Sunday, August 30, 2009

And the Canon is...

My apologies for missing the last week with no blog. As I have said, I am a high school teacher, and we had to report back to work last week. School begins tomorrow, and I'm going to have to figure out how to maintain a twice a week blog along with the various demands school brings. In addition to school, I'm working nights part time until the middle of October, and taking a graduate level course towards my Masters degree. So bear with me, at least for the next month or so. I'll do my best!

Based on comments made, it seems everyone feels that the Nancy Drew books 1-175 are the official canon. I find that interesting, as I would think many would feel that only the Original Text Nancy's constitute the official canon. Or that only the first 56 books published by Grosset and Dunlap count. But that is not the case.

Personally, I'm glad that there is room in readers minds for the later paperbacks. I find the pace of the books acceptable, and really like the modern Nancy of the late twentieth century. I like the mysteries, and find them reflective of their time, just as the early Nancy reflected her own era. I have only read a handful, but I like the paperbacks. I'm glad folks don't mind including them. It adds to the appeal of the series, in my opinion. The longevity of the series is a testimony to the Stratemeyer vision.

I'll post later this week again. If you haven't done so, check out my Bonanzle booth. I have some paperback Nancy's, as well as first printings of the early Girl Detective series.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What is the official Nancy Drew canon?

Like most collectors, when I stumble across a title in a series, I right away know that if I read one, I'm going to have to have them all. This seems to be a borderline sickness. If the book has a number on the spine, I immediately want to find the other titles in the series, and make sure I have them all at my disposal. Even worse, I'm one of those people who feels he must read the books in the order they were published. I have to tell myself it's okay to read The Hidden Staircase if I haven't first read The Secret of the Old Clock. And if I found out that a particular book series was not written in the same order they were published, I have to decide if I read the series in written order or published order. Sometimes I think I must be a victim of some strain of OCD disorder, but the messy desk I have by the middle of the school year assures me I don't!

I read Nancy Drew. Even better, I collect Nancy Drew as well. I don't talk about it a whole lot. I suffer from the gender stereotype that says a boy reads The Hardy Boys and girls read Nancy Drew. I read The Hardy Boys and the Three Investigators as a kid, but would have never been caught dead reading one of my sister's Nancy Drews!! The whole idea was crazy! But my fourth grade teacher did read the revised text Old Clock to us out loud in school, and I had to admit the story was interesting. Since then I have read numerous other titles in the series, and now, drawing close to fifty, I have to say it out loud... Not only do I read and collect Nancy Drew, I also enjoy her.

I have had to "give myself permission" to read Nancy Drew out of order. I have read most of the early original text tiles, and quite frankly I am captivated by the look into the past that it gives. I enjoy the roadster, the social etiquette presented, and the slice of midwestern Americana that it celebrates. I have read a couple of the later yellow spine titles, and recently have been exploring some of the paperback digest tiles after procuring a large portion (almost a hundred!) from a fellow collector.

I have been reading The Bluebeard Room and am almost done. In this book, we see a slightly different Nancy Drew. She is involved in a mystery that surrounds drugs. In addition, she kisses a young man, and it's not even Ned! She is anxious over what other people think of her, and she is given to other emotional feelings not commonly seem in the Nancy of the Thirties and Forties! This Nancy is not your grandmother's Nancy.
Personally, I have been enjoying the paperback Nancy Drews. They have pretty good story lines, and they seem to still be sticking to the basic premise started by the Syndicate so many years before. But what do fans think? What is considered the Official Nancy Drew book series?
Is it the Grosset and Dunlap published 1-56? Or is it all 175 titles before the Nancy Drew, Girl Detective series was started? Or is Nancy only the original books written before the G&D yellow spine editions were brought out? Does the series end with the last dust jacketed book The Mystery of the Fire Dragon, published the year I was born, 1961? What is the official Nancy Drew canon? Does a Nancy Drew purist lower his or her self reading the paperbacks? Must a real Nancy Drew story have blue multi-pic endpapers? Can Nancy drive a convertible instead of a roadster?
I'm curious what most of you think. Is Nancy a character frozen in time, or does a modern Nancy Drew fit in the Twenty-first century? Perhaps because of my desire to have each title in the series, numbers 57-175 sit on my bookshelf along with my matte picture cover Nancy Drews. I want them all! (BTW, I don't have them all yet, but I'm getting there!!) Since I want them all, 1-175 works for me!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Skeleton Island- Two Spins on the Same Title...

