Sunday, July 22, 2012

Nancy Drew #26 and the Transition Books

In Nancy Drew #26, The Clue of the Leaning Chimney, Nancy Drew nearly runs over a man who is kneeling in the middle of a lonely country road. She notices that the man has a Chinese vase just as he orders her away. After the girls drive off, Bess remarks that the vase looks just like a rare vase on display in Dick Milton's shop.

Nancy and Bess learn that the vase from Dick's shop has been stolen. The vase belongs to Mr. Soong, who loaned it to Dick, and is very valuable. Dick cannot afford to repay Mr. Soong unless he finds a valuable clay deposit. Dick recently overheard a man remark that a clay deposit can be found near a leaning chimney, but Dick has had no luck locating it.

After Nancy meets Mr. Soong, he asks her to help find his missing friends, the Engs. The Engs were coming to River Heights to visit him but never arrived. He believes that they reached a location near River Heights but vanished before their arrival.

This mystery is well written and does not have any random coincidences, unlike so many other Nancy Drew books. Parts of the mystery that could be coincidences occur as a result of cause and effect. I can find absolutely nothing wrong with this story, which means that I have far fewer thoughts than usual.

I did notice that George uses "hypers" in both texts, and in fact, a bit excessively. I think this is the first time that George uses that word, which she continues for the remainder of the original 56 Nancy Drew books.

I consider both the original and the revised text to be equally good.  The original text has slightly more information, but in my opinion, it makes no difference.  My verdict is that both texts are equally good.

As I have been reading these books, I have noticed that the tone of the mysteries began changing with #23, The Mystery of the Tolling Bell. I see #23 through #26 as transition volumes. Most of the first 22 Nancy Drew books were written by Mildred Wirt Benson and followed the same type of formula as the earliest books. Even though Benson also wrote #23, 24, and 25, the tone changes in these books. #26 is not written by Benson, and George suddenly acquires a pet expression which she uses for the remainder of the series.

Nancy is also becoming more refined during these books and less likely to make snippy responses to others. She is morphing into the "perfect" Nancy Drew that is representative of the latter half of the original 56 books.

After I realized that I was seeing a transition in the texts, I recalled that the dust jackets for these same books are referred to as "transition dust jackets." Grosset and Dunlap changed the jacket style from the white spine version, which was used for #1-22, to the wraparound style, beginning with #23. #23 is the last book with a blue spine symbol, except the jacket is not white spine. #24, 25, and 26 have yellow spine symbols in the same style as #23. #27 has the final version of the Nancy Drew cameo that was used until the middle part of the 1980s. New collectors are often confused by volumes 23-26, thinking that the different spine symbols determine the age, whereas all that it really means is that Grosset and Dunlap's style was changing as those books were first published. Go to this page to see the transition.

I find it curious that I noticed a transition in the texts as the dust jackets were also transitioning. I was not influenced by the jackets while I was reading the books, because I was reading these library editions, which all have the same style.


Homeschool Mom said...

Jennifer, this is so interesting. A friend of mine teaches at IUPUI and she had a student who wrote her dissertation on the "Childhood of Famous Americans" series. Her work was quite good. Ever thought of turning ND into a Dissertation topic?

Coffeegulper said...

Hi Jennifer,

This is in response to your quote in this blog entry: "The first 22 Nancy Drew books were all written by Mildred Wirt Benson"

She wrote most---but not all---of the first 22 volumes. Volumes 8,9 and 10 were written by Walter Karig.


Jennifer said...

I'm glad you noticed that mistake. I have changed the wording slightly so that I have not attributed all of the books to her.

Coffeegulper said...

Hi again,
I figured it was just an oversight and this is something you're well-versed on.
In fact, when I was just starting to collect again a few years back, it was at your series books site where I first gleaned all the information in regards to the authorship, so thanks for providing all of that!


RiiverHeightsFangirl said...

Did you catch the suicide reference when Chi Che said that the only way out of her captive life was to "end it all"? I was surprised to see a suicide reference in a Nancy Drew book.

L E Hartter said...

This had episodes of Scooby-Doo. The Lavender sisters are some bad- blank ladies. "You will be tortured by evil spirits until the day that you die!" I can picture Bess gulping and having her curls stand on end temporarily, Shaggy style.

Skye Padellaro said...

Actually, George first says "Hypers!" in the revised version of book # 12 - The Message In The Hollow Oak. Page 119: 'Nancy went back to the deck and relayed the depressing news to the others. "Hypers!" George exclaimed. "Where is Bob Snell?"'

Jennifer said...

In chronological order of the volumes currently in print, "hypers" in #12 revised text does come before #26.

However, the original text #26, which is the text to which I referred, was published in 1949. The revised text #12 was not published until 1972. This means that the original text #26 "hypers" occurred a full 23 years before "hypers" appeared in the revised text #12. That is what I meant when I stated that I thought that #26 was the first book in which "hypers" appeared. "Hypers" was not present in the original text #12 that was in print in 1949.