Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Nancy Drew #35 The Haunted Showboat

Nancy Drew #35, The Haunted Showboat, is the first Nancy Drew book that was originally published in 20 chapters.  Sometimes people new to collecting Nancy Drew books mistakenly search for a version with 25 chapters, but all copies have the original 20 chapter text.

One of the common myths about the revision of the first 34 Nancy Drew books is that the revisions were done primarily to remove racial stereotypes.  While the stereotypes were removed in the process, they were never the reason for the revisions.  The texts were revised because the bindery was switching to a different method of printing the books.  Also, shorter texts meant fewer pages, thus reducing costs.  The Haunted Showboat has racial stereotypes and could have used at least a minor revision, but since it originally had 20 chapters, it was never revised.

In The Haunted Showboat, Nancy, Bess, and George drive to New Orleans to solve the mystery of the haunted showboat.  The Havers want to restore the showboat and move it from the bayou for a pageant.  Strange sounds are heard on the showboat, and intruders prowl around on the showboat at night.  Later in the story, Ned, Burt, and Dave are somehow miraculously able to leave Emerson to join the girls in New Orleans.

Danish Edition
This story is another one of the travelogue Nancy Drew books.  This book is full of facts and figures about New Orleans and the surrounding area.  The historical content is not annoying in this book, although on page 109 I consider it strange that Donna and Alex just happen to know the exact rate per hour and number of bushels of grain that can be loaded on a ship.

Also on pages 109-100, Donna Mae makes the following remarks.
"It used to be perfectly frightening when the old river overflowed and the levees broke," she said.  "When the Mississippi goes on a rampage now, some of the water is pumped into Lake Pontchartrain miles above here."
If only it were so in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina struck.

On page 34, the girls encounter a live electrical line laying across a road just over the crest of a hill.  With difficulty, they get turned around and take another road.  Since anyone else driving along that road would encounter the same problem, it seems strange that the girls do not find a phone to notify authorities of the dangerous situation.

On page 112, Nancy easily swims 500 yards to the shore of the Mississippi River.  Of course we know that Nancy is Super Girl, but still, this is not realistic.

Near the conclusion of the story, I am puzzled as to exactly why Alex needs to be on a float during the Mardi Gras parade.  He has the treasure, then he stuffs gold in his pockets, dumps the rest of the gold in a bag, and flees.  The boys tackle him.  Would it not have been better to have fled the area immediately after removing the treasure from the showboat?  Why go to the parade and then flee?

I enjoyed reading The Haunted Showboat.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Nancy Drew Diaries Series

Simon and Schuster launched the new Nancy Drew Diaries series this month.  This series is replacing the Nancy Drew Girl Detective series.  The first two Nancy Drew Diaries books have been released:  Curse of the Arctic Star and Strangers on a Train.  My purchase of the first two Nancy Drew Diaries books reminded me of my experience in the months after the release of the Girl Detective series.

Nancy Drew Girl Detective Book
I purchased all of the early volumes in the Nancy Drew Girl Detective series in 2004.  I read those books, probably up to volume eight, during that year.  I enjoyed all of them.

I quit purchasing the books new due to the inability to find copies that were not flawed.  The spines of the Girl Detective books were all wrinkled; at least all of the books that showed up in my local stores had wrinkled spines.  I refused to pay $5.00 plus tax for a book that was flawed.  I tried ordering online and had the same problem, so I decided to purchase only secondhand copies.  As a result, I do not have the entire set of books and have never gotten back to reading the books.

I checked my local stores after the new Nancy Drew Diaries books were published a few weeks ago.  My stores did not have the books in stock, so I ordered them in both softcover and hardcover from Amazon.  The person who packaged the books was careless, and one of the softcover books was damaged.  I was further disgusted about the gray pulp paper used on the softcover books and deeply regretted that I wasted money on them. 

On a brighter note, the hardcover books have dust jackets and better quality paper.  The paper is thin and a bit flimsy, and I suspect that the paper is not of the very highest quality.  However, the paper is a much higher quality than the paper used for the softcover books.  The hardcover books are very nice.  I strongly recommend that anyone who is interested in these books for collectible purposes completely avoid the softcover books.

Unfortunately, Barnes and Noble is not stocking the hardcover books in their stores.  The softcover books are stocked in some stores, but many of us have found that our stores have none of the books.  I have concerns about the viability of this new series since Barnes and Noble is not carrying it in many stores.

