Funny, the first original text Nancy Drew I find is the one where she learns all about antique dolls and the cutthroat dealings of those who collect them.
One evening at a concert Nancy witnesses a purse being stolen and dashes after the culprit. She recovers the purse, but not the contents. The owner is grateful and on learning Nancy's vocation engages her for some further detective work. There is a cryptic note, a willful child, and a missing gypsy violinist. The key to solving the mystery appears to be a stolen photograph album and a missing doll.
Nancy does not mess around. She is undaunted when threats are made against her life, killer dolls are placed in her way, and when people are rude on the telephone. Nancy is determined to reunite a family AND win the first sail boat race for girls.
Obviously, the big deal with this one is the vast gypsy conspiracy that has even River Heights in its terrible clutches. As a people the Romani are depicted here as mysterious, superstitious, and 'wild'. In fact, of great concern for one character is the fact that her granddaughter's gypsy blood may be affecting her behavior. Its totally that and not her missing/dead parents. I don't know much about the Romani as a group, especially in the United States, but they are reduced to a carnival sideshow ("see the child bride in tent 6!") and in the tight grip of the "old ways". During her investigation, everyone was frightened into silence, and in the end it was a white woman who was hiding among them in the caravan that helped Nancy save the day. It doesn't even look like the revised text of 1977 took care of the problems. It's amazing what was acceptable only a few decades ago.
That was hard to swallow, but Nancy Drew, sailing genius, and doll mania kept me reading. My husband, doll genius, assured me that most dolls don't conceal venomous blades and poison spores. Magical health radiation was not a standard feature either. Some of the details were right: many of the dolls Nancy was shown in the collection and at the auction exist and are still sought after. Not enough to fund a crime ring (in this economy?), but its fun to find these references in unexpected places.
Overall, I'm glad to have found this, and even stumbled upon a whole trove of early Nancy Drews so I'm going to be reading a lot more of these.
Next: 'The Ghost of Blackwood Hall'
Previous: 'The Mystery of the Tolling Bell'
A charming story about the Stackpoles, a lively family of six and their housekeeper/cook Angela, who moves into a gothic Victorian pile in the country. 'Follonsbee's Folly' has been empty for a long time, but some members of the family discover that it isn't as empty as they thought.
This was great. A new house is a classic launch for any kid's book, and this one follows several paths successfully. Everyone in the family is delighted with the house except for Angela who has cared for the two older children all of their lives and continues to look after the infant twins. She was willing to go with the family to their new home, but there are many reasons why a crumbling old house is no place for young children, especially if you have to be the one to take care of it all. She treats the children like her own, and often talks to them about her own son who was lost in World War II. The house is in poor condition, but the adults set to renovating the house while the children explore. Elsie is entranced by the discovery of an enormous doll house, the Folly itself in exact miniature, and decides to restore it. Tom discovers the bucolic wonders of the great outdoors and even finds his own project in an abandoned rowboat. It isn't long before Tom meets a young black man out in the woods who, though a little put out about new people finding his fishing spots, is friendly and willing to show Tom around the river and help fix up the boat so they can fish together. The young man, Joe, asks that Tom not tell anybody else about him as he doesn't like to be bothered on his vacation.
Hightower fills the book with descriptions of nature and the happy bustle of a family. The descriptions of the speaking tubes in the house and the underground railroad were great additions. The children have plenty to do with their respective story lines and have some dubious babysitting tips. I was pleasantly surprised at how central of a role Angela plays in the novel. She is sympathetic and well drawn and a vital part of the family. By the end of the book, Angela is the central character of the book and it is gratifying to see how it all works out.
Bayport has entered the modern age: the automat has come to town! The boys are excited to have their good chum Chet Morton show them how to operate the automat, put a coin in the slot next to the desired food and presto you can open the cubbie and feast. The gang is having a great time and even start playing shovin' buddies, when Joe is pushed into a blonde man and jostles him. The man has an overblown reaction, but the boys don't think too much of it. Later, Joe is shoved into the same man, making him drop a package this time. The man, perhaps justifiably, is even more pissed off and thinks they're out to get him. Again, the situation is laughed off and the gang agrees to meet up later at Chet's for a party.
