunk very much when I first read it. I was pleased that I enjoyed it this time. Perhaps you will be able to enjoy the revised text of Brass Bound Trunk much more than you did years ago.