The cover art of the Nancy Drew Diaries books makes Nancy look very young.  I tend to be influenced by the cover art on books, so perhaps this is why Nancy seemed so young to me as I began reading the first book.  It didn't help that the books never mention Nancy's age.  Nancy must be around 18 since she, Bess, and George travel on a cruise with a male college student.

The books are recommended for ages 8-12.  I suspect that the goal is age 8, rather than anywhere near 12, and that is why Nancy looks so young on the covers.

Like the Girl Detective series, the Diaries books are written in first person narrative.  Nancy also retains some traits from the Girl Detective series, such as her apparent forgetfulness.

While both books are enjoyable, some parts are a bit hard to take.  In the second book, Nancy is shocked to learn that the blogger, Wendy, used an internet search to discover that she is a sleuth who has successfully solved many mysteries.  Here is an excerpt from page 149 of the hardcover edition.
"Wow," I said.  "I mean, I know you can find just about everything online.  But this is kind of creepy!"

George reached for her coffee cup.  "I'm always telling you this stuff is out there, Nancy."  She glanced at Wendy and rolled her eyes.  "I swear, sometimes you'd think Nancy was older than my grandma."

I just stared at the screen.
Readers are expected to believe that Nancy Drew, who is apparently around 18 years old in the year 2013 and undoubtedly an excellent sleuth, is completely unaware of how internet searches work.  This Nancy Drew was born in around 1995.  Think about it.  The internet has existed for her entire life, which makes the lack of knowledge about the internet unbelievably stupid.

Strangely, George is depicted as eating constantly, yet she is not overweight.  On page 80 of Curse of the Arctic Star, George helps herself to her fourth serving of scrambled eggs.  I don't know what the point is.

On page 91 of Strangers on a Train, Wendy, expresses real concerns about driving traffic to her blog.  This part is quite realistic, unlike the idiotic scene where Nancy has no understanding of internet searches.

Even though a few parts of the books are a bit off, I enjoyed both books and will be purchasing upcoming volumes in the series.

Should you buy these books?  If you are someone who prefers the original text Nancy Drew books and tends not to like any of the later books, then you will most likely not enjoy these books.  They are set in modern times and do not depict your Nancy.  Those of you who collect Nancy Drew up to #56 and have never read any books past #56 will also not likely enjoy these books.

If you are someone who has collected, read, and enjoyed many of the softcover Nancy Drew books from #57-175 or from the Nancy Drew Files series, then you probably will enjoy these books. I recommend giving them a try, but please... buy the hardcover books.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Nancy Drew #34 The Hidden Window Mystery

In Nancy Drew #34, The Hidden Window Mystery, Nancy learns that a sizable reward is offered for any information leading to the whereabouts of a certain stained-glass window.  Nancy decides that the window is likely located near Charlottesville, Virginia, and plans to visit her cousin, Susan Carr, who lives in Charlottesville.

A neighbor of Nancy's, Mrs. Dondo, claims that a letter containing money was lost when the mail carrier, Mr. Ritter, passed out front of Nancy's home.  Mrs. Dondo's brother, Alonzo Rugby, just happens to live in Charlottesville, so Nancy plans to investigate him during her trip.  And Ned, Burt, and Dave briefly show up in Charlottesville during Nancy's stay.  This is all so amazingly convenient.

Also convenient is the fact that peacocks show up everywhere, kind like the Centrovians in The Scarlet Slipper Mystery.  The missing stained-glass window has a peacock on it.  An estate in Charlottesville has peacocks.  A man tries to scare the residents of Ivy Hall with a peacock on the lawn.  That same man disguises his footprints by strapping brass peacock feet to his shoes.  The last one is just plain bizarre.

French edition
On page 8 of the original text, Mr. Ritter tells Nancy, "I've been bringing you letters since you were knee-high to a grasshopper, Nancy."  I don't think so.  Mr. Dixon (or Nixon in the revised text) was Nancy's mail carrier in Nancy's Mysterious Letter.  This remark was wisely removed from the revised text.

I find it curious that Mr. Ritter has the same problem as Mr. Dixon did in Nancy's Mysterious Letter.  Mr. Dixon stops at Nancy's home and his mail pouch is stolen.  Mrs. Skeets claims that a letter containing money was stolen.  In The Hidden Window Mystery, the mail is blown around the neighborhood when Mr. Ritter loses consciousness.  Mrs. Dondo claims that a letter containing money has gone missing.  In both books, the mail carrier has a perfect record and is worried that the missing letter will put a black mark on his record.  In both books, the mail carrier will soon retire.

