Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Books of Ruby Lorraine Radford

Last year, I became interested in the books of Ruby Lorraine Radford.  I purchased the following books to read.

The Mystery of the White Knight, 1927
The Mystery of Adventure Island, 1928
The Mystery of the Bradley Pearls, 1930
The Mystery of the Nancy Lee, 1932
The Mystery of Myrtle Grove, 1933
The Mystery of Pelican Cove, 1934
The Mystery of Magnolia Beach, 1942
Secret of Ocean House, 1961
The Secret of Peach Orchard Plantation, 1963

These books are not Radford's only books.  Some of Radford's books are nearly impossible to find, and others, like biographies, are outside of my area of interest.  Partial lists of Radford's books can be found on sites like Goodreads.  I don't know of any site that actually lists all of her books in the same place.

Ruby Radford was born in 1891 and died in Augusta, Georgia, in 1971.  More information can be found here.

Radford's books are set in the south, usually in South Carolina, Georgia, or Florida.  Radford's early books make heavy use of the n-word.  Her books from the 1960s do not use that word, as best I can recall.  Radford's books are a window into southern life of the first part of the 20th century.

The first Radford book that I read was The Mystery of Pelican Cove.  In this book, the children have to go away from home because their sister has scarlet fever.  Since the children are not permitted to go home, they go to their deceased uncle's isolated home where rumors abound that something valuable is hidden there. The young people bring a negro cook.  Meanwhile, a Chinese man who was a former servant to their uncle forces his company on them. Another Chinese man skulks about near the house.  The young people worry that someone else will find the hidden treasure.

This book uses the n-word, and the Chinese are referred to by a racial slur.

The story is excellent, just like series books of the 1930s, and is my very favorite Radford book of the ones I read.  The book classifies as a girls' series book, since the story is told from the girls' point of view primarily.

I did not make any notes about most of the other Radford books when I read them, so I can only write about my general feelings, as best I can remember them.

The Mystery of Myrtle Grove is about a family that is down on their luck.  I can't remember anything specific, but I recall the story as overall good.  I think it has some weak spots, but not so many as some of Radford's other books.

I struggled with The Mystery of Adventure Island.  The story takes place on an island that is said to be owned by a certain family, but then apparently others live on the island, so it isn't really all theirs.  The island is connected to the mainland somehow.  Many details that are important are not included, so I was confused the entire time I was reading the book.  For that reason, I don't have a good impression of the story, even though it is overall good.

In The Mystery of Magnolia Beach, Madge's family has acquired a sea island plantation.  Madge's mother is with her father, who is receiving treatment at the hospital.  Madge and her brothers run the plantation as they keep an eye on strange activities.

As I recall, this book also confused me at times, but I enjoyed the book more than The Mystery of Adventure Island.  I found this book to be overall very good.

The Mystery of the Nancy Lee bored me.  I could never get into it.

Secret of Ocean House and The Secret of Peach Orchard Plantation are later books by Radford.  These books are good, but Radford's earlier books are more interesting to me.

I read The Mystery of the White Knight recently, so I can remember details.  The young people stay at a family member's plantation.  The negroes have fled the plantation, because they believe it is haunted.  The young people look for clues that will prove that the ghostly figure is actually a real person.

This book is full of negative racial stereotypes and uses the n-word heavily.

I had trouble getting into this book, because the author rapidly throws out names on the very first page of the story.  I was sorely tempted to put it away based on the first page.  I persevered and read the story.  I did struggle with visualizing the plantation and surrounding area, which is often a problem in Radford's books.  Aside from that struggle, this is an enjoyable book.

I thought that I was done with my Radford books, then I found another that I forgot I had purchased.

In The Mystery of the Bradley Pearls, Ann learns that she has inherited the old Bradley home.  Ann, two friends, and her stepbrothers travel to the home to see if it can be sold.  The house is rumored to have a hex on it, so nobody will purchase it.  Ann would love to have her family live in the house, but the taxes will be due soon, and she cannot pay them.  The Bradley pearls are missing and were supposedly hidden on the property.  The young people try to find the pearls so that they can save the property.

I was bewildered about the young people considering certain names used by the negroes to be funny.  A negro boy is named Nick, so the young people laugh at his name, thinking he was named after "Old Nick," the devil.  I looked up the popularity of the name, and plenty of people were named Nick in the 1920s and 1930s.  I see nothing amusing about the name.

A young negro girl is named Angeline, which is a very nice name in my opinion.  The protagonists think it absolutely hilarious that the girl is named Angeline.  The name was not very popular in the 1920s and 1930s but is much more popular today.  Even so, I don't see what is so funny about the name. 

Angeline has her hair braided around her head, and sometimes the braids come loose, so the children refer to the braids as "pigtails."  Partway through the story, the children begin calling the girl "Piggle" instead of Angeline and call her that for the rest of the story.  The girl has a nice name, but they poke fun at it and give her an ugly name.  How racist and demeaning.

The Mystery of the Bradley Pearls is a bit slow at times, but it is a very good to excellent story, despite the strong racism.  I consider it about equal to The Mystery of Pelican Cove as one of the two best Radford books.

In conclusion, Ruby Lorraine Radford wrote some very good stories.  However, her books do have weaknesses.

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