Annette Funicello was, like so many others in my generation, a big part of my childhood. While she was a Mouseketeer on The Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950's, WGN in Chicago ran repeats of the show every afternoon when I was a kid, and I watched. One of my favorite parts of the show was the serials--The Hardy Boys, Spin and Marty, etc. I vaguely remember a serial starring Annette that was also called Annette--she was an orphan who went to live with her aunt and uncle, and it was all about her trying to fit in to the Disneyfied ideal of what teen life was like (think Archie comics and Riverdale).
But what most people don't know is that Disney--always a master at making money and merchandising--also capitalized on Annette's enormous popularity by licensing her out for a mystery series to Whitman (who was also publishing the Trixie Belden books at the same time), based on the serial about her that ran on The Mickey Mouse Club. I honestly do NOT remember how I first came across the first book I read in this series--whether it was found at a flea market, or the Piggly Wiggly in Alabama during our summers there (which is also where I bought many more Trixie Belden books), but I always remembered it because I thought it was very well done.
It was called The Mystery at Moonstone Bay.
Interestingly enough, the author was completely down-played; even now I couldn't tell the name of the author off the top of my head without looking it up; obviously the big selling point of the book was "Walt Disney's Annette", which is bigger than even the title of the book. (The author was Doris Schroeder, who was apparently not only a real person but an extremely prolific writer of not only novelizations but original novels and screenplays!)
Annette stood in the bright June sunshine and waved to her best friend, Lisa Kerry, as the train to Arizona pulled out of the station.
Lisa's lips formed the words "Come as soon as you can!" as she was carried out of Annette's sight, and Annette smile and nodded.
But Annette wasn't smiling so happily when the train had disappeared beyond the railroad yard, and she had climbed into her neat little white sports car, nicknamed the Monster, to drive home. She had planned to be on that train with Lisa, and now she wasn't sure just when she and her Aunt Lila would be able to accept Lisa's mother's invitation to come to Pine Mesa for a summer visit.
The two girls had enjoyed an exciting time at Lisa's desert home during the Easter holidays, and had planned ever since to start the long summer vacation with a few weeks there. However, they had needed to change their plans and postpone Annette's trip until later. So now Lisa was on her way home alone.
Annette stopped at the Choc Shop, near the big high school, with a vague hope that maybe some of her crowd would be there and she would feel a little more cheerful after a bit of a gabfest.
But of all her friends, only Jinks Bradley, her next-door neighbor on the quiet side street where she lived, was to be seen. And he, wrapped in gloom, was dreaming over a double-decker sundae down at the end of the counter.
The world Annette inhabited--just like Archie's Riverdale--was a squeaky clean one of sanitized dates and malt shops and bobby sox; an idealized world that adults LIKED to think actually existed.
But I digress.
The Mystery at Moonstone Bay was a good story, though. After sending her friend Lisa on her way, Annette heads home only to discover her trip is going to be delayed even further--old family friends are coming to visit and get reacquainted--widower Jim Burnett and his daughter Sandy. Annette is dismayed at first, but in typical Annette fashion, she immediately cheers up as she remembers Sandy--whom she hasn't seen since she was a little girl--and starts making all kinds of plans for her, introducing her to the gang and so forth. (The Burnetts are looking for a place to settle down--Mr. Burnett has made a fortune by striking oil in Oklahoma.) Annette's excitement turns to horror when they arrive at the airport--Sandy is heavily made up, wearing a mink stole and a fancy dress and expensive jewelry! It takes a few chapters for Sandy to finally break down--after overhearing Annette's friends making fun of her--and the truth comes out; they are, after all, nouveau riche, and she thinks everyone makes fun of her dad and expects her to be a certain way...and Annette, always being Annette, lets her know that she just needs to be herself. Everyone winds up liking Sandy...and Sandy is excited about moving to town...until her father decides to look at a property about an hour or so up the coast...the Glaven estate at Moonstone Bay. Five days after they go up there, Sandy calls Annette from a pay phone in the nearby town of San Benito, begging her to come up...and the mystery is off and running.