The Hidden Window Mystery is a great story.  I found it engaging from start to finish in both texts.  I do wish that the story were not so coincidence-driven.  I find it hard to believe that Nancy decides to search in Charlottesville for the window, stays with her cousin Susan, and finds the missing window in a house extremely close to Susan's home.  The window could have been anywhere in the northeast, but it is conveniently found exactly where Nancy chooses to search.  The reader has to suspend disbelief.

Both texts are equally good.  The biggest difference between the two texts is that the original text has a few racial stereotypes that are not present in the revised text.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tainting the Book Supply

The actions of some sellers taint the book supply.

One seller has created large numbers of reproduction dust jackets for the Nancy Drew Cameo editions.  When these books get resold, the person selling the books may not realize that the jackets are reproductions, which causes the buyer to be unintentionally defrauded.  Other times, the person selling the books may be quite aware that the jackets are reproductions but may choose not to inform prospective buyers.

Recently, I discovered that a seller is using marker to touch up many of the books and dust jackets that he sells.  This seller has purchased hundreds of series books in the last year and is making a business out of selling them.  I am certain that the majority of this seller's buyers are not aware that the books have been altered.

The above image shows a jacket before and after the seller altered the jacket.  I would personally rather have a jacket with worn areas than a jacket with the worn areas crudely colored in.  The touching up of this jacket is much more significant than what has been done to other jackets, probably because the seller sold this book as a part of a large set and knew that the photos would not be scrutinized by most buyers.

I have been informed that this seller has touched up pinpoint areas of color lift with marker, and only holding the jacket in bright light will reveal those instances.  Those jackets are sold as being in superior condition and appear to be in superior condition.  The alterations cannot be seen in an online photo, and most buyers will never think to hold the jackets in bright light to check for small areas that have been filled with ink.  They will never notice a problem, and this is troubling.

Someone else who sells series books recently bought a few of this seller's books.  I do not believe that person is someone who collects, so I suspect that he purchased the books to resell.  When he does, he will have no knowledge that something could be wrong with the books.

Another seller uses black marker to make the tops of Nancy Drew tweed and picture cover books look as good as new.  She uses red marker on the thick blue books.  Even though the books look very nice, they have been damaged by her actions.  She has sold quite a few sets of Nancy Drew books in which she has applied marker to the tops of all of the books.  Since she has sold quite a few partial and complete sets of Nancy Drew books, she has most likely applied marker to several thousand Nancy Drew books.

I bought the following book from the seller who applies marker to the top edges of books.

The above book is special because it has digger endpapers inside a binding that came before the creation of the digger endpapers.  The only explanation is that somehow the cover stock used for the binding was not placed on the binding until years later when it was placed on a text block that had digger endpapers.

This book is very special, but I hate the fact that marker was applied to the top edge.  In fact, I was suspicious that the presence of the digger endpapers was also a trick due to the fact that the seller had tampered with the book.  I believe that she reduced the value greatly by applying marker to the top edge.  The amount of marker used was extreme, and the top edge was still wet to the touch when I received the book.  I had to wipe many times with tissue to get rid of the excess marker.

It is due to the above purchase that I am aware that this seller applies marker to all of her books.  Since I know to look, I can tell that the tops of all of the books in her listings look absolutely perfect and can conclude that marker has been applied to all of them. 

These sellers have tainted the book supply.  Gradually, the people who purchased books from them will resell the books as they find upgrades or grow tired of the books.  I am uneasy knowing that all of these tainted books are now in the book supply and will be resold in the future.

My buying patterns are such that I try to obtain books that are fresh to the secondhand market, straight from estates.  If I restrict my purchases to books that appear to be new to the secondhand market, I greatly reduce the chances of inadvertently selling one of these altered books in my Bonanza booth.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Nancy Drew #33 The Witch Tree Symbol

In Nancy Drew #33, The Witch Tree Symbol, Nancy is asked to find Mrs. Tenney's stolen antique furniture.  Early in the story, Nancy learns that a man named Roger Hoelt is the likely culprit and that he is on his way to the Pennsylvania Dutch country.

Once Nancy, Bess, and George arrive in Pennsylvania, they encounter Manda Kreutz, who has run away from home.  Manda disappears, and Nancy is asked to help find her.

Of course, Ned, Burt, and Dave are able to travel to Pennsylvania Dutch country to help the girls with the mystery.

I did not notice much wrong with this story.  However, pages 47-49 of the revised text (pages 67-69 of the original text) gave me pause. On page 47:
When Nancy's car was refueled, they set out again.  As she rounded a sharp turn, she suddenly gasped and stepped on the brake.  Strewn across the road, directly in their path, were cinder blocks.  There was no way to avoid plowing into them!

