Sunday, July 13, 2008

I should start by mentioning that I myself grew up on the 1960s reprints of these books, and not the famous originals. So my fascination with the originals is not only because they are more awesome, but that they are completely different books. I understand some of the rewrites, because once the civil rights movement hit, it wasn’t okay to call people darkies anymore, but sometimes they only similarity between the 30s and the 60s version of a book is that Nancy Drew is in it. Totally weird. This book seems to be an exception, because the plots are reasonably similar.
Cover time!

This cover is rad. The 30s covers are generally the best, because they depict actual scenes from the book, the outfits are fantastic, and the girls always look smoking hot. How much do I want Nancy’s outfit? SO MUCH! I need to bring the 1930s back. Not the financial depression, of course, but at least the clothes. They rock.

Cover two also depicts a scene from the book. But Nancy looks weird. The color of her eyebrows clearly show that her blonde is not natural, and her clothes are not as amazing.
Creepy 60s cover shows Nancy, the old man, and a twisted candle. I remember as a child thinking that the old man was creepy as hell. Asa is supposed to be a rather kindly old man that likes Nancy. So what's with the creepy "I want to kill Nancy" stare?
The book opens with Nancy driving her roadster through a storm. Bess is, as usual, scared. George is, as usual, mocking Bess, and Nancy is, as usual calm and level headed. Nancy sees a light ahead in the storm and decides the group should stop there until the storm passes. Nancy gets stuck in the mud on the way up the driveway, so the three girls have to run through the storm up to the door of Civil War era mansion called The Sign of the Twisted Candles. Ding ding ding we have a title!
Nancy and her chums enter all wet and disheveled. Nancy takes charge when greeted by the inn keeper, demanding tea, cinnamon toast, a powder room to freshen up in, and permission to stay until the storm ends. Notice I say demand. Nancy demands a lot in this book. The inn keeper bends to her every wish because Nancy clearly has money. She even allows the girls use of the guest rooms to clean themselves up.
(Aside: Nancy, Bess, and George have never heard of this inn. In fact, there seems to be an inn, or farm, or store in every book that is brand new to Nancy. How is that possible? How big is River Heights that so many business exist without your knowledge. I live in a reasonably large metro, and I admit that I have visited very few of the many establishments around hear. But only rarely is one mentioned that I have never heard of. How many inns that serve luncheon are in River Heights? I must know!)
Anyways, Nancy and her friends get pretty in a manner of minutes, even though they ran through a torrential downpour and were dripping wet only moments ago when they walked through the front door. Nancy hears a man yelling at a girl and her super keen sleuthing/meddling alarm goes off. So she eavesdrops, of course, because Nancy is nothing if not totally ethical. She is caught in the act when the girl, fresh from her verbal berating, stumbles into the room Nancy and her friends were using to pretty up. Nancy lays a comforting/condescending hand on the girl’s shoulder and encourages her to relax a moment and tell three complete strangers her problem. Because one of these strangers is Nancy Drew, the girl immediately opens up and spills everything, Apparently this man is her adopted father, the woman the girls met downstairs is her adopted mother, and they run the inn. Sadie (the girl) is forced to work very hard and is essentially treated more like a servant than a daughter. There is an old man living in the tower room named Asa. Asa turns 100 years old today, and unlike Sadie seems to have imprisoned himself by choice, but seeing as how Sadie’s adopted parents want to feed him mush every day, it remains a mystery as to why he hasn’t fired them yet. No worries, Nancy will solve it.
So Nancy offers to take a tray of legitemate food up to Asa while Sadie calms down. So Nancy heads up the stairs to the tower with lots of food, Bess and George go downstairs to wait for their cinnamon toast, and Sadie disappears. Nancy meets Asa, is immediately intrigued by his age and all the boring stories he tells her, and decides that in celebration of his birthday, she will invite herself, her two friends, and Sadie to a party in Asa’s tower room. Because she is Nancy Drew, Asa is charmed by her and openly excepts Nancy’s invitation of complete strangers to his bedroom.

Nancy goes downstairs and orders a huge meal, demands that they be served in the tower room with Asa, and demands that Sadie join them. The inn keepers seem angry until Nancy opens her pocketbook and offers to pay ten whole dollars for all of the food and Sadie’s presence. Apparently ten dollars is a fantastic sum of money to a couple living in a town that seems to have escaped all ravages of the Great Depression, so they happily allow Nancy’s impromptu shindig. Asa intrigues his guests but bores the readers with stories of his life.

Nancy and her friends leave, but run into two men in the parking lot. They men fight with each other, mention that they are related to Asa, and race into the inn. Nancy feels the mystery tingle again. She drives Bess and George home, and on the trip they comment that Sadie seems far to refined to be a servant. My "Poor Girl that Used to be Rich" alarm goes off, because the only poor people Nancy likes are the ones that used to have money.

