The Three "R's"

Ramblings, Reflections, Reviews … From the "Pen" of William Land

Discovering Nancy Drew

Discovering Nancy Drew

by William Land

One summer (1970) my parents had returned home from a visit with family in Southern Ontario. I was eleven years-old. My mother had purchased two series books for me as a gift: one Bobbsey Twins title (a series I was currently reading) and a Hardy Boys book (an unfamiliar series). An older cousin, Beverly O’Brien, had given my mother several worn girls’ series books for me. I think there were six or eight books in that bundle; I only recall two titles specifically. They were The Scarlet Slipper Mystery, (Nancy Drew, ©1954) by Carolyn Keene, and The Mystery of the Phantom, (Robin Kane, ©1966) by Eileen Hill. I can only assume that I wasn’t too interested in the other books; otherwise, I would have remembered them clearly.

Nancy Drew #32: THE SCARLET SLIPPER MYSTERY, ©1954. Artist: Rudy Nappi, ©1954.

Artist: Rudy Nappi, ©1954.

On another day that same summer, my mother sent me to my bedroom as a punishment for some misdeed of which, at the time of this writing, I can’t recall. No doubt I was sobbing, pondering bitterly on this injustice, and feeling hard done by a parent who did not agree that life would be better for everyone in the family if my needs and desires were first.

After I dried tears, I knew it was too soon to ask to be released so I looked at the bookcase and found the not yet read novels from Beverly. I thought the much-loved copy (read battered) of a Nancy Drew mystery; The Scarlet Slipper Mystery (1954 original text) must be a good book because of its condition. This book had worn and bent corners, scratched covers, a missing yellow spine, cracked hinges, and significant foxing.

Upon opening the book to the first page and reading the exciting opening line about a possible plane crash, I was captivated! Immediately, I found this story to be much more exciting than the adventures of the Bobbsey Twins and Donna Parker, the books I had previously read before Nancy Drew. The pretty, blond, blue-eyed girl detective and her thrilling adventures in River Heights and its environs instantly captivated this first-time reader. Nancy’s investigation, involving displaced refugees, smuggled jewels, lost paintings, and the scarlet ballet dancing slippers, was dangerous, exciting and intriguing.

Like a fly trapped in a spider’s spinning web, I was caught in the thrills of this exciting mystery. So great was my enjoyment that I forgot I was being punished.

The house was quiet. My dad and younger brothers were away; Mom and I were the only two at home. She was working out front in her flower garden when I heard a male voice call, “Hi, Gorgeous!” This strange person was speaking to my mother!

Curious about the mystery outside my window, I set aside the Nancy Drew book, and saw a man and a woman, whom I did not recognize, approach my mother in her yard. She obviously knew them, and invited them indoors.

Mary Quigley Land - December 1971 - Elliot Lake ON

Mary Quigley Land – December 1971 – Elliot Lake ON

I remained puzzled! Who were these people? Why did he call my mother “gorgeous?” She couldn’t be! She was Mom! She was very old … she was 38! (An aside: at the time of this writing, I am 55 years old!)

Knowing that I couldn’t solve that mystery, I returned to my book, reading almost to the first half of the novel. Hearing several voices downstairs, I knew that my family had returned home and the company was still present.

Upon entering the kitchen where most people had gathered, I was introduced to the couple. The man was a first cousin of my father; the woman was his then fiancée (now wife).

After the introductions, my mother shot me a curious look! No doubt she was wondering why I stayed in my bedroom so long without asking to be released. Likely, she thought I might have been “up to something,” but what? With company present, we both knew she wouldn’t ask questions! In turn, I shot her a smug look and kept my secret that day: I had discovered Nancy Drew!

March 2015
©2015 William Land


  1. Peter Clark

    Scarlett Slipper is one of my faves! my first nancy was The ghost of Blackwood Hall’
    Love your posts!! Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Peter,

      After “The Scarlet Slipper Mystery,” I recall reading the first three revised text books in the series in the “Meet Nancy Drew” 1970 special volume, and “The Mystery at Lilac Inn,” (I was trying to find the books in order; I thought it had mattered), but I wasn’t able to get them in order so I read them as I found them; a mixture of original and revised text books.

      “The Ghost of Blackwood Hall” is a favourite of many fans, but not for me. All the elements of classic Nancy Drew are in the story. Widowed Mrs. Putney is communicating with her deceased husband through seances. She learns she is robbed of valuable jewelry when she brings the pieces to a jeweler to be cleaned and is told the gems are fake. She is reluctant to tell story because she is warned not “to speak to any man or woman” about the seances, or communication with her departed spouse will cease. The jeweler wisely brings her to a “girl detective” for assistance.

      Mrs. Putney should be grateful to Nancy for her interest and assistance. Instead, she treats her so rudely and nastily at times. Nancy, being Nancy, doesn’t react personally to this, but is determined to help the widow despite the obstacles the woman is placing in her way. Personally, I would have told the oldster to jump into the Muskoka River!

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the posts.



  2. Nina

    I am going to start reading Nancy Drew again. My youngest son has found the last book to my series, and I should be getting it in a few days. While I remember reading many of the series, I do not have an amazing recall like you. I have over 300 books waiting for a first read, so Nancy just has to sit on my shelves and look pretty. Nice posts, Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Nina, I’m so glad that you’ll be able to start reading Nancy Drew again – I look forward to hearing your thoughts. I read and re-read the classic series so many times I practically memorized them. As a serious collector, I find myself checking the stories again when I want to verify something that comes up in discussion in the series collectors’ community. My friend, Greg Finnegan (playwright The Three B’s) calls me his “fact checker.”

      I read and like many of the various series, but Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton remain my favourite books.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts. I’m having fun writing new pieces and revisiting older ones. It’s great to have everything in one place, too.


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