2018 A to Z: R… All About Nancy Drew
In 2016 I learned of the first annual April A to Z… it immediately intrigued me and I began racking my brain for a theme. After much reading, and thinking… I finally came up with the theme of Southern Foods and Memories… it said to write what you know! When April of 2017 rolled around, I decided to share Conversations with Mama to the world… the best of my on-going blog post that has generated from nightly talks to my mother. It’s now 2018 and as Nancy Drew has been on my mind… since I began re-building my collection back… well, I hope you will join me in celebrating All about Nancy Drew during the April – A to Z Blog Hop!
R is for… Revisions “vs” Originals
Photo courtesy of: nancydrewslueths
If you read Nancy Drew… what was your preference, “original” or “revision“? And if I’ve lost you already… keep reading! Don’t feel bad, as I just learned about this last year. The first 34 books, beginning in 1930, were written as twenty-five chapter books… but in 1959 those “original” books were involved in a revision process.
The revisions, beginning in 1959, continued all the way up to 1979… until they finally revised all 56 volumes. The revisions of the first “original” 34 were overseen by Harriet S. Adams, along with Mildred W. Benson; even though Benson originally wrote the first 23, Harriet always oversaw the final editing of the manuscripts. For these two women to have worked together for so many years, they must have had a good working relationship… I’m assuming!
The publisher pushed for the revisions… looking to take out references to characters of color, removing all stereotyping, and changing Nancy from a “break all rules” type of girl into more of a model citizen as on the book pages today. In order to continue publishing Nancy Drew, the publisher set new guidelines for the books… times were changing! As I never read any of the early books until recently, I never even knew about those changes. By the time I began buying Nancy Drew, the revisions in the early books were what I read, and was already in place. I have now begun reading some of those early books, and I often enjoy those storylines more than the revisions… how about You?
Adams was criticized strongly over these revisions because they felt Nancy’s appeal was compromised… it wasn’t the Nancy, the readers remembered! The first three manuscripts had been written by Edward Stratemeyer, Harriet’s father, and he had portrayed Nancy as a girl who could be more than just the usual secretary in 1930… she could be adventurous and follow her dreams; which was a little unusual for those times and most fathers would not have encouraged their daughters to do all Nancy did. Carson Drew was a lawyer, but yet he never encouraged his daughter to further her education… attending college would have given her more credentials for all she did… and logically, how long could she continue to solve mysteries… often better than the local police. Well, I guess she could continue on… as 88 years later… Nancy is still solving mysteries!
The revisions did more than eliminate pages and shorten chapters… several of the original stories became all-new-stories, such as books 2, 4, 5, 11, 12, 14, 17 and 18. Why… well it wasn’t necessarily the original writer revising her own books and anyone who writes will always spin a different twist on a story. I’m sure if they revised them again today, they would take on yet another twist… adding new places and plots!
One reason for concern by the publisher was the copyright issue. Copyrights were owned for only fifty-six years… if no one bought books, the publisher made no money and copyrights weren’t renewed. Another issue was the cost of using newer printing technology, which shifted from the older electrotype printing plates to the new offset printing. Anytime you make revisions in your company… it comes at a cost… but they knew they needed to make those changes in order to continue selling their loved Nancy Drew for many years to come. (Many thanks to James D. Keeline in sharing his wealth of information on the Stratemeyer Syndicate and it’s revision process)
Harriet S. Adams strived to keep Nancy Drew alive through the revisions… ensuring that the newer generations remain interested in reading Nancy’s adventures… always leaving them wanting more. Adams, as a mother, wrote her “daughter” in a less adventurous style, from the 1930 style Nancy, but still kept her character as one who’d always be the first to stop, help, and offer to solve a mystery. She also toned down Nancy’s sharp tongue into a more friendly style… but there were many who voiced opinions that they liked the old-style Nancy more!
As they began the written revisions, they also revised the book covers. They went from the early tweeds with dust jackets of a painting-type of art to the yellow spine books we know today with the art design printed directly on the matte cover. There were many book cover changes along the way… you’ll find several book covers for just one title.
Another revision was Nancy Drew’s age. She originally began as a sixteen-year-old girl who had already graduated from high school; the revision process changed her into an eighteen-year-old because of driving laws. I never quite understood that, but it seems that some states, during that time period, required you to be eighteen in order to drive.
The other major change to Nancy was the age she was when her mother died. In the original books, Nancy was three years old, but in the revised books they changed her age to ten years old.
Did the revisions work? Just look on the bookshelves in Barnes and Noble or Amazon online… you’ll still see, not only the flashlight editions covering the classic first 56 books, but many varieties of new styles of Nancy Drew books the publishers have brought into the line, from the early “Clue Clew” with Nancy as a young eight-year-old to an older Nancy in the “On Campus Series“, where we finally see Nancy attending Wilder University (fictional) to earn a degree in journalism; Ned was never happy in her attending Wilder… wanting her to attend Emerson with him instead… that seemed to be the demise of Ned as the boyfriend… the breakup was doomed to be!
