Sunday, March 13, 2011

Vintage Mystery Sunday: Back to My Roots

Since one of the great loves of my reading life happens to be Vintage Mysteries, I decided to find a way to feature them on my blog beyond the Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge which I am sponsoring and the frequent reviews of my current reads. Here on Vintage Mystery Sunday, I plan to revisit classic mysteries that I have read and loved before blogging took over my life and I began reviewing everything that I read.

This week I'm going back to the roots of my mystery-fixation. It all began with a six book set of Nancy Drew mysteries that my mom passed on to me when I was seven. She had received the books as a Christmas present when she was in grade school and, knowing that she had an avid reader on her hands already, decided to pass them on to me. That set consisted of The Secret in the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase, The Bungalow Mystery, The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, The Haunted Showboat and The Secret of the Golden Pavilion. I immediately fell in love with Nancy and her blue roadster. I wanted to have adventures like Nancy. I wanted to help people and solve mysteries and have true-blue friends like Nancy.

I've seen critiques of the Nancy Drew stories--all about how it wasn't healthy to entice girls with a heroine who seemed to have all the money in the world and a dad who let her do anything. You know, those things never occured to me. I never thought, "Gee, I wish I was rich like Nancy" or "I wish Dad would let me do whatever because Nancy can do everything." Yeah, I admit it, I wanted a blue roadster (for that matter, I still do), but not as a thing to possess. For me, that blue roadster represented adventure. Anything might happen when you set out on an ordinary day in your blue roadster. And, for Nancy, anything did.

These books were the bread of my reading existence when I was growing up and were always my comfort reads when I needed comfort or just didn't have anything else on hand. You know, it's been over 25 years since I read a Nancy Drew book, but I can still tell you what the Secret was in that Old Clock and where the Hidden Staircase was and why it was important. I can also tell you what the Clue in the Broken Locket was and why The Sign of the Twisted Candles is one of my least favorite of the Nancy Drew books. Given my aging brain, I couldn't give you as much detail about some of the books I've read over last year as I can about my Nancy books.

Speaking of The Clue of the Broken Locket--that is one of my all-time favorite Nancy books. In this one Nancy, Bess and George go to meet another friend Cecily and get involved with a mystery involving a missing locket half, the entertainment business and a ghostly boat. I know that the mystery was changed a bit in the version I read (record companies weren't quite so prevalent when this story was originally written), but that didn't make it any less enjoyable. There is a fair amount of suspense and I love the way Nancy wraps this one up.

And Nancy led me by the hand straight into the mystery field. At the same time I discovered Nancy I also found her male counterparts, the Hardy Boys. It didn't matter to me if the protagonists were boys or girls--just give me those mysteries and adventures. From there I jumped straight into Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie and I never looked back.


Red said...

I had this same set of Nancy Drew books, a mixture of my grandmother and mom's books. Unfortunately they mostly sat in my closet (nicely displayed!) instead of read but just seeing the picture of the set here makes me smile

Unknown said...

It always irks me that people are so critical! I adored those books. It was an escape - Nancy's life had peace and adventure - and a dose of confidence. The money thing never hit me it was the fact that she/they didn't have to worry. I loved that!

I went the same route you did! After ND & HB I jumped right into Christie and Holmes!

J F Norris said...

Excellent little memoir, Bev. I was more of a reader of The Three Investigators, Encyclopedia Brown and The Happy Hollisters when I was a lad. I can't recall if I ever read a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew book. I doubt it. I attempted to read a Nancy Drew when I was much older, though. Guilty pleasure and done in secret for fear of being ridiculed.

I think adults really underestimate young readers. I loved hearing some little girl make fun of all the idiots who were banning the Harry Potter books years ago. "I think they're stupid," she said. "They're just books. It's all make believe. But they're fun!" I will always remember that. I take it as a sign for the book banners and criticizers who think they know what children should read to just lighten up. :^D

Bev Hankins said...

I loved the Three Investigators and Encycolopedia Brown too. Also Trixie Belden. But Nancy was my real gateway to other mysteries.

neer said...

Though I read quite a few Nancy Drews, was never really enamoured by them. I liked the Hardy Boys and loved the Three investigators. [The girls in the class were aghast. I was letting the side down by admiring the boys! :) ] And yes followed more or less the same trajectory, after these books it was Agatha Christies and Perry Masons.