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velvet goldmine

There is such a can-do spirit in the early Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Boxcar Children and Bobbsey Twins books. (Also true of single-author, decades-long, series like those by Beverly Cleary.)

You read the later ones, and just feel the difference, even if you didn't happen to glance at how high up in the series it was.

The kids in those early books knew how to -- and were allowed to -- saw and hammer, chop down trees, board crosstown buses in "the city," take care of babies, bake blueberry pies and canoe across the lake.

More than that, they just had a spirit of optimism and responsibility. They had goals, projects.

They wanted to help neighbors who needed to find a stolen diamond ring. They had sleeping bags to save for... Eagle scout badges to earn, dammit!

I swear, sometimes I think that the only secret to happy childhood AND adulthoods is having a project. I really think kids' books prior to the 60s or 70s knew this, and it's been slipping away ever since. So cram it, Gossip Girl. (xoxxxo)

Dawn

There is a book my brother gave me for my birthday last year that tells the history or these series, and the biographies of the publisher of both the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, as well as the writers that wrote the early editions. It is a fascinating story in itself. I recommend:

http://www.amazon.com/Girl-Sleuth-Nancy-Women-Created/dp/015603056X/ref=pd_bbs_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1205510691&sr=8-6

My brother and I grew up reading both series - I started with Nancy Drew and read his Hardy Boys when I didn't have anything new, and he did the opposite. I think the icon of independent Nancy in her roadster took hold. I don't solve mysteries, but I am very independent and usually own a convertible! Not at the moment, unfortunately. Also, my mother, who grew up in the late 30s and 40s reading the originals, always said a woman should have a convertible at some point in her life. Nancy's spirit lives on!

Karen

Lance, I can't believe you don't mention Nancy's little lady-like revolver, always in her purse, a gift of her lawyer father. When I read the older Nancy Drew books as a girl in the mid-'60s, the ones that had been bought for my older sister, it never even occurred to me that this was anything odd. Years later, as I read the emasculated later versions, Nancy was just...a girl. Nothing special. Like Patty Duke, kind of. I couldn't read them.

But when the Applewood Press reissued the originals, I bought a few of them. Yeah, the language is hokey in places, but Nancy is more Barbara Stanwyck than Patty Duke. And I know who I'll take in that deathmatch, any day.

Dawn

I hesitated to elaborate on the publishers and writers of the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boy series' because I have a bad memeory for names and details, but I will attempt to briefly summarize the main themes of the book I linked to in the earlier comment. Most children's and what we would call now 'young adults' series books in the early 1900s were the brainchildren of one publisher, who was also the writer for a long time. Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were both his creations. After he could not do all the writing himself, he still did the plot outlines and shopped the writing out to various freelance writers, for a very low fee I might add. One woman did end up writing most of the Nancy Drew series. I think the most she ever got paid for a book was around $100, and that was considered the top of the scale. The publisher did the outlines and edited all of the finished manuscripts. It is his themes and world views that are represented in the early stories. He valued industriousness and independence in children, and also a sense of fun, and did make sure the stories presented the characters according to his ideals. After the publisher died, his two daughters took over the business. They worked for a while with the same writers, but then decided they could save money by doing the writing themselves. It is then that you see the characters and stories start to change.

Anyway, that is the 2cent summary. Read the book - it is better than I make it sound.

Linkmeister

My grandmother's garage in Phoenix was a treasure trove of mid-20th-century artifacts which I managed to dig into a few times in the 1960s. I found a few of the original Tom Swift books in there. There was a breathless awe about the scientific possibilities being uncovered back then that I don't think we'll see again, unless somebody starts writing YA books about mapping genomes.

There were a few of the 1920s ND books there too, and I had no sexist feelings that I shouldn't be reading them ('course, my attitude has always been that if something has two covers and pages between then it's worthy of my time). I don't think there were any early Hardy Boys; I read those in the 1960s editions and never liked them as much as ND, for reasons I've never worried about. Clair Bee's Chip Hilton books and John Blaine's Rick Brant books were more pleasing to me.

actor212

Nancy Drew without Pamela Sue Martin is like Spring without tulips.