"The Secret of Skeleton Island". Sounds creepy, atmospheric, and definitely worth reading. If it was the 1930's and 40's, it could be a great B movie from Universal, or even better, a 15 chapter serial. In reality, it is the title found in not one but two classic children's book series! Both Ken Holt and the Three Investigators solved the secret at Skeleton Island, and did so a mere sixteen years from each other.

In 1949, Ken Holt and Sandy Allen solved the first Skeleton Island secret. The Ken Holt series was published by Grosset and Dunlap and written by Sam and Beryl Epstein using the pen name of Bruce Campbell. "The Secret of Skeleton Island" is the premiere volume in the series, and is full of action and suspense. The Epstein's create a world that will remind one of the film-noir output of Hollywood in the late 40's and early 50's. Crooks are mean and nasty, families are innocent and cohesive, and the good guys relentlessly pursue evil until the bad guys have been brought to justice.

Ken Holt's Skeleton Island is the site of a fancy resort and country club. It got its name because someone once dug up a skeleton presumably of one of the pirates that frequented the tiny island. Ken and Sandy are looking for Ken's missing father, Richard Holt of the Global News Agency. Their journey takes them from Ken's Prep School to the bustling city of New York, and soon enough to exciting adventures on Skeleton Island itself.

I just recently re-read this book, and if you have not read it, do so. It does a great job introducing readers to the new series, and the Epsteins are wonderful writers. The suspenseful, ominous mood prevalent throughout the book is proof of the talent of these two gifted people. Many consider the Ken Holt series the best of the children's book series published. I have read 4 of the 18 books in the series and have never been disappointed. I would go as far as to say that it rivals any adult mystery series currently on the market today. I was fortunate to find a first printing of this book. The inside flap features a synopsis of this and the second title in the series, "The Riddle of the Stone Elephant". The back flap features the first six Rick Brant titles, and the back lists to the 28th title of the Hardy Boys series. Whether you find a first printing, or a reading copy, pick this one up and read it! Classic series book reading at it's best!

Seventeen years later, author Robert Arthur visited a Skeleton Island found in Atlantic Bay located in the southeast coast of the United States. Another pirate hangout, this one also features an abandoned amusement park, and rumors of buried pirate treasure. The Three Investigators series was a book series created by Robert Arthur and published by Random House. Arthur was looking to create a children's series similar to the Hardy Boys, but wanted the series to highlight good writing, something he felt was lacking in other series of the era. The series consists of 43 titles in the original series. Arthur penned ten of the first eleven titles in the series, and achieved his goal of a well written series before his death in May of 1969. Jupiter, Pete and Bob's adventures were the envy of many boy book readers of the 1960's, myself included.

The Three Investigators title rivals the Ken Holt entry when it comes to danger and excitement. It's a roller coaster ride that has one surprising thrill after the other. The element of an abandoned amusement park is an inspired piece of creativity. A phantom ghost is rumored to return periodically to the Merry-Go-Round that was the scene of her untimely demise years before. The carousel comes to life whenever the ghost decides to attempt to finish her deadly ride. The park is being readied for a movie, and Alfred Hitchcock, a recurring character in the original series, sends the boys to solve the mystery so that the film can finish production.

Though lighter in tone than the Holt adventure, this book rivals it's predecessor. Arthur spins a compelling mystery of ghosts, criminals, pirate doubloons and creepy happenings. Danger abounds, and the sinister mood that Arthur creates leaps off of every page. Though you may figure out the secret before the end of the book, you may not know every surprise that the ending brings. Again I was fortunate to find a first printing of this title. The back of the book features the first six titles, listing to itself. In addition, know that the first printing incorrectly lists the first book title as "The Mystery of Terror Castle". The real title? "The Secret of Terror Castle". This is a great read, and the Three Investigators evoke a sense of nostalgia for a time of innocence that makes the whole series worth collecting and reading.

