Sunday, January 17, 2010

West(chester) Side Story

There are no choreographed fights in the eighth Trixie Belden book, The Black Jacket Mystery (1961), but the threat of gangs in this book does have a rather stage-drama feel to it.

First, an aside: This may be in the front matter of the other Trixie reissues, but this is the first time I've noticed it.
This is a reissue edition of a book that was originally published in 1961. While some of the words have been changed to regularize spelling within the book and between books in the series, the text has not been updated to reflect current attitudes and beliefs.
True that. It's part of their charm, but shouldn't go unnoticed.

The meat of this story is Regan's nephew Dan Mangan, brought up from New York thanks to a judge whose first instinct is not to lock up juvenile offenders (maybe the current overseers of New York's system should be reading this, after all), but let's take a detour first, to some of the fun bits.

Have I mentioned that Mart is adorable? Have I not convinced you yet? Read on:
Lately he had grown a couple of inches taller than Trixie and was extremely proud of it, except that he was growing out of his clothing.
No one said growing up was easy, Mart. But those extra couple inches make the whole almost-twin thing easier to deal with, I'm sure. But not when Trixie's finally got a comeback for you:
But this time, Trixie didn't merely sniff at her teasing brother as usual. Instead, the glare faded into a cool stare as she said very deliberately, "The use of too many polysyllabic words is definitely a symptom of immaturity." Brian had spent half an hour at lunchtime drilling her in that answer in preparation for just such a moment. She wasn't entirely sure what all the words meant, but Brian had assured her it would stop Mart in his tracks if she didn't bungle it.
I love the idea of Trixie practicing this line over and over.

And then there are the bits that remind us how far we've come - or perhaps not. How many executive wives have to deal with this today? Her father's business connections made it necessary for her mother to be very social. And lots of times they had to rush off to Washington or some other place at a moment's notice.

Okay, on to Dan. The surburbanites are suspicious of him from the start.
A moment later, a boy who looked about Mart's age came up the step. He had a thin, dark face, and was wearing a peaked black cap with a patent-leather band, and a broad-shouldered black leather jacket with the collar turned up. His black eyes peered out from under the shiny visor of the cap and swept the length of the bus, almost as if he expected to see some danger there.
Trixie - who, may I point out, wears a jacket with her own club's name on the back - dislikes him straight off.
"That black leather jacket! Ugh! I expected to see some crazy club name on the back of it when he sat down!"

"That's strange." Honey looked started. "I did, too!" Then she giggled. "I guess we've seen too many movies."
Just in case that doesn't turn your thoughts to Blackboard Jungle, Diana Lynch draws from her vast experience to analyze the newcomer.
Di's eyes were wide. "I saw a movie about a street gang that wore black leather jackets. They were awful. Always fighting. Do you think he's like that?"
The Bob-Whites have had little interaction with Dan as they leap to conclusions, but he's not doing much to forward his own cause.
"Nobody tells us what to do around our neighborhood. We take care of that!... Switch blades? Not us! The cops get tough when they find 'em on you. We don't need stuff like that."
But, as it turns out, Dan - who was indeed a gang member, so I suppose I can't mock Trixie's assumptions too much - is finally ready to reform. But that doesn't mean the apparel-based prejudices are gone.
"We can't have him seen around in that black leather jacket, once he joins the B.W.G.'s," he said soberly.

"Yes!" Trixie nodded. "It was the black leather jacket that set me against him from the first, and lots of other people may feel the same way, because so many tough characters wear them."
Welcome to the club, Dan.

(Post pics are from my brother's high school production of West Side Story. In this case, the suburban kids were playing the gangsters.)


Margaret Ann Abrahams said...

I didn't realize the Trixie Belden series had been reissued. Interesting to see how these books are reintroduced for contemporary readers. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of the Trixie Series before. They seem to be reminiscent of the classic Nancy Drew books. Thanks for sharing the reissuing of classic books. I always find the topic interesting.

Paige Y. said...

The Trixie Beldon series was my favorite mystery series as a child. I wanted the freedom that Trixie and her friends enjoyed -- I especially wanted my own clubhouse.

I also loved the Happy Hollisters.

beth said...

My sister read the Trixie Beldons. I went all retro and collected Cherry Ames nurse mysteries.

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Sherry said...

The Black Jacket---straight from H---.

I loved Trixie Belden when I was a kid of a girl. I wanted to solve mysteries like Trixie, who always seemed more accessible than Nancy Drew.

Sarah Rettger said...

I'm glad so many people are rediscovering Trixie! (You're right, millymarie, they're in the Nancy Drew vein, but with younger detectives - and moderately more plausible, like Sherry says.)

Paige, I've never heard of the Happy Hollisters, but I'll have to take a look.

Beth, I also grew up on Cherry Ames. I may have to do a post on the Cherry book set in Sleepyside.