The car hit several of the blocks.  All three girls were thrown forward.  Bess, seated in the middle, struck her head on the mirror and blacked out!
Hitting a bunch of cinder blocks would result in damage to the automobile.  Since the girls were thrown forward, the impact was significant.  Yet the girls were able to quickly drive away after clearing the blocks with no mention of any damage to the vehicle.  At the very least, a statement should have been made about the vehicle, even if only to mention minor damage.

The Witch Tree Symbol ushers in the era of the travelogue Nancy Drew books.  The majority of the original Nancy Drew books from this point on involve Nancy and her friends traveling to some distant location to solve a mystery.  The girls learn historical information about that location.  They also learn detailed information about various cultures, hobbies, and careers.  Sometimes the historical information can be a bit much and can be distracting from one's enjoyment of the mystery.  It works fine in this mystery.

This is a good story.  While I don't usually like the travel books a great deal, this one is okay.  Nancy has traveled to a location distant to River Heights, but the entire mystery is centralized in that new location, so the feel is similar to mysteries set around River Heights.  The German phrases and bits of trivia about the Amish that are scattered throughout the text are not annoying.

This book has many events that appear to be coincidence, but they are more a result of cause and effect, so the story is plausible. Both texts are good, and I see no significant difference between them.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Best Selling Nancy Drew Books

Recently, I gave values for the tweed and picture cover edition Nancy Drew books.  My conclusions were based on what I have seen on eBay and which books sell the best for me.  I decided to back up my statements with evidence.

Below, I list the number of Nancy Drew books sold by type each month.  I list only the books for which I almost always have a good supply of most titles in stock.  The numbers listed after each type are the number of that type sold each month beginning with January and ending with December.  I tallied both 2011 and 2012 sales.


Tweed without dust jacket - 1, 1, 2, 1, 3, 1, 2, 6, 0, 10, 9, 4 = 40
Tweed with dust jacket - 3, 0, 3, 4, 2, 0, 3, 3, 4, 2, 11, 2 = 37
Original text picture cover - 5, 11, 4, 14, 7, 4, 12, 8, 19, 22, 18, 3 = 127
Revised text picture cover - 6, 5, 3, 6, 22, 7, 10, 10, 38, 18, 20, 3 = 148


Tweed without dust jacket - 5, 1, 17, 10, 0, 0, 6, 7, 7, 7, 11, 9 = 80
Tweed with dust jacket - 6, 1, 8, 11, 9, 2, 4, 1, 0, 13, 3, 0 = 58
Original text picture cover - 3, 24, 17, 12, 14, 1, 4, 8, 2, 17, 3, 20 = 125
Revised text picture cover - 13, 9, 15, 21, 9, 3, 7, 16, 2, 5, 10, 18 = 128

I tallied both years since the tweed books with dust jackets have been gaining ground again, and including 2011 gives more accurate information as to what has been happening with the tweed books over a longer period of time.  Keep in mind that my tweed books with dust jackets are almost always priced lower than the Farah's Guide values, and my picture cover book are almost always priced higher than the Farah's Guide values.

I calculated the percent of each type sold for each year.

2011 (out of 353 books):

Tweed without dust jacket - 11.4%
Tweed with dust jacket - 10.5%
Original text picture cover - 36.1%
Revised text picture cover - 42%

2012 (out of 391 books):

Tweed without dust jacket - 20.5%
Tweed with dust jacket - 14.8%
Original text picture cover - 32%
Revised text picture cover - 32.7%

Overall with both years combined:

Tweed without dust jacket - 16.2%
Tweed with dust jacket - 12.8%
Original text picture cover - 33.9%
Revised text picture cover - 37.1%

I knew that the matte picture cover editions were outselling the tweed books, and this data backs that up.  Of these four types of Nancy Drew books, 71% of my sales are the matte picture cover editions. Remember that I do have other types of Nancy Drew books for sale, but I do not keep sufficient numbers of each type in stock where they can be compared to others.  The four types listed here can be compared since they are always available in good number in my booth.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Nancy Drew #32 The Scarlet Slipper Mystery

In Nancy Drew #32, The Scarlet Slipper Mystery, Henri and Helene Fontaine, who run a ballet school in River Heights, have been threatened.  They have been ordered to leave the area immediately, or they will be harmed.  Nancy decides to help.