To make a convoluted plot short, the two men are distant relatives of Asa’s, and one of them is related to Bess and George, making them also related to Asa. None of these people, however, are close to the old man, and in the case of Bess and George, didn’t even know him until they were told about it. So Asa correctly assumes that everybody wants his money, and asks Sadie to ask Nancy to ask Carson to write a new will for him. He requested Carson because Mr. Drew is the best lawyer in River Heights, and probably in America, in all facets of law. Anyway, Bess and George hear about this, and for some reason get super pissed off at Nancy. Apparently friends don’t let their fathers write wills for old eccentrics that will deprive them of riches. And lets not forget that Bess and George didn’t even know that they were distantly related to some dude that got rich making candles until two nights ago. And Nancy didn’t know they were related to him when she asked her father for help. This may be one of the only times Nancy wasn’t a totally shitty friend, and Bess and George turn against her anyway.
So Asa dies the night after writing his new will, and at the will reading, one seventh of his estate is divided between all of his heirs, and seven eighths is given to Sadie. This, for some reason, causes Nancy to decide she needs to find Sadie’s birth parents. I don’t know. With Bess and George still mad at her, Nancy finds out the Asa’s wife left him when an explosion in his oil lamp laboratory resulted in the death of their daughter. “She burned up, poor dear.” This caused a Hatfield/McCoy type split, which of course resulted in a girl from one side and a boy from the other falling in love. They had a baby girl, but then they both died by drowning and the baby ended up in an orphanage. (This is really dark, actually. Was this storyline in the rewrite? Because I don’t remember a baby dying in an oil fire.) The baby was Sadie, and that’s the reason Asa is so fond of her. But instead of adopting her, or something, he let her become the servant of some greedy people.
Anyhow, Nancy and Helen take Sadie shopping and Nancy apologizes to Bess and George for actually doing nothing wrong in this book. Now Sadie has new clothes, the girls are chums again, and Nancy solved multiple mysteries almost entirely by herself, so when she takes all the credit its kind deserved this time.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Nancy's Mysterious Letter (1932)

This book title stuck out to me in my childhood because I remember it as being the only Nancy Drew book that didn't have "The Clue of..." or "The Case of..." or "The Mystery of..." in its title. I don't know if that's accurate or not. But in any case, I did not remember the plot at all. Perhaps because it is insanely boring.

Blogger refuses to upload photos today, which sucks lots because cover time is seriously the best. If you want to look as I discuss, check them here...

So famous original cover has Nancy looking 1930s foxy at the Emerson College football game. Although that coat is fur and not cruelty free. Shame, Nancy. I think this might also qualify as the only time more than 3 people have appeared on a Nancy Drew cover.

Next we have the cover in which the mysterious letter makes an appearance. Please notice Nancy's eyes on the cover...THEY ARE NOT BLUE! Sorry for the CAPS, but as we are forced to hear about Nancy's blue eyes several times per book, is it really so much to ask that the cover artist not make them BROWN?

Finally, the weirdest cover of all. Nancy standing in front of a letter. You will notice this style of cover in several of the reprints. Same lazy cover artist that can't be bothered to actually portray a scene from the book.

Also, feel free to scroll up to the covers for The Secret to Red Gate Farm and notice that is looks like Nancy has uncovered the gayest KKK rally ever.

Book time. Like I said, this book is crazy boring. Lots of 1930s football talk. I mean, sorry Carolyn, but preteen girls are not reading your mystery novels for the football talk, okay? We open with Nancy, Bess, and George arriving back at Nancy's house after a visit to Red Gate Farm. We are reminded that in the previous book, Nancy solved the secret of Red Gate Farm. Now, as her reward, she has apparently received a car full of produce and dressed ducks. I don't know. By page 2 we have the first "Bess loves to eat" reference, which may be a record. We learn that it is alomst Novemeber, and the weather is very chilly, which makes me wonder how Nancy procured so much fresh summer produce. Hannah offers the girls cocoa and cakes, which Bess pounces upon. As they are eating, the mailman arrives and Nancy invites him in to enjoy the cocoa. You know, since it is so cold outside yet strawberries are in season. So the mailman comes in, leaving his mail bag on the porch. Cocoa is enjoyed, cakes are eaten, and much talk is made about it being the mailman's last day. When the mailman finally leaves, he realizes the mail has been stolen from Nancy's front porch.. This is his own damn fault, because how hard would it have been to carry the stupid mail bag inside, but whatever. Nancy decides it was her fault, because she is a martyr, and she goes down to the post office with her mailman to defend his negligence.

