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.


  1. You are correct. The Connie Blair series was not a Stratemeyer Syndicate production. It is part of a group of G&D series which were added in the 1940s to provide material to supplement that provided by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Other examples include Rick Brant, Ken Holt and Tom Corbett.

    Although not as widely known as Betty Cavanna's work on volumes 1-11, the author of volume 12, The Ruby Queens is known. Ann Miller, a friend of Cavanna, was asked to write the story. Unfortunately, little is known about her beyond this because of the timing and the fairly common name.

    The paperback edition of Ruby Queens is a little more findable than the hardcover with dust jacket. If you want the latter, expect competition every time and don't be surprised about prices in the $100 range. Without jacket it should be considerably less but many collectors won't consider this.

    The first two volumes (Blue & Red) are especially common. Even the first four are pretty easy to find.

    James Keeline

  2. The criticisms say that she uses her femininity over brains to solve problems.

    ******I have really never noticed that in a Connie Blair. I think of her as tough, a girl Ken Holt. She does get a love interest in each book, but she definitely does the leading around. And the series was too early to equate in any way with Feminism, the concept of which was not even in the pop culture brainwaves in the years this series came out.

    One book I find disappointing - The Brown Satchel Mystery. It starts out with such a really good mystery about the lost Everglades lakes and the night she gets stranded out in the Glades alone. But then, when they search for the lakes and find what they belive to be them, the story just falls apart and becomes hokum. Not my favorite.

    The Yellow Peril and The Gray Menace are among my favorites, both very dark and mysterious, and the latter quite like an Agatha Christie whodunit.