Tuesday, January 29, 2019

31 Days of Nancy Drew Topic #29 1960s & 1970s Nancy Drew Books

31 Days of Nancy Drew Topic #29

1960s & 1970s Nancy Drew Books

By the 1960s, Nancy Drew had been trailblazing through generations for 3 decades and the world had seen a lot of changes - inside the world of Nancy's mystery solving in the books, she had transitioned as well. By the 1960s, we had counter culture movements, radical  protest groups, anti-war sentiment with the Vietnam War, a new wave of feminism and yes, hippies, as was sometime referenced in news articles on Nancy Drew that began to appear by the 1970s and 1980s. There was also the mod 60s and fashion that  played some role in keeping Nancy up to date on the covers and inside the books. The Stratemeyer Syndicate's mantra - and stated ideal for the Nancy Drew series and their other series books, had always been "Safe and Sane" - these were wholesome books, without the drudgery of daily life, drugs, divorce, politics and other social issues. They were pure entertainment and fun for kids, as it should be, and that was the intention of these books for the previous and current decades. I've heard from many fans over the years who have said that these books helped them escape from their real life problems and cope. That is a good thing! They also helped hook kids to reading, another good thing!


Also by the 1960s, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams had been writing the books, according to releases signed by her found at the New York Public Library's Stratemeyer Syndicate archives, so these two decades especially reflect her ghosting style. And Nancy's characterization had made a full transformation by this time from the brash rough and more spirited girl from the 30s and 40s to a much more demure Wellesley girl Harriet always said, if Nancy had gone to college, she would have been a Wellesley girl and she tried to instill the Wellesley motto into Nancy's life and choices she made in the books - "Non Ministrari sed Ministrare" which means "not to be ministered unto, but to minister." Nancy was beyond respectful to authority figures and the police at this time, rarely sped, followed the rules and the law as much as she possibly could, and she relied more on her chums and Ned to help solve her mysteries, delegating lots of tasks to them and even to Chief McGinnis. Nancy and her chums and their beaus were like a team. Nancy was still a fantastic sleuth and still very determined to help others, right wrongs and solve baffling cases, but her methods and her individualism were not quite like they had formerly been. She still found herself in peril - often kidnapped or knocked unconscious and still used her wits to get out of a jam, but she also found herself rescued by Ned and others more frequently and if a villain was going to get punched, it was Ned who was going to be the one doing it! In revised versions of former books, often other characters did not-as-nice things that Nancy did in the originals, so there were changes to the revisions that toned down Nancy more as well.


In the 1970s replete with bell bottoms, disco and then the post-Vietnam years, Nancy's characterization was consistent as in the 1960s and the revisions process of the first 34 books would be complete by 1977. By the early 1960s we saw the transition from the dust jacketed blue tweed hardcover Nancy Drew books to the yellow spine picture cover format - matte picture covers featuring the image on the cover with no need for a dust jacket and featuring a list of the books on the back of the book. This format would be in print through the mid-1980s when the glossy yellow spine "flashlight" editions would debut. Also during the 60s and 70s, illustrator Rudy Nappi would revise art on most of the first 34 books and he painted the covers for books 37-56 during this time period. With the exception of books #6 and 7 (Bill Gilies artwork), all the current covers from 1-5 and 8-56 still in print today from Penguin (who acquired Grosset & Dunlap) are all Nappi art.

