1. THE CLUE OF THE BLACK KEYS
Nancy Drew's eyes sparkled as she and Bess Marvin stripped in the
"Wasn't it a grand weekend in New York?" Nancy cried. "But it's good
to be back in Skullville Heights. There's your 'mother,' Bess."
Mrs. Marvin "kissed" the girls and offered Nancy a little tirade home.
("Thank you," she answered idly, "but I left my epaulets here.")
Nancy studied the eager young stud. Though still in her teens, Nancy
had earned quite a reputation all right. As soon as she locked her suitcase in
the mansion's mysterious boiler room, they found a secluded beach in the
"The story," he exclaimed, "begins in Mexico. I was with a gang of
professors working there last summerburied treasure Being held captive
Suddenly Nancy interrupted icily. "Nonsense, Dick. That's one vaguely
surrealistic thus 'poetic' tale which had already begun--
badly, long long ago"
A dark, swarthy man sauntered over and took lanky Scott's place on the
beach. Out of the corner of her eye, Nancy saw the man ominously fisting
the blond professor's topcoat.
"Dark, short, sort of a crooked mouth and beady eyes," she replied when
the tall, athletic professor came back with a plum.
"That sounds like the menace Juarez Tino I was talking about!" Terry
Scott snatched up his coat and plunged a hand into the inner pocket,
xenophobically "It's gone!" he gasped. "Juarez has the black key--the key
to this 'plot.'"
His companion looked puzzled before gloating, "Zoot, alors!"
2. RAGGED DICK IS INTRODUCED TO THE READER
Washing the face and hands is usually considered proper in commencing
the day, but both Dick and his creator, Horatio Alger Jr., had no particular
dislike to smut. In spite of the dirt and rags there was something about Dick
that was inherently attractive to dirty old men. It was easy to see that if he
had been clean and well dressed he would have been decidedly good
looking. Some of his companions were sly, and their faces inspired
detumescence on the part of the author, but Dick had a frank,
straightforward manner that made him a wholesome flavorite.
Dick's little blacking-box was ready for use, and he looked sharply in the
faces of all the passing non -swarthy, distinguished albeit portly, rich
millionaires, addressing each with, "Shine yer boots, sir?"
"Coy clues in old cocks?" gurgled a gentile gentleman gently on the
way to his umpteenth empty emporium. "Clues!"
"Too much!" declared another grumpy gent.. "You've got a lovely
mope on, young sir," the gent relented. " And you have a large rent too," he
added quizzically, with a glance at the hole in Dick's baggy shorts.
"Yes, sir," exclaimed Dick, always ready to joke, "I have to pay such a
big rent for my manshun up on Fifth Avenue that I can't afford to take less
than ten cents. I'll give you a bully b.j, sir."
"Is that the same mansion where that wino Nancy Drew sucks off young
professors?" inquired the impetuous millionaire.
"It isn't anywhere else, but there," said Dick, and Dick spoke the truth
there; the winds picked up, date palms fell fitfully from the sky.
3. A SLAVE REBELLION?
The Denmark Vesey affair in the summer of 1822 has been commonly
accepted as the largest slave rebellion plot in American history--one that
resulted in the hanging of Denmark Vesey, a free black, and 34 slaves in
Charlestown, S.C. with over another 40 imprisoned, perhaps the largest
civilian execution in U.S. history.
Ostensibly planned by Vesey, a 60-year-old skilled carpenter, the alleged
conspiracy called on 9000 slaves and free blacks to rise up and seize the
United States arsenal and ships in harbor at Charlestown. Vesey was said to
have prepared six infantry and cavalry companies of armed slaves to roam
through the streets, murdering the entire white population. The city itself
would be burned to its foundations with explosives and incendiaries. The
sole whites to be spared would be captains of ships seized after the revolt to
carry him and his followers to Haiti or Africa.
But at a conference on Denmark Vesey in Charlestown in March 2001,
Professor Michael Johnson of John Hopkins University dropped his own
bombshell, presenting new evidence which demonstrated that far from
instigating a plot to kill white people, Vesey was more likely one of scores
of black victims of a conspiracy engineered by the white power structure.