Queequeg

When I was 10 years old, in 1973, my Christmas present from my grandparents was a great big box full of almost the entire original Tom Swift series. I believe the earliest volumes were from 1912 or so. Around the same time, I got into the Tom Swift Jr. series, too. And it's just as Lance says. The writing is more sophisticated in the older books. But it's more than that.

The characters were more sophisticated, too, with a huge, racist exception. Tom Senior and his best friend, Ned, were friends. They weren't buddies or chums. They had a deep, loyal friendship. They could predict each other. And Tom Senior's relationship with Mary Nestor is respectful and adult-like. Tom and Nancy weren't just a couple of kids who wanted to have fun. They wanted to settle down and have kids someday. When you read the Tom Swift Jr. series, you see that these qualities have changed. Tom Junior and his buddy, Bud Barclay, are pals, but ... well, Bud seems incapable of allowing a sentence to leak out of his head without making a pun or a wisecrack. They just don't seem as serious.

The Tom Senior series has an illiterate black character named Eradicate "Rad" Sampson ("...'cause I eradicates de dirt!") who is straight out of a minstrel show. The Tom Junior series counterpart is a stupid white Texan named Chow, because he's a cook. Sheesh.

I used to work for the Toledo Blade, and my colleague there was Millie Benson, the writer of most of the original Nancy Drew books. It wasn't a good idea to talk to her about it. She was bitter, and tired of everyone asking. She worked at the Blade, writing obits mostly, into her 90s.

velvet goldmine

.....Whereas The Hardy Boys without Shawn Cassiday is like a decent mystery without a gobsmacked moron.

velvet goldmine

Queequeg: The Bobbsey Twins have "a kindly, elderly negro" married couple who work for the family. Talk about a mistrel show!

Same kind of dialogue, and all the captioned illustations seem to show Dinah, the cook, throwing up her hands at family chaos and saying "Laws o'mercy!" or some suchlike.

But at the same time, the overall effect is kind of a multi-generational family living under one roof, all with different areas of expertise. As a child of divorce, I found it comforting.

sfmike

I want to know more about Millie Benson, the bitter old obit writer of the Toledo Blade who created the greatest American female detective of the twentieth century, Nancy Drew, and never got the recognition for it. Now that's a story.

judith

I agree with sfmike - that sounds interesting.

The Countess

I was a huge Nancy Drew fan when I was a kid. I read all the books. She was a free spirit who used her brains to get by rather than her looks, and she did have looks. That free spirit influenced the way I lived my life to this day. I haven't seen the movie, and I'm afraid to see it knowing it will interfere with my view of Nancy Drew, but The Count did briefly work on a Nancy Drew game for a game company. Sadly, the game never came to fruition.

The one thing I wish Nancy did was to go to college. In the earlier books, she traveled the world with her adventures, but she later seemed to solve her adventures closer to home. I think having her in college would have been great, but the heirs to the stories didn't want that to happen.

And I too thought Nancy was too good for Ned Nickerson. I loved her car! To this day, I want a convertible. I have had cars with a sunroof, so that's pretty close. ;)

Catherine Berlin

Thanks. I read the 20's series to each of my two older girls, and just picked up The Secret of the Old Clock to get the third daughter introduced. I was thrilled to hear about the movie, but then thrown by trailer. Having the movie scenes interfere with the mental images and impressions that the original text should create for my youngest would be the biggest crime of all, and one, alas, that Nancy is not here to solve. I appreciate the heads up.

Catherine Berlin

Thanks. I read the 20's series to each of my two older girls, and just picked up The Secret of the Old Clock to get the third daughter introduced. I was thrilled to hear about the movie, but then thrown by trailer. Having the movie scenes interfere with the mental images and impressions that the original text should create for my youngest would be the biggest crime of all, and one, alas, that Nancy is not here to solve. I appreciate the heads up.

marblex

i would love to see the trixie belden series FAITHFULLY adapted and done as it was written in the late 40s-60s

nancy was ruined by editing. Mildred Wirt's original heroine was spunky and bright and not at all the little perfect goodie two shoes she became at the hands of the original publisher.

marblex

actually, Mildred Wirt was not only the author of Nancy Drew books, but she wrote several mysteries for girls published by Cupples % Leon and several other girls' series books :D

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