My childhood set of Nancy Drews was a rather motley assortment of books. Some were bought new, and some were used. Most of them were the modern, yellow-spine versions, but some had tweed covers. Even some of the “new” books had old text.
You see, starting in 1959, the Nancy Drew books were extensively revised. The revisions were largely an attempt to reduce printing costs by shortening the text. But at the same time, the books were updated in many ways.
As a writer, I know that revision is absolutely vital. And in some cases, revision is truly “re-vision” — a totally fresh look at a story.
I can certainly understand when you want to revise a story to eliminate racial stereotypes. No argument there. And I guess I can understand when you want to revise an old story to make it more relevant to today’s youth. Sort of.
But when an older book is revised to take out dated references, you’re also in danger of taking out all of the charm.
I rather enjoy picking up my old Nancy Drews and reading about a stakeout outside a “moving picture theatre.” Or a mention of Hawaii being our newest state. Oh, and how about the fascination with air-conditioned cars — like this scene in The Mysterious Mannequin?
Mr. Drew started off, the car windows tightly closed because of the air-conditioning.
And thankfully he did, because look what happens next! A rock comes whizzing through the air and smashes against the window alongside Mr. Drew. The glass shatters! Of course, a crowd quickly gathers, and one boy comments:
“Good you had shatterproof glass and the window was shut. Guess you have air-conditioning, sir?”
It’s the little details that add color to a story. In both the 1945 and 1973 versions of The Clue in the Crumbling Wall, Nancy finds a freshwater pearl in a Muskoka River clam. She takes it to a jeweler for an appraisal, only to have her purse snatched from her arm. What else did she lose besides the pearl?
In the 1973 version, her purse contained: her driver’s license, her car registration, some credit cards, money and cosmetics.
In the 1945 version, her purse contained: a vanity case, a lovely lace handkerchief, and about seventy cents in change.
There. Isn’t that much more charming?