Then...at midnight...it happened.
'Midnight' has a dramatically different opening here then in the revised edition, which has the Hardy Boys breaking into a scientists house at the behest of their father to safeguard an invention. Were automats not cool anymore by the 1960s?
I'm given to understand the rest of the plot is similar with electronic gizmos replacing some of the loot being kicked around. I never read the revised edition of this, but the leisurely pace the narrative takes while Frank and Joe travel to New York City to follow a clue and then are forced to hitch-hike back home to Bayport over a couple days doesn't seem like something that would have been allowed.
I cannot stress enough how cool these early editions of the Hardy Boys are. Also, Aunt Gertrude was delightful in a crisis. Other than some basic safety concerns for two teens spending several nights out of doors and hitch-hiking, I didn't see any reason to butcher this work for 'modern' audiences. 1920s slang has more appeal to me than that of the 1950s.
Next: 'While the Clock Ticked'
Previous: 'The Great Airport Mystery'
Almost a year to the day I read the 1959 'The Tower Treasure' I came across this facsimile edition of the original 1927 novel. What makes the difference? In a word:
Bowdlerize: To remove material that is considered improper or offensive from (a text or account), especially with the result that the text becomes weaker or less effective. - Oxford Living Dictionary
The Strathmeyer Syndicate under Harriet Strathmeyer Adams revised the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew series in the late 1950s. This was intended to update language and address some legitimate complaints about racist characterizations and, less legitimate, behavioral issues with the young detectives. The Hardy Boys, all-American and daring, became toadies to American institutions and any youthful impertinence of theirs towards authority and each other was scrubbed away. Nancy Drew fared worse, her yachtish, upper crust background was toned down, but so was much of her independent spirit.
'The Tower Treasure' as it appeared in 1927 is a very different novel. There was a loss of some 40-odd pages and many aspects of the plot were completely rewritten. The Hardy Boys are still the two sons of famed detective Fenton Hardy and on an errand for him, they witness a reckless driver who turns out to have stolen a car from their friend Chet. Later, a robbery is reported at the Tower Mansion and a friend's father is implicated. They get involved in the case, track down the thief and discover where the treasure is hidden. The 1959 version shortens the direct involvement of the boys in some more dangerous elements of the case and demonstrates almost a mania for wigs. Wigs are important to the case, but the 1927 version understandably doesn't have the boys going immediately to one of Bayport's three male wig shops. That's a leap that should occur later in a case.
Along with plot elements being condensed, descriptive language was cut. The 1959 story begins with the boys being chased down on their motorcycles by a speeding car. The original takes some time to introduce the boys and their hometown. Mealtimes are important, and 'Redwall'-worthy descriptions of tables groaning with food. Characterization was different, too. The wealthy Adelia Applegate is played for laughs because of her eccentric fashion, but it seems kinder in 1927, even if she is more sympathetic, providing an 'honorable alibi', in the revised version. Women don't play a significant role at all in either of them, mostly being providers of food.
There was one objectionable piece in the original book. This was, at the suggestion of their friend Tony Prito, to use the fears of an Italian immigrant to provide cover for a distraction to keep the Chief of Police out of the case. Threatened by 'the Black Hand', Rocco is too-ready to believe a ticking box on his farm stand is a bomb. The revised version has the boys kindly offer to watch a grocer's store and pretended a fire in the backyard incinerator was out of control and thus kept a buffoon private eye (can't have the police look ridiculous) away from the case.
I have no argument for the value of that particular scene, but the overall effect of the change to the books was a reduction of quality. There is no rich language left in the Hardy Boys series after the changes were made, and Frank and Joe themselves became indistinguishable from each other apart from their hair and ages. This was such a revelation that I've begun actively collecting the early books with their original text.
Next: The House on the Cliff