Mysterious beginnings…the books that made us fans

Part 1 – Trixie Belden

Trixie Beldon

Trixie Belden

Mystery writers are first and foremost mystery readers. We all owe so much to those who have gone before us – in my case, Agatha Christie, Ellis Peters, Sue Grafton, and so many more have both inspired and influenced my writing.  But how did we first fall in love with the magnificent mystery? What books (mystery or otherwise) did you love as a kid or a teenager? Lots of fans will cite Nancy Drew, that spunky Titian-haired heroine who always cracked the case and never failed to take the high road.  But for me, even before Nancy, there was Trixie Belden.

For those of you who haven’t been introduced to Trixie, I discovered this 13-year-old amateur sleuth at the library right after my family and I moved to the town of Stanley, Kansas at the end of my sixth grade year. Always a book worm, I became even more so during that first summer away from my old friends. I still remember lying on my stomach on my absolutely fantastic orange shag carpet (which was the height of fashion and the envy of all, I assure you) devouring Trixie Belden books like popcorn.  To my pre-teen mind, barely teen Trixie was the height of everything I wanted to be. She was a tomboy, she was smart, and she wasn’t “girlie.” She also wasn’t perfect. For one thing, she worried about her weight – in one episode her mom even coaxed her into a girdle. (This was obviously one of the books written in the early 1950s – I didn’t even know what a girdle was and once I figured it out, I was a little appalled. I mean, just how chunky was Trixie?) But that didn’t matter – it was just so great to read about someone who wasn’t a beauty queen and who didn’t always do the right thing.

You can tell what I most loved about these books were the characters. Don’t get me wrong, the mysteries were great too –  I mean, who wouldn’t want to search for a fortune in an old mansion or find out why the staff of an Arizona ranch has vanished? But even more important, who wouldn’t want to belong to a secret club with awesome friends and have adventures while still dealing with the problems of daily life? Trixie and the Bob-Whites were exactly what my 11 year old self needed to get through a lonely summer. I eventually bought my own copies of all those books, and how I wish I still had them!  The last one (The Mystery of the Galloping Ghost), was published in 1986 and by that time I had moved onto Nancy Drew and then out of YA books altogether.

These days, the Trixie Belden books are back in print, but I have to admit I haven’t had the nerve to buy one. I’m so afraid that my now adult mind will not be able to relive the magic found by my much younger self. I’m afraid that my brilliant shiny memories will be a little tarnished.

So here’s a question – has anyone here ever gone back and re-read a book they absolutely adored as a kid? What did you think? Is it worth the risk?

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6 Responses to Mysterious beginnings…the books that made us fans

  1. Pat says:

    A few years ago my kids got together and ordered four Donna Parker books from an antiquarian for me. I loved these books when I was young – each had an element of mystery, Donna was a budding high school reporter and she had such cool friends. I wanted to be Donna when I grew up. And I was still delighted to reread them, even with a 30 year span between visits.

    • Janice Hamrick says:

      That’s really good to hear! Maybe I’ll search for a Trixie Belden after all. And now you have me wanting to read a Donna Parker too. :)

  2. Jackie says:

    I tried to read THE BOXCAR CHILDREN books at one point after passing the suggested age range and it was a bit soul crushing. I think childhood books are best kept away somewhere to be shared with children/grandchildren who can appreciate the big print and cheesy dialogue. :)

    • Janice Hamrick says:

      The older I get, the more I appreciate big print. Now I need to look at the Boxcar Children again. :)

  3. Amy S. says:

    Trixie Belden mysteries were my absolute favorites from grade school. I read them all so many times. I babysat my neighbor and whenever I got paid I would buy a book from Walden Books in the mall. They cost $2.25 each which was a lot of money back when I earned only $1 per hour babysitting. I loved them so much. Then I discovered Sweet Valley High in junior high school and moved on. But I will always remember Trixie Belden books as the first series that I was hooked on. I haven’t read them as an adult though. I think I’ll just stick with the great memories. Same as Sweet Valley High. I don’t want to reread those either.

    • Janice Hamrick says:

      I’m so impressed you can remember how much they cost! I started babysitting at 75 cents an hour. That went to a dollar an hour when I started ironing shirts after the kids were asleep. No matter – the Trixie Belden’s were well worth the cost.