The Clue in the Mystery of the Case of the Mysterious Clue

One thing to which I attribute the success of the second annual 25th anniversary Book Fair is the number of focused collections we had. The art donations were notable, of course, but so were the two donations of African-American history and the massive donation of sheet music.

What can we do about this for next year? Well, we have just received a large collection of children’s series books, covering, in a spotty way, the period from the 1860s through the 1970s. We don’t have original editions of all the books, but it’s amazing to me how some of them, written for kids of the 1860s, could be reprinted for kids of the 1890s, and then re-reprinted for kids in the 1920’s. We have one book—Randy Starr Leading the Air Circus—in two editions, one in which Randy is leading his men in a Sopwith Camel, and a later edition in which he’s flying a good, solid Spitfire. I wonder if they updated the text as well, or left that alone

I could list the series for you, but my notes run to six pages, and outside of marveling at, say Rob Ranger, the Young Ranchman or wondering how much The Timber Trail Riders differ from The Range and Grange Hustlers or Grace Harlowe’s Overland Riders, what would it do for you? If I could post pictures, I’d show you some of the jackets, with art that throws you at once into the bygone worlds of 1930s comic books and pulp magazines and movie serials. The writing does much the same, and shows that if you get the details right, you don’t NEED to update much for a new generation. I am certain that when I was 9 I would have read with a shiver The Case of the Missing Eyebrows, in which Renfro Harr (the hero of the Newspaper Boys series) discovers a pair of eyebrows frozen to a window.

The dashing heroes and heroines of these sagas were reporters, spies, G-Men, pilots, engineers, football players, scientists, explorers, Cub Scouts, Campfire Girls, sailors, whalers, soldiers…but at least one occupation has been omitted. Perhaps it’s not too late. I submit for your approval the first few paragraphs of my next non-selling novel, The Book Fair Volunteers and the Clue of the Missing Title Page:

“Purring Pamphlets!” Evan exclaimed. “Who would tear out a title page?”

Clean-cut Evan Lamplighter stared at the book he held in his firm, clean hand, thoroughly washed as it was every day before he investigated the boxes of rare books left at the Newberry Library for its highly successful Book Fair.

“Maybe there was an inscription,” said his twin sister, the lovely and athletic Lynn Lamplighter. She came to look over his shoulder. “It could have been something from his mother that he wanted to put in a scrap-book.”

“Maybe he’s a title page collector!” called their friend, jolly, fun-loving Polly Singer, as she stooped to pick up another box from the clean, grey concrete floor.

“Do you have the receipt?” asked Lynn, hurrying to help with the box, which was filled to the brim with ten year-old encyclopedia yearbooks.

“I remember the donor,” Polly said. “He didn’t want a receipt. I offered to write one out for him twice.”

Evan looked up from the book. “He didn’t want a receipt? Galloping Galsworthys! That’s suspicious for a start! What did he look like?”

“I didn’t notice especially. He was just an average book donor,” said Polly. “About five feet seven and a half inches tall, with brown shoes and a tan trenchcoat. He had blue eyes, red hair and a red mustache, and he wore a black leather glove on his right hand and a white leather glove on his left hand.” She and Lynn set the box of encyclopedias on a sorting bench. She stood up and pursed her lips. “But there was something unusual about him. What was it? Oh, yes! He had a hook in place of his left ear.”

“Burn the Bridges of Madison County!” exclaimed Lynn. “He sounds sinister! We must consult Uncle Blogsy!”

Any publisher looking for the Next Big Thing can call and find out what happened next. In the meantime, please don’t email me and ask if our latest donation included Book 3 of the Far Star Patrol series (The Far Star Patrol and the Pecatonica Pirates.) I have missing title pages to worry about. 

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