Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Nancy Drew's 85th Spotlight #22

In honor of the 85th anniversary of Nancy Drew, I'll be discussing the first 3 books this week, which were released on April 28, 1930, 85 years ago...

The Hidden Staircase 

A hidden staircase, a runaway truck, scary masks. Let's discuss.

A Few Fast Facts:

Ghostwriter: Mildred A. Wirt Benson

1930 Outline Length: 3 pages

3 Cover Illustrations By: Russell H. Tandy, Bill Gillies, Rudy Nappi

Texts: Revision varies the story quite a bit in parts.

Synopsis From My Website:

Original Text:

A visit by a sinister fellow who claims Carson Drew swindled him out of land that was condemned for the railroad leaves Nancy shaken as the man threatens harm if he does not get his money back. Meanwhile, mysterious goings on and thefts of personal items at the home of the Turnbull sisters leads Nancy to try and catch the house "ghost." Someone is trying to get the Turnbull sisters to leave The Mansion! Carson Drew's disappearance and a series of events that put Nancy in danger as she discovers a hidden staircase and secret passageway lead to the resolution of this spooky and suspenseful mystery.

Revised Text:

Nancy resolves to help chum Helen Corning's aunts solve the mystery of the ghost who seems to be haunting their home, Twin Elms. A mysterious man appears at the Drew home to warn Nancy and her father that Carson is in danger. This warning leads Nancy and Carson to search for the missing Willie Wharton, a land owner, who can prove he signed away his land to the railroad and save the railroad from a lawsuit. Meanwhile, the disappearance of Carson Drew, thefts and mysterious goings on at Twin Elms, and the discovery of a hidden staircase lead Nancy to solve this baffling mystery.

While the original is much more descriptive--as typical for the original texts--it also lacks some of the more descriptive objects, hidden entrances and such that the revision adds in. There are several scenes in the revision that heighten the suspense or add a cliffhanger. These include the scene where a truck nearly runs down Nancy and her father Carson Drew so they must dive into the river to avoid it. Also, the scenes where the outbuildings were searched, the girls dress up in costumes found in the attic for a party, the ceiling falls, and Nancy investigates the roof and finds a trap door. The mystery in the revision also involves more details about the land deal background and the kidnapping of Carson Drew is more developed with extra goons helping out Gomber for the kidnap scheme.

I'd recommend reading the revision, if you haven't, as the story though choppier, manages to describe Twin Elms and it's secret entrances and hidden secrets more thoroughly. And for those fans of Helen Corning, she's featured more prominently. Some goofy additions to the revision like the scary mask held up to the window at Twin Elms. Some interesting sleuthing like rocking the chandelier back and forth and using a hammer to tap the wall for hollow spots.

Original vs. Revised - 5 Interesting Clues:

1. In the original version, Nancy takes Carson Drew's revolver with her to The Mansion. She states, "I don’t know whether I could hit the broad side of a barn or not."

2. There are several name changes. Nathan Gombet becomes Nathan Gomber. The Mansion becomes Twin Elms. And relationship changes. In the original, the Turnbulls are friends of Abigail Rowen. In the revision, they are related to Helen Corning. Further, in the original, Rosemary and Floretta are twin sisters. In the revision they become Rosemary and Flora and Flora is Rosemary's mother.

3. In the revision, Gomber has an odd haunter/helper named Willie Wharton.

4. Once revised, a tall Gombet becomes a short Gomber.

5. Roughing it in the original, The Mansion does not have a telephone!

3 Mysterious Things About Nancy:

1. She dates a boy named Dirk.

2. Nancy likes to read and buys a detective story magazine.

3. She doesn't believe in ghosts.

An Important Lesson We Learned From Nancy:

When someone's trying to buy a house and it suddenly becomes haunted, they're probably the one playing "ghost."

Sleuthworthy Rating On a Scale of 1-10:

10. The perfect blend of suspense, "hauntings," secret passageways, and hidden staircases. I especially love these kinds of mysteries. I enjoyed the revision in that there were more of these kinds of hidden/secret entrances--like the listening post which wasn't in the original.

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