Sunday, September 12, 2010

SLEUTHS AND SILHOUETTES

Before I knew the meaning of either of those words, I discovered the magic of Nancy Drew. (A magic which, sadly, does not carry over to the present when I reread her books, but still ...)

The first mystery I ever read was called THE SECRET OF THE OLD POSTBOX, and it made me seek out more books with secrets to discover. At the library I looked for books with similar titles and was amazed to find shelf after shelf of those titles by an author called "Carolyn Keene."



Today's Nancy Drew books have been adapted for a modern audience, and include brightly colored covers. That makes me sad, because there was magic in those old silhouettes and black-and-white illustrations.



Nancy Drew introduced me to mysteries, a love that has continued and grown stronger over time. Nancy and her father, Carson Drew, the housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, Nancy's boyfriend, Ned Nickerson and her best chums George and Bess remain as fresh in my mind as her cool coupe. One of the first Nancy Drew books I read was THE HAUNTED SHOWBOAT, and I think THE SECRET OF THE OLD CLOCK was next.



As an eight-year-old, my vocabulary probably doubled as a result of reading these books. I had to ask what a hearth was (and for YEARS thought it was pronounced "HERth"), not to mention "coupe," "roadster," "sleuth," "bungalow," "bayou" and any number of unfamiliar words.



The florid titles were perfectly mysterious and made me crave more:

THE SECRET OF THE OLD CLOCK
THE BUNGALOW MYSTERY
THE SECRET AT SHADOW RANCH
THE SIGN OF THE TWISTED CANDLES
THE PASSWORD TO LARKSPUR LANE
THE WHISPERING STATUE
THE CLUE OF THE BROKEN LOCKET
THE CLUE OF THE TAPPING HEELS
THE MYSTERY OF THE MOSS-BOUND TRUNK
THE SECRET IN THE OLD ATTIC
THE CLUE IN THE CRUMBLING WALL
THE MYSTERY OF THE TOLLING BELL
THE CLUE OF THE LEANING CHIMNEY
THE MOONSTONE CASTLE MYSTERY



I read every Nancy Drew book my small library branch carried and was frantic when I couldn't find more. My lovely aunt  Em bought me new Nancy Drews - non-birthday or Christmas gifts, which made them all the more treasured. Once I discovered these books, I copied the titles of all the ones I hadn't read and didn't rest until I'd read them all. That has become a habit of a lifetime, with every author I've read and loved, from Agatha Christie to Nora Roberts to Jenny Crusie to Dick Francis and more.

My daughter never got into Nancy Drew - for her it was Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's "Alice" books, Ann Martin's Babysitters Club series and Lois Duncan's mysteries. I read Lois' books when I was young, too, so I was thrilled when my daughter became obsessed with those. With my son, J.K. Rowlings' wonderful Harry Potter books turned him from a non-reader into a reader, and I will always owe her a debt of thanks for that.



As I mentioned, the Nancy Drew books lost a bit of their shine when I reread a few of them recently, but scanning those titles still brings back the thrill of finding an unread book and a breathtaking mystery to be solved. The exciting worlds between the covers of books have always had a strong gravitational pull for me. I wonder if authors really appreciate what a gift they give us when they share their stories?

It really is a gift of magic, which is one reason I love moderating the Mystery Book Club at Barnes & Noble (BN.com). There's nothing more exciting than introducing a reader to a wonderful book!

4 comments:

Fricka said...

Like your experience, becke, the Nancy Drew books were an important part of my young formative years.I must have read all of the titles that you have listed, as our town library had a long shelf of the Nancy Drew books, and I read them all, with much enthusiasm. I was surprised but not totally shocked years later to find that "Carolyn Keene" was a pen name, and that there were a number of women who had written the books. Still, they met a need in my life when I was in my pre-teen years, and I remember them with great affection.

Becke Davis said...

Hi Fricka - Like you, it came as a big surprise to me when I read the story behind "Carolyn Keene." Now the whole Nancy Drew franchise has become a big business. I guess Nancy Drew is still going strong!

Susan said...

Good Morning Becke,Such wonderful memories of Nancy Drew..She was an obsession of mine as well.and am so grateful to my parents,who loved to read..I loved reading them under my covers..Flashlight and all..My daughter was also A Babysitters Club fan.and RlStine,and the author who's name I forget The Lion,the Witch and the Wardrobe,which I starting reading,,,I tried The Nancy Drew route,but it was a different time and place..You have intoduced us to so many Great books,Authors I think you need a Virtual Assistant though LOL..See you on BN..Best Becke,,,Suze I had no idea That Carolyn Keene was a pen name and several Authors had written under that name..Must Thank Fricka

Becke Davis said...

Hi Susan! That's C.S. Lewis who wrote the Narnia stories. My husband has read all of his books for adults, but I've only read THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE.

What other books did you all read when you were young? I also loved A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeleine L'Engle, the Trixie Belden books, the Beverly Gray books, and anything about King Arthur.

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