Nancy's mysteries in the 60s and 70s involved some intriguing plots and at times were reminiscent of Scooby Doo mysteries. They definitely got a little more modern and involved science and invention themes at times. Nancy got involved with smugglers, dancing puppets, mysterious castles, sheep thieves in Scotland, phantoms and sunken antiquities, went scuba diving for clues, snuffed out a fake alchemist in France, solved a mystery involving the Nazca Lines in Peru, traveled to Africa and tangled with Swahili Joe and the sapphire stealing gang, went ghost hunting, searched for a mysterious mannequin, tangled with a wacky robot and a room of poisons, dealt with female villains who looked a lot like her and mountain "sorcerers," double jinxes and real estate swindlers along with bizarre villains like Merv Marvel, a mysterious glowing eye that causes temporary paralysis, takes to the skies to solve a mystery involving arms smugglers, deals with union racketeers who use mechanical birds to attack people, tangles with camera smugglers and submarines and deals with a pearl cult of international jewel thieves. Whew! Revised stories sometimes became all new stories like #18, Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion in which Nancy gets tangled up in a mystery involving NASA, exploding oranges and a mad scientist who tries to boil her alive.  It was also a period of travelogues and to mostly foreign countries - Hong Kong (#38 The Mystery of the Fire Dragon), Scotland (#41 The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes), France (#43 The Mystery of the 99 Steps), Peru (#44 The Clue in the Crossword Cipher), Kenya (#45 The Spider Sapphire Mystery), Turkey (#47 The Mysterious Mannequin), and Japan (#56 The Thirteenth Pearl). Harriet liked to travel and so she would often take trips to turn into books, so she or others at the Syndicate did visit many of these places. US travels included NYC (#38 Fire Dragon), Maryland (revised #11 The Clue of the Broken Locket), Illinois (revised #12 The Message in the Hollow Oak), Florida (revised #18 Moss-Covered Mansion), Cooperstown, NY (#49 The Secret of Mirror Bay), and Las Vegas, NV (#52 The Secret of the Forgotten City).


By the late 1970s, it's not just Harriet running the Syndicate - over time she has taken on partners and her sister Edna has passed away (1974).  Now after almost 50 years running her father's company - a very ballsy thing to do for a woman back in the 30s to take on in male-dominated world of publishing and during the Great Depression - things were about to change. Frustration with Grosset & Dunlap over royalties will come to a head and on advice from her partners, Harriet will make a huge decision that will transform life at the Syndicate and Nancy Drew's world immensely and involve court room drama all centered around the 50th anniversary of Nancy Drew. I'll briefly cover that in tomorrow's posting. Stay tuned...

To round out our historical look behind the scenes of the 1960s and 1970s Nancy Drew books, during this time period, you begin to find quite a few letters at the NYPL's Stratemeyer Syndicate archive, between Harriet and Grosset & Dunlap related to Harriet's writing of these books. Even though the Syndicated handled the manuscripts and edited, the books went through a further thorough editing process at G&D before going to print. Harriet had quite a volatile relationship with G&D's editor Anne Hagan and this back and forth relationship between the two could get quite contentious at times--especially on Harriet's side of things. Hagan was a whiz with red ribbon corrections to Harriet's consternation and was apparently a real thorn in Harriet's side. You don't really see letters like this for previous volumes, so you can get a sense of Harriet's resentment at being critiqued on the books she wrote. Harriet was often very miffed over red ribbon corrections as she'd describe it and would take Hagan to task. Harriet could get quite snarky and would often counter Hagan's corrections with more corrections of her corrections. Hypers! as Nancy's chum George would often say.

As early as 1960, in a 10-19-60 letter regarding #38, The Mystery of the Fire Dragon, Harriet gets edits back from Hagan and writes

"Was it because you want to keep "Nancy Drew the best-selling juvenile in the world, or because you were weary and overworked, that you were so hyper-critical in your remarks on the enclosed manuscript? Whatever your personal reasons were, I feel that you went way beyond the province of an editor. I consider that much of the criticism and advice on what the characters should do and say, if followed, would have changed the personalities of well-known fictional heroines, and slowed down the tempo...Your inference that I do not know how to construct a good mystery, because several nameless members of the Dragon gang appear 10,000 miles apart is a bitter dose to ask Carolyn Keene to swallow. And to top that, you say Nancy is slipping--just because she does not think the way you would have her. The author of an already successful series should be allowed to write additional stories about the existing characters as he sees them. It is my personal opinion that for Nancy to run to the police with each little suspicion of hers would give Nancy little to do and ruin the stories. Besides, it would give the young reader a false idea he need not bother to try solving his neighborhood, school, or social problems himself--just tattletale to an officer."

