Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene #1930Club

The 1930 Club is a meme started by Simon from Stuck in a Book and Karen from Kaggsy's Book Ramblings that explores a specific year of published books.

Title: The Secret of the Old Clock 
Author:  Carolyn Keene
Publication: Grosset and Dunlap, hardcover, 1930
Genre: Children’s mystery/series

Plot: When Nancy Drew, the attractive 18-year-old daughter of accomplished lawyer Carson Drew, starts investigating the estate of recently deceased Josiah Crowley, she learns she has the makings of a fine detective!   Nancy encounters several families who innocently thought they would inherit modest amounts of money from him; instead, Crowley seems to have left everything to the disagreeable Topham family.  Encouraged by her father, Nancy scrutinizes Crowley’s activities before he died in the hope of finding a more recent will.   Her curiosity leads her to new friends, old rivals, antique thieves, lunch with a prominent judge, being locked in a closet, the secret of the old clock, and a career as a dashing sleuth.

My Impressions: Devouring Nancy Drew is or used to be a rite of passage for girls who read. The expectation is that you move on to less formulaic books and you forget about Nancy, Carson, housekeeper Hannah Gruen, Bess, George, and Ned Nickerson (well, Ned wasn’t very memorable in the first place).  So I was impressed several years ago when there was a flurry of articles which revealed several of our Supreme Court justices had been big Nancy Drew fans: Sandra Day O’Conner, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Sonia Sotomayor.
I too read every Nancy Drew I could find after an aunt gave me a copy of The Clue in the Diary when I was in third grade.   

However, The Secret of the Old Clock is particularly significant because it is the first book in the famous series and because the actual mystery is fairly memorable.  Spoiled rich people inherited money they didn’t need while those left in the lurch were hard-working and deserving. Learning about wills and how   they had to be witnessed and produced when someone died was fascinating to me, as was Nancy’s compassion and her sense of justice. Neither the justices nor I knew back then that author Carolyn Keene didn’t exist, and that Nancy was the product of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a New Jersey-based book packagers also responsible for the Rover Boys (I inherited these from my father), Hardy Boys, Happy Hollisters (these I ordered by mail because I wanted the secret decoder that came with the first book), and much more.

1930 was the launch of a dynasty as Nancy Drew would be hugely successful with more than 70 million copies sold, not to mention movie and TV spinoffs (including a new show on the CW just this month - I watched for 10 minutes - it was dreadful), merchandise, and more.  At 8 or 9, I didn't notice the formulaic plots librarians disliked.  I enjoyed the way Nancy dashed about in her shiny convertible, intrepid and confident, although I will admit I sometimes preferred the Dana Girls, also produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, about sisters at boarding school who solved mysteries.   But when I found a Dana Girls book at a Cape Cod rental and read it to my nieces a couple years ago, they laughed hysterically at nearly every sentence, so I have to admit it did not hold up well.  

Off the Blog: I am taking a History of Children’s Literature class and just got permission from my professor to write my term paper about Nancy Drew!  I need to fine-tune the topic first . . .  Let me know if you have any suggestions that haven’t been done to death.
Source: I gave all my Nancy Drews to my niece Katherine so got this from the library.  I love that it is the very edition I first read from the John Ward School library. 


Simon T - StuckinaBook said...

Fun! I have never read any Nancy Drew, and thought I'd picked up enough about her from the cultural zeitgeist to understand - until you mentioned a convertible. I'd always assumed she was about twelve...

Anonymous said...

I've never read Nancy Drew but I reckon I would have loved her books. Thanks so much for joining it with 1930! :D