Saturday, October 25, 2014

Observations about the Valerie Drew Stories

It took me reading at least a dozen Valerie Drew stories before I fully understood the premise and was able to appreciate them completely.  Now that I've read quite a few Valerie Drew stories, I can make some observations.  Valerie is extremely well known, and people often recognize her on sight.  Flash is also well known.

Valerie's mysteries often start by someone coming to Valerie to request her services.  Other times, Valerie stumbles upon the mystery.  Valerie only helps girls or young women.  She does help men, but only if the man has a sister, daughter, or granddaughter who is the main person who gets Valerie's attention.

While that is a bit sexist, the stories were written for Schoolgirls' Weekly.  Of course the magazine kept the stories centered around girls.

I consider the 1930s to be the golden age of series books.  I dearly love the plot elements of books that were published in those years.  These stories have all of those plot elements, including hidden passages, haunted places, strange noises, and odd footprints.

I especially like books where the events are a bit far-fetched, because I find them entertaining.  These stories have that, too.  Here are some examples.

In a 1934 story, a house has a Dictaphone.  Flash's paw goes down on the pedal accidentally, starting it up.  An important conversion is recorded, providing Valerie with evidence.  I find it hard to believe that an average house in 1934 would have a Dictaphone, allowing for voice recording.

I checked on what a Dictaphone might have cost.  I did not find a 1934 price, but I did see where one cost $190 in 1924.  Running $190 through an inflation calculator gave me $2,560.  I'm off by ten years and don't know the price for 1934, but I feel confident that a Dictaphone is not an item many homes would have owned in 1934.  Also, the people Valerie helps are almost always poor.  No Dictaphone for them!

In a 1936 story, a telephone is present inside a tent in a camp in the middle of the country.  Say what?  It was explained that the telephone was installed because the camp was permanent for the summer.  It sounded like the camp was a least a few miles from the nearest town, so we are expected to believe that telephone poles were erected up to the campsite so that a phone could be placed inside a tent.  I find this hard to believe.  And remember, we are talking about 1936.

In a 1937 story, a television set is rigged with a film projector inside.  When the television is turned on, the film projector plays a film of an event, then automatically rewinds, playing it again.  It stretches believability to say that the villains would be able to rig a film projector inside a television in 1937 and then get it to behave like a modern device set on repeat.  Hmm...

We also have the usual array of stunning disguises where men masquerade perfectly as women and where young people pass themselves off as elderly people.  Valerie manages to pull off a few amazing disguises which always work flawlessly, including the following case in which she disguises herself as an Indian.

Last, Valerie's dog, Flash, is unbelievably smart.  In fact, he is easily smarter than Judy Bolton's cat, Blackberry, and is the most capable animal I have ever seen outside of a cartoon.  Flash can think and reason out what to do in various situations!  He is a perfect partner for Valerie, even better than a human!

When I read my first Valerie Drew story, I was taken aback by Flash.  He thinks in words, and at first, I thought he could speak, which would be silly.  Fortunately, the words are just his thoughts, and while Valerie knows he is smart, she doesn't know exactly how smart.  At the same time, the stories make reference to Flash's "doggy brain," indicating that he doesn't fully understand everything Valerie tells him. 

I find these stories to be really fun.

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