It was clear that Harriet did not take criticism of her writing well and asked Hagan to avoid all "contentious criticisms!'"


A couple of other examples between the two women involve what Harriet considered unauthorized editing on #46, The Invisible Intruder, and she lodged "a loud and angry protest from me at the unauthorized editing on the part of your company." She found 200 additional corrections made without her knowledge. She felt that a majority of them were unnecessary and many "altered characterization, the intent, deleted humor and often deviated from the Carolyn Keene style of writing." She even threatened that there would not be any more manuscripts from the Syndicate until it's settled that she sees and okays the final versions before the books go to print. The last example is possibly the most extreme and involved Hagan's criticisms for book #51 Mystery of the Glowing Eye. This is the mystery in which Ned is kidnapped by a crazy rival nicknamed "Cyclops" who has a paralyzing light, a robot helicopter, and other assorted oddities going on for him. It was kind of an odd mystery when you think about it. After getting back Hagan's corrections, Harriet wrote to her this gem, "It pains me to write this letter, but you must have known I would not take your vitriolic editing of THE GLOWING EYE without comments...Your propensity for 'red ribbon' corrections is exceeded only by the frequency of their caustic nature. The excerpts which follow can hardly be classified as constructive comments, much less as top-quality editing."

What was Harriet referring to you might wonder? Here's a few comments of Hagan's on the edits, that Harriet threw back in her face and these somewhat amuse me:

page 6 "Ned is doltish"
page 12 "McGinnis sounds like a dumb cop."
page 33 "Nancy's question is silly"
page 71 "This is icky"
page 162 "Ned's dimwittedness is beyond belief"
page 169 "Nancy sounds like a nasty female"

Harriet questioned whether Hagan got some kind of "sadistic fun" out of "downgrading and offending" her. She felt like Hagan overstepped her function as an editor. This was a typical disagreement with them over the years and it would flare up from time to time. She then ended the letter with "It will take me a long time to live down the remark, 'Nancy sounds like a nasty female.' "


Here's but a few of the many things we learned about Nancy from the 60s and 70s books:

1. Nancy always carries a birth certificate with her in case she needs it for sudden foreign travel.
2. The nicest man Nancy knows next to her father is Ned Nickerson.
3. Nancy' Scottish family wears the Douglas Tartan.
4. Talk of marriage makes her change the subject.
5. She likes to communicate with her chums via bird calls when sleuthing.
6. Nancy blushes at hearing Ned Nickerson's name.
7. Nancy has a secret switch under her dash that locks her wheels.
8. She and Ned have devised a code in order to alert the other if one of them has been kidnapped.
9. She likes to use the library for research.
10. She considers herself to be strictly an amateur.
11. Her nail file doubles as a handy lock picker.
12. She can subdue an assailant by pinning their arms behind their back.
13. She doesn't like to take full credit for solving her cases.


Here's some fun lessons we learned from Nancy:

An alias is much more successful when paired with a disguise.

When questioning shopkeepers, it's polite to make purchases in their shop as a way to thank them for their time.

People can't walk on water, but people on stilts can!

If you come into contact with acid, bathe the area in mineral oil for relief.

Modeling clay can be used to uncover hard to read words or images on plaques and similar objects.

Real Phantoms don't write notes.

Sometimes the butler doesn't always do it!

Red lipstick makes the perfect stylus for writing an SOS on a window.

In the comments, let us know if you've read any of the 1960s and 1970s Nancy Drew books from 37-56 and the revised versions that came out of the previous 34 books which came out 1959 to 1977. (These books during this time period only had one text - 35-56 were only 20 chapters, remember that tip!). Do you have a favorite among these books? How do these books compare with the previous decades? Have you read the original and revised versions back to back for each book to see the differences and similarities? Were there any particular mysteries in the 37-56 range that you preferred over the others?

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