Friday, September 28, 2012
My favorite childhood mystery is
How many readers can say that they've co-written a book with their favorite author?
When I was around 8 years old I discovered the delicious mysteries of vintage girl detectives - Nancy Drew, Ginny Gordon, Trixie Belden, Judy Bolton and many more. My favorites were Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton. When I was 13, I wrote fan letters to both authors, not knowing that Carolyn Keene was a syndicated name and not a real person (I later met Mildred Wirt, the original Carolyn Keene, but that's another story). So I did not hear back from Nancy Drew's "author." But Margaret Sutton, author of the 38 Judy Bolton mysteries, published from 1932-1967 did write back, a long single-spaced typed letter that I still treasure decades later. I wanted to be a writer and she encouraged me, even showed some of my work to a college class she taught a few years later. She helped me complete my Judy Bolton collection so I was able to read every mystery.
When I was in my 20's, I visited Margaret (she was in her 80's). She told me of other fans who had started a newsletter called The Whispered Watchword, and I enthusically became part of this group. Through serendipity, I was given the opening chapters to a new Judy Bolton mystery, THE TALKING SNOWMAN, which I was told I could finish if I wanted - and I wanted! I wrote 100 pages in less than 3 weeks, and later edited with Margaret's advice. I self-published this book in 1997, just 4 years before Margaret died at 98.
Next week I'm flying to PA for the annual Judy Bolton Days event in Coudersport, where the books were set; fictionaizing a quaint, lovely mountain town. The real events of the town are featured in each Judy Bolton Mystery, and we will be touring the sites, including a broken dam, private homes and a stately mansion. Margaret's family will be there, too. All of the Judy Bolton books have been reprinted by Applewood Books (they did some Nancy Drews, too). It's now possible to own the entire collection in paperback. A new Judy has been written as a project of Margaret's daughter, one of the co-writers my a dear friend and former sister-inlaw. I have already ordered my copy. The only Judy Bolton book not reprinted by Applewood is the one I still have copies of in my closet, THE TALKING SNOWMAN.
We'll get together each evening and share Judy Bolton fun, like a quiz based on the book selected this year, #13 THE NAME ON THE BRACELET, a mystery about switched babies that was published in 1940. Life was much different then, and as I reread this book, I'm struck by how women stayed in the hospital for days after giving birth and the fathers weren't allowed to even see the babies except through glass.
While Judy Bolton is my favorite mystery series, I love many other vintage girl series books, and I had fun weaving in titles and references in my THE SEER series.
How many can you find? I can make a contest out of this and award the one who finds the most a free book. Just email me with your answers. I'll keep it open for a few weeks.
What is your favorite childhood book or series?