Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Nancy Drew Blog Party Day 5 - Nancy Drew Original Texts vs. Revised Texts

Nancy nearly attacked by a police dog protecting her young.

Nancy helping foil a mail theft ring.

A famous voice teacher helps an aspiring singer thanks to Nancy.

A plot involving exploding oranges at NASA and a mad/rogue scientist.

What do these things have in common? They were not in the original Nancy Drew books but were later added into the revised versions.

Nancy ventures off to the wilds of Canada to claim land won in a prize. She ends up blowing up a dam and flooding the land to thwart crooks trying to steal it. Sound familiar? It probably doesn't if you're not familiar with the original version of #12, The Message in the Hollow Oak and instead read the revision about an archaeological dig in Cairo, IL and Nancy's search for a treasure hidden in a hollow oak.

You know The Mystery at Lilac Inn? In the original version, very little time was spent at Lilac Inn where chicken dinners are their specialty. In the revision, the whole mystery takes place mostly at Lilac Inn.

These are some of the oddities of revising Nancy Drew. It was a project that began in the mid 1950s and led to the first 2 books being revised and published in 1959. From then until 1977, the first 34 books in the series were revised and the 25 chapter originals were cut down to just 20 chapters.

While stereotypes (which were NOT rampant as some would have you believe!) and things that would date the books like "electric lights" or slang and other outdated conventions were updated in these revisions, the real culprit was something far simpler. Money. The publisher could produce a 20 chapter book far more cheaply than a 25 chapter book. This was the factually documented driving force behind the revision process.

If you would like to see just how some of these books changed when revised, check out my article on The Secret of the Old Clock which highlights the stark changes between the 1930 and 1959 texts for this book.

After #18, The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion, the revisions were not as drastic as they had been for some titles and were simpler cut downs. If you read an original and then a revised version of the same title side by side, you'll see many instances of where the same text is still present, but shortened in places, some descriptive passages cut out entirely, some scenes where there's not so much action related to the plot are removed--all to speed up the pace and shorten them. Most of these are still the same story and plot. A few have some added subplots like Nancy thwarting a mail scam in #7, The Clue in the Diary. And eight had mostly or all new plots: #'s 2, 4, 5, 11, 12, 14, 17, and 18.

Learn a little more about revisions and when books were revised at my website.



LuAnn Sgrecci O'Connell said...

I've thought it would be interesting to read a revision of an OT by a caring, talented fan, though know due to copyright considerations, can't be done. When I was around 7th grade I tried to write a Christmas themed Nancy Drew story but lost the notebook after a few chapters. It was set in a nice old farm house on a Christmas tree farm, I think, and Nancy had a car in which she could change the license plate with the press of a button!

Jenn said...


That sounds like a fun story :) Especially the license plate idea!


Jambob said...

another day....another the nancy Drew introduced us to far-away places.....I did not travel much as a youngster but Nancy took care of that for me!

Kansas Mad Man said...

I must admit, there are some great original texts, and some great revised texts out there. The first four books, in particular, are fun for me to read either version. Some of the others should have been left alone OR simply updated and cut down. Some of the updates, though, ruin subplots and descriptive passages. For example, "Diary," adds that mail subplot that is very quickly resolved, making me wonder why it was added, since in my opinion, it didn't help the story, and the next book is ENTIRELY about mail fraud. . . . and IT IS NOT MENTIONED as a prior volume teaser that Nancy has investigated mail fraud. . . . unnecessary. However, removing all the love triangles from "Old Attic," makes the whole Horace, Nancy, Diane, Ned subplot disappear and we are left with minor rivalry between Diane and Nancy MAINLY because Diane is a snob. . . Sigh. The updated Lilac Inn is one of my favorite books, though. . . so much like a British weekend mystery. . .

Ashley said...

I love that HUGE dance subplot in Old Attic. Nancy, Bess, and George all seem to be constantly distracted by the idea of Ned NOT taking Nancy to a dance, and then, at the end, we don't even get to SEE the dance. That makes me want to write the dance scene, since it had to be amazing, with all that buildup!

Jan said...

I'm going to have to read the same book both ways consecutively. I've read an original and a revision back to back, but never the same book. That would be interesting to really see the differences!
Jan Rader