Thursday, December 31, 2009

365 Days of Nancy Drew

I wanted to encourage anyone who hasn't signed up yet to check out the "365 Days of Nancy Drew Blog" which begins tomorrow, and will continue all year long, in honor of the 80th anniversary of the creation of Nancy Drew. Jennifer Fisher is creating and running the blog. Here's her own description:

"There will be postings every day on all kinds of topics from fun facts, trivia, quotes, insights from the history behind the series, book and character discussions, craft projects, guest Bloggers, news and scoops, 80th anniversary items, giveaways and much more! It's like your own page-a-day calendar but more in-depth and insightful."

The cost is only 12.00 to subscribe for the whole year. I think this will be a fun blog for anyone interested in series book collecting.

Click on the icon up top, and you will be directed to the information page! Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Clarke's Guide to Margaret Sutton's Judy Bolton Mystery Stories

A few months ago, while writing about the various printing guides available to series book collector's, Jennifer White alerted me to the existence of a Judy Bolton guide that had been created and published by SynSine Press. I began searching for it, and several weeks ago found a copy on the Abe Books website. It was only 20.00, so I quickly picked it up. I'm very glad that I did. Unlike other guides out there the Clarke's Guide focuses on a few printings, as opposed to every printing ever done of the Judy Bolton series.
Laurie Clarke focuses on first printings of each title, first wrap dust jackets, first picture covers, first revised texts, first paperbacks, facsimiles and unusual printings. Thus the book is not as thick as Farah's Guide, or for that matter as thorough, but it helps the collector know what he or she has, and gives a good overview of the printing history of the Judy Bolton series.

There is a section that focuses on the various formats of the series, and also the different spines and their evolution over the years. This also will help the collector as he or she looks for and acquires volumes in the Judy Bolton series.
Clarke uses the same identification format that Farah uses, as well as the same abbreviations. For those familiar with that guide, it makes for an easy transition to this one. I have posted a couple of pictures of my copy, to help a person know what they can look for if they want their own copy. I'm very glad to have a copy. Thanks to Jennifer White for her letting me know about this source.
Let me add here that a certain amount of caution needs to be used when using this or any printing guide. Many people feel that proper bibliographic standards are not used in these type of guides. This is partially due to the fact that Grosset and Dunlap did not give printing histories in their various volumes. A certain amount of conjecture is used on the part of these guide authors. Looking at dust jackets and ads for other books in the various volumes help to date a particular printing, but it is probably not foolproof. For me, I am willing to use the books to date my various series books, but others are not so inclined. It is really up to the individual collector.
Laurie Clarke's volume was published in 1995. so it has been almost fifteen years since its publication. Newer printings of Judy Bolton titles may have been found since that time. There is a Washington, DC address for Miss Clarke in the book. Does anyone know if she is still there, and if she still travels in any series book circles? I'd love to get in touch with her if anyone knows where she currently resides or has an email address.
I like this guide, and have added it to my most consulted reference pieces.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Winter Reads: "Behind the Green Door": A Penny Parker Mystery

The Penny Parker Mystery Stories were published from 1939-1947 and written by Mildred Wirt, who of course also ghosted many of the early Nancy Drew books. There were many similarities between Penny and Nancy. Both were being raised by widowed fathers and both had a motherly housekeeper. Penny is sixteen and lives in the Midwest. She has her own car, and like Nancy, loves a good mystery. Many believe that Penny is the Nancy Drew Mildred envisioned. Her stories are more time specific; Penny refers to the "enemy", and there are references to other wartime situations as well.

Published by Cupples and Leon, Mildred seems to have more control over the development of the series than Stratemeyer's Nancy Drew. Penny certainly gave Nancy a run for her money, and seventeen volumes were published. The earlier, thicker volumes one finds in this series seem sturdier, while later volumes, printed during the war do not seem as substantial. I was fortunate to find several of these at a local used bookstore, and bought them all without knowing a lot about the series. It was one of my more fortuitous purchases, as I have never seen several all available in a store again.

Beyond the Green Door is set in a ski resort area in the middle of the winter months. There is a hotel with strange happenings going on behind a green door. Penny attempts to help a struggling lodge owner, and uncovers dangerous situations. The book is a fast read, and perfect for a cold, snowy Saturday afternoon.
I highly recommend these books. Like most series book fans, Millie Benson is one of my favorites, and I never seem to be disappointed when I read one of her books.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas to all...