The postmaster blames Nancy too, because he is also an idiot. He yells at her until some random person walks by and tells the postmaster that he is speaking with THE Nancy Drew, daughter of THE Carson Drew. So the postmaster obviously backpedals, suddenly bending over backwards to be as nice to Nancy and her mailman as possible. Because she is Nancy Drew.

Nancy returns home, where she left Bess and George, and offers them some of the Red Gate Farm produce before they leave, Bess lays claim to as much as possible, because "...her plump curves idicated a much heartier appetite than that of her slim friends." Nancy drives the girls home, being sure to remark that the cousins' homes were much more modest than her own. Bitch.

Nancy returns home and eats the 7 course meal that Hannah has prepared for her and her father. We are told that she eats a great deal of food, but no mention is made of her fatness. Ned Nickerson arrives, which makes me laugh, because Ned is a total loser. I can't wait until I recap some of the books where Nancy cheats on him. Ned has come over to invite Nancy to the Emerson homecoming weekend, complete with football game. This is where the book slides rapidly downhill, and I'm sorry if I skip large chunks, but trust me, you're all the better for it. Because Ned only talks about football from this point on, and Nancy spends as much time commenting on how pretty she is as she does working on her mystery, and its crazy boring.

Speaking of mysteries, Nancy finally gets around to opening her letter sometime around page 50. It is addressed to Nancy S. Drew and mentions an inheritance in England. Nancy knows this letter is not for her, as she has no middle name and she is positive about her paternity. Although I am not. I would like to pretend that Carson is not really Nancy's father, because it makes it a little less icky when they almost make out in every single book.

So, Nancy's mystery is to find the missing heiress. Who wants to bet that out of all the Nancy Drews in America, another one lives very near River Heights and is the missing heiress? Also, Nancy wants to clear the name of her mailman, and prove that the missing bag of mail was not caused by his negligence, even though it very clearly was. How about a bet on the likelyhood that both these mysteries will intertwine somehow?

I'm sorry. I love Nancy and all but this book is not holding my attention. Also, I have cramps. So I'll cut to the chase, outline the awesome bits, and call it a night.

Awesome moment where somebody calls Nancy on her behavior (page 67):
"I'll bet your father has to sweat to keep you decked out in clothes and cars so you can hop around sticking your nose in other folks affairs!" Um...yup.

Number of times Ned's awesomeness as a quarterback is mentioned: 17 (Seriously)

Number of times Nancy decides she is the awesomest girl in the room: 4

Number of times we are remended Bess is not awesome because she is a fatty: 9

Awesomest place where Nancy and her father behave inappropriately close: the breakfast table in front of Hannah

Number of minority groups that portrayed as unintelligent and not awesome: 12 (9 of these at a costume party, where, in the company of "pirates, siamese twins, fat men, and black-faces galore" Nancy offends Hindus everywhere and wins first prize. Obviously.)

Number of cases Nancy solves aweseomly: 2

Number of people that thank anybody but Nancy for their awesome help: 0

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Clue of the Broken Locket (1934)

Let's start with the cover. My 1934 edition has the dust jacket from an older reprint on it, rather than the famous original. We'll snark them both...

Famous original (right): Um...this is a little confusing. In the 1930s editions, Nancy is described as being blonde, but this cover shows her as the more well known titian. Also, as we all know Bess likes to eat, but this cover seems to imply that she also likes to vomit afterwards, because that is not the body of a girl that loves cake. Bess looks fantastic. Not that I'm promoting bulimia by saying that. Can I also mention how much I love that 1930s Nancy, Bess, and George actually do detective work in outfits like these? I mean, Bess is carrying her pocketbook and they are all wearing heels. Totally awesome.