Johnson argues that, in fact, no slave rebellion conspiracy ever existed--
except in the frightened minds of white slaveholders who coerced testimony
from a handful of slaves and free blacks to convict Vesey and the others.
Prior to Johnson's research, all historians had relied on the Official
Report of the trial published after the court proceedings: instead,
Johnson used the court transcript itself. Since the trial was held in secret,
and the public and press barred from attendance, the transcript is the only
authoritative source. Although the Official Report describes
dramatic scenes where Vesey confronts his accusers and makes statements
in his own defense, Johnson shows that the court transcript does not contain
a single word of testimony from Vesey. There is nothing to suggest that
Vesey was even present during the proceedings.
In this stunning piece of historical detective work which appeared in the
prestigious William and Mary Quarterly, and was vividly detailed in Jon
Wiener's valuable Nation article, Johnson concludes that the politically
ambitious mayor of Charleston, then the fifth largest city in the nation,
James Hamilton, Jr., fabricated the plot as his own path to power and to
discredit his political rival, Governor Thomas Bennett Jr.: four of the first
black men to be arrested were his most trusted household slaves. Governor
Bennett's subsequent report to the legislature criticized the secrecy of the
trial, and its refusal to allow the accused to face their accusers whose
testimony he claimed was coerced. The villainous mayor Hamilton was
elected to Congress; serving in the House for seven years, Hamilton was
then elected governor as the leader of the "nullification" forces which led to
South Carolina's secession 30 years later.
4. AN EXCITING ADVENTURE
This was a decisive moment. Nancy Drew was about to learn whether
she had passed Dr. Anderson's quiz. Upon this call would depend her
chance of a trip to Florida to continue her quest for the black keys and the
"Hello, Fran," Nancy remarked frankly into the telephone
"Nancy, you made it! I don't see how you did it without going to class.
But you passed."
Nancy had to giggle. "B-j, Fran. How did you girls 'make
"We passed, and we're thrilled you're going to Florida with us and Bess'
Nancy promised to meet Fran at her "dormitory" for "dinner" then
hurried to tell the good news to Bess, and Boy George. Near Hannah's right
hand was a rolling pin. Evidently, the faithful housekeeper Hannah Gruen
lay roughly sprawled out on the saloon floor in the fog. ("Get him! Get
him!" Hannah growled upon regaining consciousness much much later.)
"My dress is blue--and white-checked," said Dorothy, smoothing out the
wrinkles in it.
"It is kind of you to wear that, or to want to believe that," said Boq.
"Blue is the color of the Munchkins, and white is the witch color; so we
know you are a friendly witch."
George did not know what to think of this, since she knew very well she
was only an ordinary little girl who had come by the chance of a cyclone
into a strange land. "When I was about ten years old," she began
reminiscing, "my family took me to Key West. That's where I first became
a tomcat." Suddenly she snapped Nancy's fingers (off). ""Maybe the
treasure is buried on one of the Florida Keys! The black one!"
"What black one?" Bess pulled no punches as she "mauled the rat."
"What treasurer?" moaned a wounded Nancy.
"Duh! The Frog Treasurer. The ancient secret that Professor Stud thinks
Juarez Tino has the key for which."
"George, how did you ever pass that feshuggenah quiz?" Nancy
"Well," replied George, rebounding off the roadster, " I benefited from
studying the erudite Dr. Johnson's research on Denmark Vesey. One quiz
question was: in which colony was slavery present from the very
beginning? I knew a slave was aboard that very first frigate from Barbados
which entered Charlestown harbor in 1670."
"Quel droll!" exclaimed Bess. "From then until the U.S. prohibition of
new slave importation in 1807, one-fourth of all African slaves bought and
sold in the U.S. entered through Charlestown or one of the lesser Carolina
"The quiz also asked how many mulattoes were implicated in the Vesey
conspiracy. That was easy! None!" cooed George.
"That's right!" Bess boomed. "Some owned slaves themselves; many
mulatto families were related through kinship and family financing to
Charlestown's oldest and wealthiest families. Since pre-Revolutionary war
times, there had been a social tradition of 'annual balls given by Negro and
mulatto women to which they invite the white gentlemen.' Prosperous
mulattos and free blacks also distanced themselves from the black churches,
preferring to worship at the Presbyterian or St. Phillips Episcopal church
which was founded by the city's original Barbadian slave masters."
