Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Beach Read: THE SECRET OF THE OLD CLOCK, a Nancy Drew Mystery Story, by Carolyn Keene

Original 1930s cover, no dust jacket
While working on a guest blog post this week I had to dig deep to pinpoint the exact moment I realized I wanted nothing more in my life than to become a mystery writer. That defining moment occurred when I was 10 years old and read The Secret of the Old Clock, the first in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, 1959 edition. This motivated me to revisit the source of my inspiration, so I curled up in a cozy chair in a sunny spot and read the classic, only this time it was the original text of the 1930 version.  I felt like a little girl again. 

1930's edition dust jacket
cover art by Russell H. Tandy

Book Title: The Secret of the Old Clock
Author:  Mildred Wirt Benson, writing as Carolyn Keene
Genre:  YA Mystery Adventure 
Format:  Hardcover
Pages:  210
Publication date:  1930 (I read a 1991 reprint of the original)
Publisher:  Applewood Books
Favorite Passage:  Long after his daughter had retired, Carson Drew sat by the fire.  At last he, too arose.
          “It wouldn’t surprise me if Nancy has stumbled upon a real mystery,” he told himself, as he snapped out the electric light and turned toward the stairway.  “Perhaps I shouldn’t encourage her to dig into it, but after all it’s in a good cause!” 

Beach Read Rating:  5 (out of 5) Beach Umbrellas

Review: I remember twice in my life when my beliefs were shattered.  First as a child when my friend Barrie told me there was no Santa Claus, and second as an adult I found out there was no Carolyn Keene.  There were actually eight writers of the original 32 stories (and many more for the more than 500 ensuing Nancy Drew books and associated spin offs), This was all the brain child of Edward Stratemeyer who formed a syndicate for the series books for children (including Hardy Boys, Bobbsey Twins and Tom Swift series), wherein he’d develop the plot then send it out to ghostwriters to complete the manuscript.  The ghostwriters were contractually obligated to never reveal themselves as the author.  Fellow Ohioan Mildred Wirt Benson wrote 23 of the original titles, earning her $125 for each book, never to collect a single penny in royalties.   
          And all that adds to the mystery of these mystery books.  But that's another topic for another day. 
          But if you want to take a trip back in time on the heels of an adventurous young girl, you won’t find a better way to spend a delightful afternoon than with your old friend, Nancy Drew, Girl Detective! 

1959 edition

Cover blurb:  In this first of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, Nancy, unaided, seeks to find a missing will. Her search not only tests her keen mind but also leads her into a thrilling adventure.


Tonya Kappes said...

Before I start my next mystery, I always read a Nancy Drew book!! It doesn't matter how long ago it was published, it is timeless!

Patricia said...

I started reading this series when I was an adult and have many of the originals. I have read most of them as well. However I never knew this about Carolyn Keene and find it a bit upsetting. Do you know what other Nancy Drew books she wrote?
Thank you for the post, Jayne!

Julie Glover said...

I loved the Nancy Drew books. I was also disappointed to learn that there was no Carolyn Keene. How dare a MYSTERY series be so MYSTERIOUS! The authors deserve full credit for what they did - inspiring many young women to be smart and savvy and writerly. Thanks for reminding me of this fond memory!

Jolyse Barnett said...

I loved the series, as did my daughter. Great post, Jayne!