The Nancy Drew Mystery stories started in the 1930’s, called OT (Original Text). They were more than 200 pages long, and while the writing style was much better, the books contained many stereotypes and outdated scenarios. The books were revised or rewritten completely in the 1960’s and 70’s (RT). This is a review of both the OT and RT of The Password to Larkspur Lane.
The Original Text (OT) The Password to Larkspur Lane is just a crazy mess, but I couldn’t put it down because I had never read the OT before and had no idea how it would end.
The ghostwriter was Walter Karig. His first Nancy Drew book, Nancy’s Mysterious Letter (my review available here), was just awful, full of misogynist writings and continuity errors. His second book, The Sign of the Twisted Candles (my review here) was much better. The Password to Larkspur Lane fell somewhere in-between with me. It was good, but not great. There were quite a few head-scratching sentences. “Nancy, despite her remarkable deductive powers, was a normal, healthy girl, and a bedtime lunch appealed to her as much as it does to any young person.” Or, “It was Nancy’s turn to look astonished. She often forgot that few people were gifted with her sense of observation and deduction.”
In true 1930’s form, Nancy’s encounters are not what you’d find today. Nancy’s in her yard one day picking larkspur for a flower show (also called delphinium) when a low flying plane (flying so low she can make out a symbol on the tail) hits a bird that lands in the yard. It’s a carrier pigeon. That carrier pigeon is injured, and is carrying a message. Nancy calls the International Carrier Pigeon Association (she does not have to look up the number–Nancy is all-knowing!) and finds out the bird is not registered to them. A rogue pigeon and a mysterious message lead Nancy on to her next mystery.
There’s a kidnapped doctor and an elderly woman being held hostage at some shady sanitorium. Karig makes Carson Drew sound not-so Carson Drew-like: “It is more important to me that you are free from harm than that all the mysterious women in the world should have their freedom.” That does not sound like the caring Carson Drew I grew up with.
There’s the racial stereotypes we often find in these 1930’s volumes. Helen Corning just calls her servant Cook, who speaks in broken English like the stereotypical black servant. And once again, Karig forgot that Helen Corning should be married to Jim Archer by now. His Helen has her dating random guys.
One line cracked me up. When Nancy is asking for information about the suspected kidnappers, the hotel proprietor says the Tookers are mysterious because “They don’t come to church, or don’t subscribe to the local paper.” Crazy dialogue. Crazy plot lines, but somehow it works.
Once again, I thought the RT of The Password to Larkspur Lanewas better. There aren’t any continuity errors like there were with Walter Karig’s OT. Helen Corning Archer is indeed married in this volume. I had forgotten that The Password to Larkspur Lanefeatured Helen as well as Bess and George; that had never happened before in the series.
Taking out much of the filler of the OT, “Carolyn Keene” added a subplot involving Helen’s grandparents at their home on Sylvan Lake. Naturally, their favorite dates, Ned, Burt and Dave happen to be camp counselors across the lake at Lake Hiawatha and make several appearances. Of course, the second mystery Nancy gets herself involved in is tied to the first mystery of the elderly woman being held against her will in a shady sanitorium.
Somehow, in both versions of The Password To Larkspur Lane, Nancy is able to escape being thrown into an empty cistern. That’s our amazing and resourceful Nancy Drew!
For more information about my favorite sleuth, check out Jenn Fisher’s Unofficial Nancy Drew website, which has a wealth of information.
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