Turns out that Peggy Glaven, the glamorous widow trying to sell the place, was actually the second wife of dead Mr. Glaven, whose son, Brod, was disinherited. Brod at first seems like kind of a dick, but once Annette and Sandy get to know him better, they soon take his side--because they've seen the darker side beneath Mrs. Glaven's polished veneer. The mystery soon revolves around a necklace of pigeon's blood rubies that belonged to Brod's mother--which Mrs. Glaven sells to Mr. Burnett for Sandy, and then it's stolen, and Brod is framed for the crime. It's up to Annette and Sandy to clear Brod's name and get to the bottom of the mystery.
There were only four books in the Walt Disney's Annette series, and they were all written by Doris Schroeder: The Desert Inn Mystery, The Mystery at Smuggler's Cove, and Sierra Summer being the others. The books were all published in the early 1960's, and stayed in print throughout the decade...and were brought back into print in the earlier aughts by Disneybooks, in paper, and available as a set.
I actually saw them in the Disney Store at the mall in Metairie, and remembering them fondly from my childhood, I of course had to buy them.
Of course, Annette left Disney in the early 1960's, and went on to make a series of B movies with Frankie Avalon--extensions, really, of her serials with Disney; the beach movies are probably the best known.
It's pretty amazing she wore her hair like that to the beach, isn't it?
That career petered out as the 'wholesomeness' of the 1950's and early 1960's gave way to the convulsions that shook the country in the mid to late 1960's; the combination of Vietnam, the civil rights movement, the women's movement, the drug culture, etc. made the plastic phoniness of teen shows and movies like Annette's beach movies lose their audience...it was in the late 1960's that most of the kids' series were cancelled by their publishers, etc.
Someone should really do a book about the change in teen culture that took place in the 1960's. I'd love to read it.
I've been listening to my Stevie Nicks playlist a lot lately, which brings me incredible amounts of joy. I don't know why I always forget that; all I really need to do is play either the Stevie playlist or the Fleetwood Mac one, and my mood not only lifts but I get creative.
Granted, the news of Ireland voting to change their Constitution to allow same-sex marriage--plus the wonderful Twitter hashtag of #hometovote--all the emigrants returning so they could vote 'yes'--made me so incredibly happy, yet melancholy at the same time. Melancholy that we still aren't there yet in the United States; sadder still that my governor (whom I am slowly but surely beginning to believe is not only deluded but the embodiment of pure evil; I've known for years that he was a pandering demagogue with neither a soul nor an ounce of integrity) could still find further depths of hypocrisy and bigotry to stoop to.
I also keep forgetting that this is a three day weekend and I don't have to go to work tomorrow.
I am hoping to have a productive day today; I slept in until ten this morning (!) and want to get my kitchen cleaned, my office straightened up some, and then I want to get some work done on my writing before taking the evening off to try to get caught up on my award-judging. I am going to have to get up early tomorrow so I can get going on my emails. Paul is leaving on Thursday for nine days to visit his family (!) so there will be plenty of time then, of course, to clean and organize and write because it will probably take me about a day or two to enjoy the solitude before it starts pushing me right over the edge with boredom.
I've also agreed to write a short story for an anthology, but just realized May 31st is a lot sooner than I'd thought it was. YIKES! Okay, time to figure out if one that's on hand can be revised and rewritten to fit, or if I need to write a whole new one.
Heavy heaving sigh.
Ah, well. Time to start cleaning, I reckon.
And then back to the spice mines.
My grandmother's second husband loved flea markets and second hand stores. He also loved fishing and outdoorsy things; they rented an apartment in Chicago and owned a summer cabin in Wisconsin. We would go up there for weekends in the summer and the fall (we once went up in the winter, oh my God, was it cold). He loved to get up and go fishing on Saturday mornings, and we would always go haunt flea markets on Saturday afternoons. It was at a flea market that I discovered Judy Bolton. There was a tweed book on a table with a bunch of paperbacks, with the name The Haunted Fountain on the spine. It was only a dime, and it was safe to assume it was a mystery; at the very least a ghost story. I picked it up, looked inside the cover, and saw that it was indeed a series; the rest of the books were listed on the inside. So I bought it, and when we got back to the cabin, I lay down in the hammock and started reading while my dad and grandfather mowed the massive lawn. I enjoyed it, but there were things I didn't really understand--things that apparently readers of the previous books in the series would understand, but someone who just picked up a book in the series wouldn't. Judy, the main character, was more developed as a character than Nancy Drew--whom I hadn't met yet--and I liked her rather colorless but nice friend, Lois--but her other friend Lorraine was kind of a mean, spoiled bitch.
