Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Nancy Madness, Day 2

Thrillionth Page Scoop!
The Secret of the Slush Pile: Never-published Nancy Drew Mysteries
By Ellen

The successful debut of the Nancy Drew series in 1930 had a tremendous impact on purveyors of popular published works. Series originator Edward Stratemeyer had discovered an entirely new market of consumers with disposable income: American girls who were old enough to babysit but not yet old enough to drive. To meet the demands of this lucrative readership, Stratemeyer employed several ghostwriters to produce stories featuring the titian-haired teen sleuth and her easy-to-tell-apart friends.

The true identity of series writer “Carolyn Keene” did not remain a mystery for long. By the early 1960s, Stratemeyer’s use of ghostwriters was an open secret. However very little has been known about the would-be authors who hoped to make the cut but failed to grasp the essential framework and formulae of the Nancy Drew franchise.

This mystery, perhaps the last and longest-held secret of the Drew dynasty, was solved in 2006, when an anonymous donor left a four-drawer filing cabinet at a Goodwill in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Goodwill volunteers discovered that the cabinet contained more than 70 years’ worth of rejected Nancy Drew manuscripts. It appears that, within weeks of the release of The Secret of the Old Clock, Stratemeyer’s family business was deluged with spec submissions from penurious novelists, playwrights, poets and other liberal arts graduates—each hoping for a slice of the lucrative juvenile mystery pie. It is evident from the contents of the cabinet that the stream of unsolicited material endured into the 21st century.

Several are marked with doodles or coffee stains. Some bear handwritten notes, such as “Well-plotted but creepy,” or “Lacks basic understanding of English syntax.” Many appear untouched.

Like Nancy Drew herself, this collection of never-to-be Nancys reflects our changing times. Unlike their published counterparts, the rejected manuscripts provide a fascinating, perhaps unwelcome, peek into the preoccupations and proclivities of three generations of failed writers. The following list is a representative sampling.

The Original Hair Color (1931)

The Secret Lady Spot (1934)

The Tax Forms in the Attic (1947)

The Box at the Back of the Closet (1951)

The Clue in the Pants Pocket (1958)

The Message in the Bottle of Valium (1964)

Return to the Secret Lady Spot (1968)

The Ancient Chinese Secret (1973)

The Clue to the Brownish Condiment (1979)

The Abruptly Discontinued Eye Shadow (1983)

The Smell in the Old Condominium (1990)

The Map to the Secret Lady Spot (1992)

The Thing That Went with That Thing (1996)

The Whereabouts of the Good Tweezers (1997)

The Hollow Tree at Hazelden (2001)

The Assembly Instructions for the Ikea Bookcase (2002)

The Mystery of Christopher Hitchens’s Career (2005)

Find Ellen at the very entertaining A Girl's Garden of Menopause

My Adventures with Nancy ‘Super Sleuth’ Drew
by Kim
The mair I kissed her the mair I lo'ed her
The mair I kissed her the mair she smiled
An' I forgot my mither's teaching
Nancy soon had me beguiled.
I began my adventures with Nancy Drew books in the 4th grade. The first ND book I read was my mother’s 1930’s copy of The Secret of the Old Clock. Being in the fourth grade, the vernacular of this old school book confused me. I am pretty sure it made me want to die. I didn’t know what the heck a roadster was. So, my mother took me to the library and we checked out a revised edition of The Clue in the Old Album. Thus began my love affair with Nancy and the gang. She did everything boys did, but she did it in a dress and heels. I soon spread my addiction to my 2 BFF’s. We rode our bikes to the library every week to check out the Nancy’s. We even called ourselves Nancy, Bess and George. I was Nancy because I was the only blonde. Hey, don’t mock me; I was in the fourth grade.

