Sunday, January 4, 2015

Day 1129 (again) Nancy Drew and The Three Investigators

I don't remember how old I was when I read my first Nancy Drew book, but I do remember the title - The Mystery of the Fire Dragon.  I loved it, and it was the beginning of a lifelong love of mysteries.  From that book, I worked my way through the first 56 hardcovers and continued through a lot of the softcovers (#57 and up).  And, of course, being the collector that I am, I had to have all the original Nancy Drew books.  What that meant for me, though, was a little different than having first prints of everything.  I could live without those, because I (probably) still can't afford those.  Instead, in the 1950's they rewrote the early stories, shortening the page count from 216 or so to 180ish.  There are no 180 page count books in my collection.  And last year, I finally finished upgrading the absolute worst copies I had, so now everything is good or better.

Then there's the companion series - The Hardy Boys.  Yeah, I didn't care for them as much.  I could never identify with Frank or Joe, and their stories never seemed as fun or dangerous or creepy as Nancy's did.  I've got a number of their books, but I've never felt the need to track down more than what I have.

However, there was a mystery series that I did find as compelling as the Nancy Drew series, and that was Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators.  Jupiter Jones (the smart one), Pete Crenshaw (the athlete), and Bob Andrews (the normal one) were teenage investigators who worked out of Jupe's uncle's junkyard solving cases that were strange, compelling, and always seemed to have a touch of the supernatural to them.  I still remember the day when I went into the bookstore and found out that they had revamped the series for teens.  I felt that I went in every two weeks looking for a new book.  Eventually, they printed 11 of them, and they're all pretty good, but one of the new series stood out.  But more on that in a bit.

I read 103 books last year.  That's probably why I didn't see as many movies as the year before, and I don't think I'll ever top that number in my lifetime.  But out of those 103 books, I re-read the original 43 Three Investigator books, along with the 11 updated ones.  It took me about five months get through all of them, and it felt great.  As with any series, it all depends on how much you like the characters, and with no exception,  these three guys were people I liked hanging out with.  They solved mysteries that involved art thieves, haunted houses, thieving midgets (!), and pirate treasure, among others.  Compelling stuff.  When they did the new series, they were less of a mystery and more of tracking down bad guys who stole cars or who wanted to stop the opening of a play.  And while they weren't mysterious, they advanced the characters, and were pretty exciting.  And the fourth book in the series was called "Funny Business" and was about the guys finding a collection of comic books, going to a convention, and meeting all the people involved in the industry from the editors to the artists to the cosplayers.  It was a clever mystery, it had incredibly well-defined characters, and didn't talk down to those of us who know comics.  (And, yes, Jupiter got a love interest in the story that didn't feel forced.)  It immediately surpassed my two previous favorite books in the series - The Mystery of the Vanishing Treasure (with the aforementioned midgets) and The Mystery of the Invisible Dog (which had real supernatural elements to it).  I read Funny Business every few years, because as with the best books, you want to immerse yourself in their world every so often.  At least, I do.  And a few years ago, through the magic of the internet, I found a hardcover copy of the book that was signed by the author.  It's easily in my top ten favorite things I own.

But to bring it all back around again, I started The Three Investigators series last February, and I think this year I might re-read all the Nancy Drew books.  It's been a while since I took them off the bookshelf (there's so much other stuff to read), but I do love reading series.  Heck, last year, I re-read Hitchhiker's Guide, too.  (so good!)  But right now, I've got a few books lined up in the queue, including As You Wish written by Cary Elwes about the making of The Princess Bride, and the new books by Gordon Korman and Carrie Vaughn.  So, February is looking like it's getting full.

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