Next, the version of the cover that I have (left): Even more confusing. Nancy is the blonde in the middle, because she is the one holding the locket. George would be the dark haired girl on the left. Which leaves Bess as the girl on the right. But Bess is a blonde, no matter what decade it is, and that girl is very much not a blonde. More like a titian, if you ask me. So does that mean that Bess is in the middle and Nancy is peaking in from right field? Also, that "locket" is enormous, obviously not broken, and isn't a locket at all, but a yellow construction paper cutout of a heart.
This book is awesome. It starts out with an adoption, which I don't recall being in the 1960s version. Apparently, Johnny and Kitty Blair are adopting two orphaned twin babies. Nancy does not like the Blairs because Kitty is overly rouged (read: whore) and Johnny is swarthy (read: criminal). They want to raise the kids as stage kids so they will be bringing in lots of money by the time they are ten or twelve. I did not know this, but Johnny Blair would have me belive that twins will be a sensation. I suppose...twins do seem to do well in porn today. Maybe the follies were 1930s porn. Nancy is obviously scandalized, because she is rich and saintly. Nancy and Carson spend the whole chapter fretting about this situation and eating Hannah's creamed chicken. At the end of the chapter, Nancy receives an annonymous note "Do not let the Blairs adopt my babies. Signed: Broken Heart".
Nancy can't resist a mystery, so she heads off to the Blair estate to meddle. She takes her shiny new roadster, which Caroline Keene describes in detail for about two pages. Nancy "skillfully handles the large machine." Maybe that meant something in the 30s? Because Ms. Keene mentions that in every book, I think. On the way, Nancy picks of Bess, who marvels at Nancy's awesomeness while Nancy marvels at Bess's love of food. Nancy is a shitty friend. While at the Blair estate, a courier arrives with the twins' few belongings from the orphanage. The Blairs intend to burn it in the fireplace (?), so while Bess makes small talk, Nancy steals the bundle by concealing it in her beret and hides it in her roadster! Nancy has just committ her first felony of the book. Then she calls Hannah, persuades her to get some of Nancy's old baby clothes out of the attic and take a taxi up to the Blair estate, so Nancy can leave those and the Blairs won't notice that they have been robbed. Seriously. And Hannah actually does it!

Then the twins start crying, because they are babies. Nancy uses her powers of reading the minds of babies and realizes that they are hungry. Kitty Blair says the babies can wait while she dresses for the evening, so Nancy gets all outraged and takes it upon herself to go into the Blair's kitchen and feed the babies herself. Rodney, the Blair's chauffuer, falls into the fire while Kitty is burning the twins' old belongings. He has an imprint of a heart burned into his forhead, but he is otherwise alright, so Nancy and Bess then leave without really caring all that much about his well being. After all, he is only hired help, not an innocent baby.
The next day Kitty Blair calls Nancy and begs her to babysit the twins because she simple can't handle their screaming. Nancy calls Bess, and they head over to the Blair's home, stopping to pick up toys for the twins. Kitty leaves the house as soon as Nancy and Bess arrive. The girls bathe and dress the twins (expertly, of course) then give them the toys they have purchased. The twins endear themselves to me by creating a game in which they throw the toys and Nancy and Bess run to pick them up and bring them back. Two 14 month olds are playing fetch with Nancy and Bess. It is awesome and goes on for about 6 pages. Nancy and Bess take the twins to the park, where they because so engrossed watching a tiny lizard that the babies almost get kidnapped by a strange woman. Luckily, the woman abandons the babies by the side of the road, and Bess takes the babies home while Nancy chases the woman in her roadster. Nancy decides that this must be the twins' biological mother, and makes up her mind to solve the mystery of who she is so the twins can be taken away from the awful Blairs and be given to their real mother, who has abandoned her children at least twice, once near a busy intersection. Then, after thanking Nancy, the Blairs, the twins, and the parents will disappear from River Heights forever.
Nancy spends the next 100 pages babysitting the twins, snooping around the Blair estate, and making comments about their gaudy taste and bad parenting. Sometimes Bess and George are there. Sometimes they are not. Nancy notices that the chauffuer Rodney seems to be very intersted in the well being of the twins, and the mystery woman that tried to kidnap the twins keeps popping up. Kitty and Johnny realize what Nancy has been up to and frame her for robbery. No need to frame her...she really has robbed from you before. Nancy, of course, doesn't get thrown in the hokey because her father is a prominent River Heights attorney. She saves the day and solves the mystery. To the suprise of exactly two people, the parents of the twins are revealed to be Rodney the Chauffuer and the mystery lady attempted kidnapper/baby abandoner. The twins are reunited with their parents, although why they were up for adoption in the first place is never explained. Everybody thanks Nancy. Nobody thanks Hannah for aiding and abetting Nancy's felony.
Number of times Nancy's driving skill is mentioned: 8
Inappropriate father/daughter relationship alert:
"Carson pulled his lovely daughter into his lap and stroked her hair out of her face. 'You're a peach' Nancy said, kissing her father."
Number of meals Hannah prepares: 7
Number of times Bess's weight/love of food is discussed: 5
Dated references:
dictaphones, follies, operators connecting phone calls, telegrams, adoptions that take two days from start to finish

Shall we get this party started?

Nancy Drew is my hero. My love for her is known far and wide. It is out of this pure and beautiful love that I create a blog in which I will snark on Nancy mercilessly. And I'm doing it all for my mother, who introduced me to Nancy and her gang of chums. See, when I was very young, my mom had the parenting sense to know that she should read to me to help foster my intellectual development, yet no desire to purchase any books to do so. Enter a set of 55 (she missed the last one) famous original Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, which she read to her small daughter, creating a freakishly smart child that loved to read, but that also used the words "sleuth" and "keen" a bit to often. I love you Mama. This blog is for you.