My favorite book is The Clue in the Diary. This is the book that introduces Nancy’s man, Ned Nickerson. To a ten year old, the best thing about ND books is the exclamations. Everyone exclaimed! I was all about exclamation points. Ned’s coolness factor soared because he did a lot of exclaiming. I loved that about him! He thought Nancy was the bee’s knees. In this story about mail and insurance fraud, Ned often admires Nancy’s smarty pants, isn’t afraid to compliment her on her detecting skills and he jumps right into the mystery to help her. And, yes, he even takes her to a dance. He was this ten year old’s perfect man.
“You’re being very mysterious,” Ned complained good-naturedly. “How about letting me in on the secret?”

Nancy laughed. “Maybe you shouldn’t beg too hard, Ned. You may find yourself being called upon to do all kinds of outlandish sleuthing jobs.”

“I’m at your service,” Ned replied quickly.

Little by little, Nancy told him the details. When she finished, Ned said, “You’ve certainly done some terrific detective work!”
This was a great story about Nancy and her friends eating, discovering the intricacies of the mail system, insurance fraud, eating, learning Swedish, finding out about the history of diaries, eating, and mostly about helping others in need. At the end of the book Nancy holds a victory celebration at her home.
“It really was a gorgeous party!” Bess sighed blissfully. “Such fun!”

“Say,” said Ned, “I have a notion to start a diary of my own!”

“Why don’t you?” Nancy asked lightly.

She became conscious that Ned’s eyes were looking straight at her. “I will if I can fill most of the pages with entries of dates with you.”

My thoughts upon re-reading Nancy's Mysterious Letter 
by Carolyn Jean

It was so interesting to re-read a Nancy Drew book after all this time.  I remembered particularly liking this one as a girl, mainly because I was super into mail and had numerous pen pals.

Anyway, this mystery begins as Nancy and her friends drive past old Ira Nixon the mail carrier, who looks tired and bedraggled. I was immediately alarmed for Ira; I remembered something awful happened to him. In fact, many awful things happen to Ira, but the first is that his mailbag is stolen while Nancy and pals are serving him cocoa.

It soon comes out that there was a letter to Nancy in that bag, informing her of a large inheritance, only the letter was meant for a different Nancy Drew. Basically, Ira’s evil brother is trying to get the other Nancy Drew, who doesn't know she's an heiress, to marry him before she learns about the windfall, and Nancy is trying to stop the wedding and let her know Ira Nixon’s brother is a bum.

Early in the book, Nancy gets an excellent clue from a quick witted boy on a bike—a description of the mail thief’s clothes and a partial license plate. She relates this to mail carrier Ira:
“Mr. Nixon, do you know a tall, slender man who wears a yellow overcoat and hat, and has a beat-up car with the license plate TJ12?”

To the surprise of Hannah Gruen and the girls, Ira Nixon uttered a cry of dismay. The blood drained from his face. He put his hands over his cheeks and exclaimed, “No, no! It couldn’t be! Oh, what will I do?”

Ira Nixon slumped forward in a faint!
I totally forgot how delightfully dramatic these books were. I was also surprised at how short Nancy can be with certain tedious people. ("Can you please get to the point, Mrs. Skeets?") But Nancy is polite to authorities, like the Postal investigator:
The young man looked at her superciliously. She judged that he was not very many years older than she and his attitude annoyed her. But our of respect for his position, she said nothing.
Here is a passage that is so Nancy:
As soon as luncheon was over, Nancy told Hannah Gruen she was tired of staying in the house and waiting for news “I’m going to do some investigating,” she announced.
Her investigating takes her to the home of Sailor Joe, whose every exclamation is a sea thing (“Heave your anchor lass, come into the parlour.”) He tells her this really random and sort of insane story about being kidnapped because he was mistaken for a pearl diver, but when he'd said he was a pearl diver, he'd meant a dishwasher.
Sailor Joe laughed uproariously. Nancy wondered what was so funny about this. Instead, it seemed tragic.
Later, a stone is thrown at Nancy, and a window is broken. She muses that the suspect must be “getting desperate to try such a villainous method to keep her from trying to solve the mystery.” Villainous indeed.  Ineffective, too!  The stone thrower, it turns out, was paid $25 bucks to do the deed. Ned gets hold of him and says,
“Suppose you turn over some of it to me to have a new window put in our fraternity house.”