It's 7 AM here, December 24th. I'm drinking my cup of coffee, and getting ready for the day. The winter storm moving across the country is promising rain for the Delmarva peninsula. Family will be here this evening, and we gather together tomorrow again. Busy days, and festive days.
I wanted to take a minute this morning to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I couldn't find a series book Christmas image, but this Little Golden Book was one of my favorites from childhood. I love the Disney illustrations! Perhaps you had this one as well.
Merry Christmas to each of you. May you be blessed this holiday season. May you enjoy family and friends. May you feel the love of those you are close to,
and may you find your most desired and elusive series book under the tree tomorrow. A Christmas miracle.
Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Connie Blair Part 2

I finished "The Riddle in Red" yesterday and really enjoyed it. Despite the fact that the tone is sometimes a little too sweet, I found the story very readable, the plot engaging, and Connie's character gaining more depth. She has developed into a round dynamic character, one who is confronting situations in life and helping to find solutions to the problems facing the other characters. I liked the way the writer created suspense, as one began to wonder if Cleo the cosmetic queen has been kidnapped, and how Connie alone figures things out.

I thought I would share pictures of my collection of Connie Blair books. As I mentioned in my last post, the only book I am missing is The Mystery of the Ruby Queens. I have my eye on one currently on Ebay, but I have seen the seller run an auction with the book at a lower Buy It Now price, so I am waiting for it to come down. Hopefully it will!
I will be keeping my eyes out for first printings in this series. I have a few, but some are later printings. My plan is to find firsts to upgrade my collection.

I especially like the artwork on the covers of this series. They are atmospheric, and speak of dark mysteries and situations. I like the ominous mood they create.

I was pretty fortunate to find all of these in dustjackets, and for the dustjackets to be in such good shape. The Clue in Blue and The Riddle in Red are in the roughest shape, and even they are acceptable.

Here is a complete list of Connie Blair mysteries:

1. The Clue in Blue, 1948
2. The Riddle in Red, 1948
3. Puzzle in Purple, 1948
4. The Secret of Black Cat Gulch, 1948
5. The Green Island Mystery, 1949
6. The Ghost Wore White, 1950
7. The Yellow Warning, 1951
8. The Gray Menace, 1953
9. The Brown Satchel Mystery, 1954
10. Peril in Pink, 1955
11. The Silver Secret, 1956
12. The Mystery of the Ruby Queens, 1958

Volumes 1-4 were reprinted in the familiar picture cover format, with a lime green spine. As I mentioned in my previous post, they were also available in paperback in the late 1960's.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Connie Blair and her Colorful Mysteries

I know that it has been a while since I posted, and my apologies. I finished my Grad class in Young Adult Literature last week, and the week leading up to the end of the semester was rather busy completing papers I had procrastinated in writing. At last I am doing some pleasure reading, and I have been enjoying catching up on some books bought this Fall that I had not read yet.
One of my purchases on Ebay was for 11 of the 12 titles in the Connie Blair series. I have so far finished the first title, The Clue in Blue, and am halfway through the second, The Riddle in Red. This series was written over a ten year period, from 1948 to 1958. It was published by Grosset and Dunlap, and as near as I can tell was not a product of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, but was a series directly developed by Grosset and Dunlap. Published under the pen name of Betsy Allen, eleven of the titles were written by Betty Cavanna. Cavanna was a published author before writing the series, and specialized in teen age romance novels. She did not write the twelfth novel, The Mystery of the Ruby Queens. The author is unknown, though there is some speculation in the series book world as to the author. My collecting buddy Jennifer over at the Series Books for Girls blog has an interesting idea of who that author may be.
The books are fairly quick reads, with the title of a color in each title. They have been criticized that they are anti-feminist, even though Connie is a career gal. The criticisms say that she uses her femininity over brains to solve problems. The books are dated, with a fifties mentality of simplicity oozing from the pages. Nonetheless, I am enjoying them. Simple and fun, and easy to read in a sitting or two.
You can find them on Ebay fairly easily, either in their original format with dust jacket, or the later paperbacks that were issued in the late sixties. Number 12 is a little elusive, and the price is higher as a result. I have held off getting this one, hoping to find a cheaper copy.
If you've never read a Connie Blair Mystery, do so.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Be careful when ordering Applewoods at Amazon!

Last week, I decided to buy a few Applewood editions of The Hardy Boys. I have a complete set of the Nancy Drews, and love the volumes and the way they display on the shelf. In addition, they are increasingly becoming more collectible, and they are a good investment. Perusing Abe Books or even Amazon, one sees Applewood Nancy's for 85.00 and up. The Hardy Boys volumes are a little more accesible, so I decided to get a set completed before they too become hard to find and fairly expensive.

I went to Amazon, and pulled up several volumes. Some were still available through Amazon direct, and some through online book dealers using the Amazon Marketplace. Click on the cover art for the Applewood edition of "The Mark on the Door" featured on Amazon.
If you look at the Marketplace dealers there seem to be many. A company called Any_Book shows that they are selling a copy for 7.07 new. I should have been suspicious, but I was on the right page, and generally Amazon is reliable.
Imagine my surprise when my copy arrived yesterday and it was just a Flashlight edition I could have bought at WalMart. I contacted the company immediately, and they apologized, saying there must have been a mix up at their factory. They said I could send the item back for a full refund, something I intend to do.
So check before you buy, and be wary of low priced items. It seems when prices are too good to be true, they often are!!