So, that afternoon when I was at Goldblatt's and discovered the first books in the series on the sale table, I picked them up.
”Hey, Judy!” called lanky Edna Jenkins. “Get your nose out of that book and come to the mail box.”
Judy Bolton looked up with a start. She had supposed herself to be quite alone. Early in the afternoon, knowing from experience that the day would be another hot one, she had searched out the coolest place to be found, under a beech tree not far from the new road, and settled herself to read and watch the men at work.
“There’s a letter for you,” Edna persisted. “Come for a walk and get it.”
“It’s too hot. Anyway Grandfather will bring it.” Judy tossed aside the book and settled her back against the tree trunk. The storekeeper’s daughter was no friend of her own choosing. The tall beach tree and the friendly sumacs along the edge of Dry Brook were better company. She liked to hear the workmen calling to each other as they busied themselves with shovels and machinery on the new concrete road which, when completed, would bring her grandparents nearer town and all the things Judy loved.
Part of every summer she and her older brother, Horace, spent at the Smeed farm with Mrs. Bolton’s parents while her father, the town physician, went away to the seashore for a much needed rest.
Days were intolerably long and monotonous in Dry Brook Hollow and the two or three weeks seemed like so many months to the vivacious auburn haired girl from Roulsville. At home she had never lacked for adventure. Her father’s business brought her into contact with all kinds of people as she often went with him when he made his calls.
Roulsville was a rapidly growing town. It was situated in a narrow valley three miles below where Dry Brook joined another and larger stream. A giant white concrete dam had just been recently completed to supple power for the paper mill which was the town’s big industry.
Below the dam there were stores and banks, a small theatre and a park in the midst of which was a round pavilion. Farther down the valley, opposite the old River Street church, was Dr. Bolton’s combined home and office.
This first book concerns the Roulsville dam, and shoddy workmanship that puts the entire town at risk. Shorthly after this scene, Judy overhears a fight between two men working on the road. She isn't sure what exactly she heard--it doesn't make a lot of sense to her--but she is threatened by one of the men to 'keep her mouth shut', and so Judy decides to investigate. During the course of the investigation, she is reacquainted with childhood friend Peter Dobbs, who moved away to the larger, nearby city of Farringdon (when they were kids he used to tease her and call her 'Carrot Top' because of her red hair until she finally got mad and yelled, "Carrot tops are green and so are you!') as well as his wealthy friends, brother and sister Arthur and Lois Farringdon-Pett. A lot of references are made to her brother Horace, who's been sickly as a child and is a timid, shy young man--he is referred to as a sissy and coward frequently. But when, at the climax of the book the dam is about to burst, Horace mounts a horse like Paul Revere and rides through town warning everyone to get to the safety of high ground--saving lots of lives and becoming 'the hero of Roulsville.' This heroic deed transforms Horace, and Judy herself eventually solves the mystery.
In the next book, Judy and her family have to move to Farringdon, since Roulsville was destroyed, into a house that apparently is haunted, in The Haunted Attic
The thing that I liked the best about Judy Bolton was that, unlike other series, she aged and evolved and changed. This made the series a bit more difficult for readers; you really had to read them from the beginning because they chronicled not only mysteries that Judy solved but her life, her growth as a person, and that of her friends, as well. The fact that the books were all written by the person who created the series, as opposed to being contracted out under a house name with a synopsis and outline from the Stratemeyer Syndicate who would then license the books out to Grosset & Dunlap, ensured that the voice was always consistent and there weren't continuity errors. And Judy grew up, much to the disapproval of the Syndicate. She grew up and she fell in love and got married and even, for a time, she and her husband, Peter Dobbs, fostered a child Roberta.
Sutton also dealt with social issues in the book as well; class, poverty, and racism (The Search for the Glowing Hand, one of the later books, dealt with anti-Muslim racism in Farringdon; published in the mid-1960's, it was pretty daring for a book in a series for girls), among many others. Each mystery unfolded into another; and if you picked up one of the later books in the series, there were always references to events in earlier books that sometimes made it difficult for the new reader; you really had to read the series in order. Reading the series in order made things that confused me in The Haunted Fountain--why Judy was so forgiving of Lorraine's nastiness to her, for example (Lorraine was always jealous of Judy; and her husband Arthur originally proposed to Judy first, so Lorraine always felt like Arthur only married her because he couldn't have Judy--and to make matters worse, they actually had a double wedding, so Judy always felt sympathy and understanding for Lorraine). Peter became a lawyer and eventually went to work for the FBI. Judy's grandparents died and left her the house in Dry Brook Hollow, which became her home with Peter.
