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Portable Magic

Reading, for me, is entertainment and an escape from the real world. But it can also inform and stretch the boundaries of the life I live.

Currently reading

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The Bungalow Mystery #3
Carolyn Keene
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The Mystery at Lilac Inn
Russell H. Tandy, Mildred Benson, Carolyn Keene

The Hidden Staircase – ND2.12

The Hidden Staircase  - Carolyn Keene  The Hidden Staircase - Mildred Benson,Carolyn Keene  

1930 Chs 1-7 vs 1959 Chs1-2, con't



Reading the 1930 & 1959 versions of The Hidden Staircase simultaneously, comparing differences in the story and characters, and pondering dated plot points. Spoilers: full plot description below!


We finally see some of the 1930 Nancy personality when Carson Drew comes home. Nancy breathlessly pours out the story to her father. She argues in a lawyerly fashion to be able to take the case, “cornering” him with logic and using his own words against him. He tries to tempt her into going with him on his business trip to Chicago, but she’s not having it. She prances wildly about the room when she wins. Then her father gives her a revolver for self-protection. In 1959, Nancy anxiously paces until her father gets home, then is so excited to see him that he teases that she’s looking for substitute date (ewww). He is dismissive of his daughter’s worries, joking that his only danger is from Nancy raiding his wallet, and tells her to take the haunted house case.


We get a little more on the Gombet/Gomber mystery. 1930 Carson Drew is angry when he hears about Gombet bothering Nancy earlier. Gombet comes over again and there’s a confrontation with Mr. Drew. The lawyer scoffs at Gombet’s changing story and conflicting claims: damaged his property (how? Says the lawyer), scared his horses (you’ve got one and it’s an old nag! Says the lawyer), built the bridge over the boundary, was lowballed, etc. etc. Gombet leaves saying he’ll do “something desperate”. Mr. Drew is not concerned about the threat, and explains to Nancy that the man was well-paid, but is known to be a miser and a cheat, which Nancy has already heard independently in her rambling around town earlier. In 1959, there’s no second confrontation, but Carson Drew tells a complicated story of legal loopholes and one of the landowners represented by Gomber, Willie Wharton, going into hiding to extort more money out of the railroad. He laughs at Gomber’s warning that he’s in danger, calling the man a pest and a blowhard. The reason for adding the additional character of Wharton and making a simple story more complicated (and boring) will be apparent in the final chapters, as he is substituted for one of the racist caricatures that infested the original stories.


Considerations: There is a distinct difference in writing style and quality between versions. The 1930 version has a slower build with emphasis on atmosphere and description, where the 1959 version is more sparing with descriptive detail and introduces the action and key plot elements earlier. These key events in this first comparison I’ve made cover seven 1930 chapters vs two 1959 chapters. For example, look at the introduction of Gombet/Gomber in the two versions:


1930: “He was unusually tall and thin with spindling legs which gave him the appearance of a towering scarecrow. The illusion was heightened by his clothing, which was ill-fitting and several seasons out of style. Nancy could not help but notice several grease spots on his coat. However, it was not the man’s clothing or miserly appearance which repulsed her, but rather his unpleasant face. He had sharp, piercing eyes which seemed to bore into her.”


1959: “He was short, thin, and rather stooped. Nancy guessed his age to be about forty. ‘Is Mr. Drew at home?’ he asked brusquely.”


There is an immediately noticeable difference in Nancy’s character, as well. 1930 Nancy is more often acting alone – home alone during the Gombet confrontation, driving around to make visits on acquaintances, hiking by herself in the country – whereas 1959 Nancy has Hannah Gruen with her at the house, going out on dates in groups of friends, attending church with her father on Sunday morning, and the entire mystery adventure will be coupled with Helen Corning.  But both Nancys are intelligent, inquisitive, perceptive, and always busily sifting through clues and analyzing them for meaning.


Index of posts for The Hidden Staircase: