A little over a year ago I read 'Secret of the Old Clock' and mentioned being intrigued, but not necessarily interested in reading the original versions of the classic juvenile detective novels. Of course, in a year's time I've become convinced I need to not only read the old volumes, but to collect them, too.
The Stratemeyer Syndicate under Harriet Adams, the daughter of the man who invented the ghostwritten series and 'Nan' Drew, began revising the series from 1959 to 1976. They were intended to address issues of racism and xenophobia as well as the problem, apparently, of Nancy Drew being an entirely too willful girl. Changes needed to be made if the series was to survive, I wholeheartedly agree, but much of the descriptive language was cut out and plots were simplified, when not altogether altered.
'The Secret of the Old Clock' lost many pages, but not the plot. Nancy Drew is the courageous girl out to solve crimes and right wrong, daughter of Carson Drew and all-around capable woman. In the revised edition she rescues a little tyke who runs in front of a speeding vehicle and befriends two poor, elderly women who are taking care of the girl after her parents died in a boat explosion. They express their disappointment in being left out of the will of a wealthy relative.
In the original there is no boat explosion. No little tyke, either. Nancy learns of the speculated missing will from her father over breakfast, and an encounter with two snobby social climbers who are the daughters of the man who will inherit without the will. The family is obviously new money and their behavior makes Nancy dig in her heels and make sure somebody, anybody else gets the money instead of them.
Other characters stay the same, but Nancy's relationship with them is altered. An odd change is that a pair of young sisters - genteelly poor and kind in contrast to the snobs - have their dream changed from getting seed money to start them in tailoring and farming respectively in the original, to getting damn singing lessons in the revision is baffling. What is wrong with working for a living?
This original book is far superior in every respect, until Nancy accepts an invitation from her friend Helen Corning (No Bess and George, yet) to a camp getaway, but sneaks away to sleuth and gets into trouble. Its not getting into trouble that's the matter. Nancy interrupts a robbery at a lake house and is locked away by the crooks. She is found later by the black caretaker who has an "alcoholic glitter" in his eyes, Prohibition was still in effect in 1930. The caretaker had been given alcohol by the crooks and then locked in a shed to be kept out of the way. There's some unfortunate dialogue and Nancy delivers a lecture and...let's not go into it.
To solve her case Nancy hides evidence from the police, avoids gunfire, and in the end enjoys seeing the downfall of the social climbers as much as helping out the poor friends and relations who desperately needed the money from will. This Nancy is flawed, but I like her a lot.
Nancy Drew Mysteries
Next: 'The Hidden Staircase'