The series concluded in 1967 with The Secret of the Sand Castle, which sent Judy to Fire Island, of all places (which amused me to no end as an adult, knowing that it's now and pretty much has always been, a gay resort), to solve a mystery in the off season. Sutton and Helen Wells (who wrote most of the Cherry Ames and Vicki Barr series), both felt their series were cancelled to eliminate competition for Nancy Drew. Judy's fans, however, are very rabid and loyal. Another book, The Strange Likeness, was later brought out, and a book set earlier in the Bolton timeline, The Talking Snowman, which Sutton had started and never finished, was finished by a fan with Sutton's approval and guidance.
If there was an underlying theme to the books, it had to be families. Judy's mysteries often dealt with families that were split up for some reason or another, and needed to be reunited. In The Invisible Chimes, a young woman who was part of a notorious family of gangsters, for example, was proven to be Peter Dobbs' sister who'd disappeared when she was a baby. Roberta, a young orphan girl, was fostered by Judy and Peter for several books until she was reunited with her parents in The Clue of the Stone Lantern.
The books, unlike the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys and several other of the Syndicate/Grosset & Dunlap titles, were never revised or updated, which also made the older books a bit dated.
It's a shame that Judy Bolton never achieved the success or fame in the zeitgeist that her counterpart Nancy Drew did; Judy was a much more realistic and real-seeming heroine. Like Nancy, she never needed a man to rescue her; she got herself out of her own sticky situations with her wits, she was smart and courageous, and she was almost always kind--you could understand why all of her friends and family loved her because Sutton made her lovable, while Nancy sometimes really stretched credulity.
Thursday! And a three-day weekend looming just over the horizon. I am probably more excited about that than I should be, no doubt.
This week has been a good one, to be perfectly honest. I did have a moment earlier this week with the work-in-progress that was disheartening; the moment I usually experience around Chapter Five--the 'oh God this sucks so bad and I have no idea what to write next or how am I going to finish this" moment. It was only a slightly bit satisfying to realize that I got there at Chapter Twelve, with the first draft over halfway finished--I am planning on this one being about twenty chapters, give or take--so there was a moment of enormous satisfaction when I finished Chapter Eleven, a bit of authorly smugness when I thought, damn this has flowed so easily and organically without any of the issues I usually encounter along the way so of course I hit the wall on Chapter Twelve Tuesday morning.
But rather than panicking, freaking out, whatever, I decided that the smart thing to do would be to take a day off from it (which I did) and then go back and reread everything I've already written--not in the sense of 'let me edit the wording and so forth' which is what I usually do, but rather 'let me skim it, not paying attention to sentences and paragraph structures and wording, but rather to pay attention to the story and the characters, recap each chapter when I finish skimming it, and take notes on discrepancies and continuity errors.'
It was the smartest thing I could have ever done.
Somehow I'd gotten away from the characters; forgotten who they were, no longer connected with them. I don't know how or why it happened, but it was part of the 'face-plant-into-the-wall' thing; I think it comes from not knowing where to go with the story and then panicking and everything gets pushed out of my head. It's all of a piece, really; the dreaded mid-book panic syndrome, I suppose. I was writing the story so organically, and it was coming so easy to me--there was a place where I kind of stalled out earlier, but just wrote a paragraph of the next chapter and took a day off, and then went back to it and was able to plow right through it.
Seriously, recapping the chapters as I reread them was probably the smartest thing I could have done. I now know the rest of the story, how to get there, and the story is going to come organically from the characters as well. There are some things I have to go back and add back in to the earlier chapters, but that was always going to be the case.
Now, I am actually looking forward to getting back into the story. I am going to type up the notes I took as well (one character's name actually changes three times--Whitney to Jade to Jada--and I do prefer Jada), and hopefully will be able to get pesky Chapter Twelve done before I go into the office this morning.