Nancy learns that the brother and sister are from Centrovia, as is approximately half the population of River Heights.  Centrovia is an obscure country in Europe that recently had a revolution, and many people fled the country.  For some unknown reason, they all ended up in River Heights, where they are seen walking on the sidewalks, driving past Nancy's house, and generally creating spectacles of themselves all over town.

As you can tell, I had problems with the plot of this book.  I could hardly keep up with all of the Centrovians that kept showing up constantly.  Even some long-lost relatives from Centrovia discovered each other in River Heights.  How incredible that they all chose to live in the same city!

The Centrovians are not all that is wrong with this story.  Early in the story, Mr. Drew asks the U.S. government if Nancy may continue to work on the case from her end.  Henri and Helene's parents were working to rise against the new Centrovian government before they were killed.  This is a delicate international situation.  Of course, the U.S. government is fine with Nancy taking control in River Heights; the FBI is clearly not needed here.  Seriously.

Henri and Helene go into hiding at the Drew home, while Nancy and her friends keep their school running.  The scarlet slippers once owned by Helene's mother are stolen from the dance studio, and Helene is devastated.  Exactly why did she leave them there?  The Fontaines had vanished, and leaving the slippers in the studio would accomplish nothing, except allow them to be stolen.  I guess that's why.

In both texts, Nancy and Ned ponder the meaning of an R on an artist's palette knife.  From page 74 of the revised text:
For nearly an hour Nancy and Ned talked about the possible meaning of the R on the artist's palette knife.  Both were sure it had special significance.
You think?  Let's see...  I bet it stands for the man's name, and they discuss this for an hour?

12 paintings that Henri painted of Helene were imported into the United States.  Nancy seeks the paintings because she suspects that something might have been smuggled into the country inside the paintings.   Since River Heights is teeming with Centrovians, it should come as no surprise that one of the paintings is found in River Heights, and another one is found 200 miles away.  Quite frankly, I was shocked that all 12 paintings were not quickly found in River Heights and in the possession of a bunch of Centrovians.

On page 122 of the revised text, Nancy is talking to a man on the phone believed to be Mr. Koff.  Nancy tells Hannah, who replies that he can't be Mr. Koff because Mr. Koff just drove by the house.  What are the chances?  By the way, the man on the phone turns out to be another Centrovian!

I couldn't keep up with the villains.  I was dreadfully confused as I finished the revised text.  I tried to become less confused as I read the original text, so I made note of the names.  The villains are Red Buzby, Raymond Bull, Tomas Renee, Raoul Amien who is also David Judson, Pierre Duparc, and someone named Warte.  Buzby and Bull might be the same person, but I got confused again when reading the original text.  The story has too many villains, and too many of them use multiple aliases, thus confusing the situation even more.  

Lots of other things are wrong with this story, like how Nancy and Ned are stupidly tricked at the farmhouse.  Nancy seems uncharacteristically dumb in that scene.

Raoul Amien and his confederates use Raoul's passport number as a means of identifying themselves to each other.  A passport number?  Really?

In one scene, Nancy's ankle is injured, so she rides with George as George goes into the hotels to make inquiries.  The text mentions that Nancy's ankle has begun hurting, then Nancy decides to go into the last place with George, even though her ankle is now hurting.  Huh?  Of course, this is the place where they receive information.

Lots of stupid things occur in this story, but the kerosene scene might just take the prize.  Nancy, Bess, and George find Koff's briefcase containing letters in the barn.  They leave the barn and notice that Officer Donovan has disappeared.  The officer is supposed to be guarding the farmhouse.  On page 160 of the revised text:
"Phew!  What a strong odor of kerosene!"  Bess said.  "What would that policeman be doing with kerosene?"

Nancy shrugged.  She was too interested in getting at the letters to care.
What?!  Nancy, the officer has disappeared, and you can smell kerosene.  Think, girl!

So, the girls go into the farmhouse and then upstairs to spread out the letters on a bed.  The girls spend quite awhile in the bedroom, where Nancy makes a phone call and then Henri and Helene randomly show up.  I guess they ignored the kerosene as well.  On page 162 of the revised text:
As Henri began to talk, Bess went to close the door.  The odor of kerosene was very strong now.  Again she wondered what Officer Donovan was doing with it.
A long discussion follows, then finally, on page 166, smoke seeps into the bedroom.  The young people suddenly realize what the odor of kerosene means!  Someone has set the farmhouse on fire!
Goodness.  I enjoyed this story as a child, but it does not hold up to what I remember of it.  Both the original text and revised text versions are equally bad, and both versions are a mess.