Otto was reluctant to do this, but seeing the determined look in the husky football player's eyes, he changed his mind and handed over five dollars. Then, quick as a ferret, he dashed off among the cars.
I loved quick as a ferret. Anyway, later Nancy is also chloroformed and somebody tries to run her over, too. That sort of surprised me too--Nancy really goes through a lot.

More Nancy fun!

Tomorrow: Part 1 of a surprise interview, more ramblings of mine, and giveaway details!
Thursday: Part 2 of surprise interview, Kim reviews The Spider Sapphire Mystery, and Tracy's mystery contribution.

Giveaway! Comment at any time this week and you're entered to win a $15 gift certificate to a bookstore of your choice that's not Amazon, a funky Nancy Drew tote, or a signed copy of the fun-filled Nancy Drew "Clues for Real Life" book. If you contributed to--or if you pimp Nancy Drew week, you get an extra entry!


Sarai said...

OMG great review!!! I miss Nancy *sigh* do you think that if I checked them out at the dreaded library they would laugh at me?

Katie Reus said...

Lol Sarai! I don't think they'd laugh at you. Nancy Drew is an icon!!

Katiebabs said...

I heart Nancy Drew and if I had more time and less of a TBR pile. I would read her every week! Nancy Drew reviews every day!!

Stacy~ said...

Oh wow, I loved Nancy Drew. I re-read the first book about 6 months ago or so and got such a kick out of it. Fun times.

Anna said...

The Clue in the Diary and Mysterious Letter are two of my favourite books. Those books were in the group of my first Nancy Drew books. The Clue... was also fun just because of the part about swedish since I am from Sweden.

(Amazing that IKEA is famous woldwide for their instrucions...;) )

Nice to read all of your vivid writing. I will be back for the rest of the week.

Tracy said...

These are so great! I love reading about all of these books.

Nancy does seem to get herself in some predicaments, doesn't she?

Pamk said...

I loved to read nancy Drew when I was younger them and the hardy boys too. For some reason I loved the hardy boys tv series better. Could have been shuan cassidy adn parker stevenson lol.

Carolyn Jean said...

Sarai & Katie: Who could laugh?

KB: Oh, pile on some Nancies.

Stacy: They do sort of hold up on re-read in a fun way, don't they?

Anna: Welcome! Thanks for stopping by. And yes, Ikea directions are famous.

Tracy: A stunning amount of predicaments, yes.

Pam: Were you a shaun cassidy girl? Do you remember his album, "under wraps?"

Wendy said...

You know, I've never read anything of Nancy Drew? Nope!

Liza said...

I think I'll start replacing the rest of my Nancy Drew books again. I've gotten the first 10 or 11, so if I buy a few a month, I'll have the whole set in no time.

Carolyn Jean said...

Wendy: It may be too late for you.

Liza: Replacing them! Good luck.

Wendy said...

CJ, heh yeah I think it is.

Aymless said...

Great review CJ!

I loved Nancy Drew! I'm trying to get my friend's daughter to read them.

little alys said...

Thank you so much for doing this CJ! I love reading *coughskimmingcough* Nancy Drew. My memories are very vague, but I remember how happy I was that there's a book with a strong heroine solving crime! Independent, smart, and in charge.

The Stiletto Gang said...

Great minds think alike! Thanks for stopping by the Stiletto Gang for our Nancy Drew week. You've got a great blog here!

Evelyn David

Bridget Locke said...

Man! How did I MISS this!?!? That's what happens when my interenet goes kaput. *sniffle* Can I get in on this before the end of the week? At one point I was a HUGE ND fan. :)

Carolyn Jean said...

Hey Bridget:
Sure you can contribute! Email me something today and I'll put it in for Thursday.

bookworm said...

Nancy was one of my favorites when I was a little girl. Haven't thought about her in years, thanks for the memories!

Tumperkin said...

I'm just racing through your Nancy posts now - love this one with the Sailor Joe thing. Fabulous!