In The Mystery of Lilac Inn, they rewrote several paragraphs of what they felt was racism out of the story. I’m not sure if I agree with all of the revisions, such as when Nancy commented after seeing Mary in an upscale dress shop and saying, “surely a girl in her circumstances cannot afford to buy dresses at such a place as this.” If we had read that scene… we might have thought that very same thing in looking for clues to solve the mystery! In reading a book, sometimes unless they write those “clues” in… like hearing what Nancy thought to herself… we might not have made that observation.
The Password to Larkspur Lane was slightly changed to only read “Password to Larkspur Lane” in 1966; not sure why “the” made a difference? They also made the same change to Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion… leaving out “the”at the beginning of it also.
In the revisions, they wrote the housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, as more of a mother-surrogate to Nancy and less as just a housekeeper; Nancy often confided in Hannah and asked her advice. Some say it’s an improvement, while others didn’t like the new change. If you grew up reading only the originals, I probably wouldn’t have liked all the changes either… I’m not a fan of change!
Nancy first drove a blue convertible roadster, along with several other colors, in the early originals, but in the revisions, the wording was changed to a blue convertible, and in the newer books, she now drives a Mustang convertible. The car changed colors through the books as her father often gifted her new cars… how lucky was she! I did ask my granddaughter Ella if she knew what a roadster was… and she shocked me by saying, “I think it’s a car.”
Nancy opens the story in The Hidden Staircase with… “I declare, I don’t know what makes me so nervous this afternoon! I have the strangest feeling — just as though something were about to happen.” (While I’ve heard the word “declare” all my life, it’s definitely a southern term, but our famous Scarlet hadn’t come on the big screen yet… although I just bet our Miss Mildred had already read Gone With The Wind!
The story in its original text (OT) is that Nancy has been asked to investigate the Turnbull sisters “haunted home” where valuables keep disappearing. Nancy talks it over with her father about going and he immediately unlocks a drawer and hands her his revolver to take along with her. There was no “carry” permit in those days, no investigation into anyone’s character in the purchase of a weapon, no visit to the FBI office for fingerprinting. You just bought a weapon, were responsible for it, and used it responsibly, but the 1930 book showed it being handed to a sixteen-year-old… a girl! My mother grew up on a farm where guns were always present. Her brother went shooting, almost daily, and he knew if he left his gun carelessly around the house… that it would have been the last time he saw it. Granddaddy didn’t tolerate anyone using a weapon and not being responsible with it… it was always returned to where it was stored… when not in use. During the 1930’s, it was not unusual for young children to handle firearms, but in the revisions… it was changed.
The “revised text” books (RT) also showed other new changes… it now had a yellow spine… but it still showed Nancy with her famous flashlight on the stairs… it’s just that the storylines are somewhat different. The publishers were no longer going to allow the writing of Nancy’s father handing her a revolver… they nixed that paragraph right out! While our Nancy had once been quite the strong young woman, capable of taking care of herself… many references to certain things were now completely written out. If you had read the original text of The Hidden Staircase, well you might just be feeling that this revised text was certainly not as you remembered… and you definitely would be right! It wasn’t enough that they, somewhat changed storylines… they also snuck in new characters, and even our Nancy behaved differently. That’s what happens when two different women rewrite the same story… having their own views of how Nancy should look, act, and even say. I’m sure my take on Nancy would also be different from theirs… don’t you rewrite stories as you read… saying, “I wouldn’t say that, or I wouldn’t have gone there like that.” Come on… I bet you do! I’ll fess up… I do!
1930 versus 1987 illustrations… I’m often partial now to the earlier illustrations, but I love the newer one of Nancy crawling over all the stolen merchandise… and probably in a dress! Photo courtesy of bookmice.net
The Secret of The Old Clock: I’ve only read the revised text version of this, and it’s on my list to read the original. In the revised, Nancy is 18 and driving a blue convertible. There’s no reference to her friend Helen Corning and the caretaker is white vs black as in the original… where his dialogue was written to insinuate his color. All references to color and speech were completely rewritten in the revised books.
Bess and George take a vacation which leads them to the discovery of the Moss-Covered Mansion with strange eerie sounds emanating from inside the mansion. As Nancy looks to discover the source of the sounds, she stumbles upon a mystery involving a lost fortune. (Maybe Nancy should be labeled as Nosey Nancy!)
Revised Text… A friend of Carson Drew’s was arrested for sending a truck loaded with explosive oranges (odd weapon) to the Space Center at Cape Kennedy, Florida. Nancy, Bess, George, and Carson rush to Florida to help prove that Carson’s friend is innocent. During Nancy’s investigation, she becomes suspicious of a spooky moss-covered mansion (well who wouldn’t) and the wild animals that roam around freely on the grounds. Nancy soon becomes involved in the Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion. (Does one sound better than the other to you? I think both would entice me to read!)
I hope I’ve intrigued you to tackle reading the “original text” and the “revised text” of each of the first 34 books… so you can compare, laugh, and giggle as you follow Nancy, Bess, and George in their funny escapades.
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