Anyone know of other book series that share similar titles? Are they worth reading as these two are?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Case of the Cape May Series Book Author

I'm back after a relaxing weekend in Cape May, New Jersey. Cape May is a ferry ride away for me and is a beautiful place to visit. It is billed as "The Nation's Oldest Seashore Resort" and is actually celebrating it's 400th year anniversary this year. It has been preserved with beautiful Victorian homes from the 18th and 19th century. Bed and Breakfasts abound along with some beautiful hotels. Around every corner is another beautiful home to look at, and add the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, you have a pretty amazing place to visit. I stayed at the city's oldest hotel, The Chalfonte, built in 1876. Above is a pic of the hotel.

Cape May also hold's a piece of history in the world of series books. According to Seth Smolinske's Three Investigator Collectors Site, Robert Arthur lived in Cape May from 1962 until his death in 1969. Seth has a page on his website, and list's Arthur's address as 309 Franklin Street. In addition, Arthur wrote the first 10 Three Investigator's books there. After checking into the hotel and settling in, I asked where I could find Franklin Street. I was amazed to find out it was just around the corner on the next block. I had no problem finding 309 Franklin, and went to the house to take some pics. These pictures are the home as it looks now in 2009.

It was an incredible experience to stand at the location where some of my earliest series book memories began. I wonder where in the home he actually wrote his stories, where he dreamed those early stories of Jupiter, Pete and Bob. It was a privelege to see it myself, and it did feel like a special place, as is Cape May.

I did purchase a couple of Beverly Grays, but otherwise the book picks were rather slim. Hope you enjoyed the pics. I also included a couple more of the beautiful Chalfonte Hotel!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A Short Introduction

I'm starting this blog to talk about the hobby of series book collecting. I have been a series book collector for around ten years now. I began during the heyday of Ebay, the days when you could bid on a book and not have it sniped at the last minute. The days when you could find deals and watch in awe as a book rose way above the money you or anyone you know would pay for a "kid's book".

I actually started collecting Oz books, and this was actually 20 years or more. I have 39 of the original Reilly and Lee canon in Reilly and Lee printings. I still need a "Handy Mandy" to complete the set. I upgrade occasionally, but they are not my main passion.

Personally I love the Grosset and Dunlap/Stratemeyer Syndicate series of the 1920's,30's, 40's 50's and upward. Nancy Drew is a personal collecting favorite, along with Ken Holt, Rick Brant, Judy Bolton, the Dana Girls, and Hal Keen. Mix that with Penny Parker, Trixie Belden, Beverly Gray and The Three Investigators, and you get an idea of what my bookshelves look like.

Of course, the internet has helped tremendously in fueling my passion. I live right outside Ocean City, Maryland on the Delmarva Peninsula. This is not a hot bed of used bookstores chock full of series books. Instead, my mail lady Rachel is constantly delivering boxes of books, while I am at work teaching tenth grade students English. I love coming home to a mailbox with a book or books purchased from somewhere on the internet.

Currently, I have set up a Bonanzle booth to start selling books that I may have duplicates of, or items I no longer want or have upgraded. My booth is called SeriesBookLover's Bookshelf and it can be reached by clicking on the Bonanzle link at the top of the page. I'll be adding more, so come back and check things out. I've just started adding.

Tomorrow I leave for Cape May, NJ for the weekend. Robert Arthur, author and creator of the Three Investigators series lived there. Thanks to Seth Smolinske (sp?) of the The Three Investigators web site, I know the address of the house. I'll post some photos when I get back, and share my thoughts as I roamed the streets of this great author. I plan on taking my copy of Ken Holt #1, "The Secret of Skeleton Island", and I will be perusing antique stores for that elusive first printing of "The Secret of the Old Clock". Wish me luck!