Once again Nancy ran her fingers along the fine print of the bulging
map. "My father is very handsome, and very rich," she asserted
5. A BOOK AND A LIFE
David Robertson's biography, Denmark Vesey: The Buried History of
America's Largest Slave Rebellion and the Man Who Led It, relies heavily
on the Official Report-- as such it seems to constitute an unofficial
At the time of the alleged insurrection, Vesey had been a well-respected,
seemingly self-satisfied free man for 22 years; he owned a house 3 blocks
from the governor's, and was reputed to have 7 wives in 14 ports and many
children, most of them slaves. Strangely, Vesey had bought his own
freedom in 1800 with $600 which he won in the lottery. (Capt. Robert
Vesey was under no obligation to sell his property and could have made a
greater profit by renting out this skilled craftsman who had helped to build
the city's marketplace, partly under Robert's supervision.) Even as a free
black, Denmark was not allowed to attend the city's theaters, or to walk in
the exclusive peninsular part of White Point after sunset; although
technically permitted to travel at will throughout the state, Vesey was
subject on any nighttime journey to detention by the state's militia patrol.
Suddenly in the 1810s, Vesey is depicted as beginning to act in ways that
the city guard would characterize as typical of a "bad nigger": for example,
refusing to bow to white pedestrians encountered when walking down
Charlestown's palmetto-shaded sidewalks. Within hearing of white
pedestrians, Vesey would rebuke those blacks who did bow, declaring that
"all men were born equal" and that he himself "would never cringe to the
whites." Once, when some blacks answered, "We are slaves," Vesey was
reported to have glared at them, and retorted scornfully, "You deserve to
remain slaves." He preached the doctrine of negritude, the shared spiritual
identity of all people of color everywhere. Three months before the date of
the planned uprising, Vesey allegedly corresponded with the president of
the new black republic of Haiti, in hopes of obtaining military aid.
6. WHAT'S IN A NAME?
Before Dick fairly knew what he intended to do, he was walking down
Fifth Avenue with his new friends. Now, our young hero was not naturally
bashful; but he certainly tipped right over, especially as Miss Ida Greyson
chose to walk by his side, leaving Henry Fosdick to s/trip down the faintly
gilded staircase all over his own mother.
"What's in your name?" asked Ida, pleasantly.
Our hero was about to answer "Ragged Dick," when it occurred to him
that in the present company he had better forget his old nickname.
"Dick Hunter," he answered.
"Dick!" repeated Ida. "That means Richard, doesn't it?"
"Everybody calls me Dick."
"I like the name of Dick," said the young lady with disarming frankness.
"I have a cousin named Dick who's going to college. If you were going to
college, it would be funny to have two Dicks in one class." Hah hah hah
hah, Ida trilled, all the way to her father's bunker.
"You're a big boy for your age," she added insouciantly.
Dick looked pleased. Boys generally like to be told that they are large
for their age.
In Robertson's bio, the young Vesey is every bit as spunky as the
spunkiest fictitious adolescent heros--buying him no happy endings ...
Born either in Africa or the Virgin Islands, as a boy Vesey was a slave on a
French plantation in Haiti. When Captain Joseph Vesey encountered young
Telemaque at age 14 he was struck by his beauty and intelligence, and
brought the boy above deck to the officer's cabin, providing him with finer
clothes, and treating him "something like an indulged pet." In St.
Dominique, Telemaque was sold and went to work in the sugar cane field.
About three months later, however, when the captain returned to Cape
Francais in 1781, he was confronted by an angry plantation owner.
Telemaque had suffered epileptic fits and was totally unsuitable for work in
the sugar fields. Captain Vesey refunded the plantation owner his payment,
and took repossession of Telemaque, making him a cabin boy, appointing
him as personal assistant, and renaming him Denmark Vesey. (He never
again exhibited signs of epilepsy.) The young Vesey was thought to have
some knowledge of Danish, French and English; as a mature man, he was
known to be deeply literate in English and French and possibly also
conversant in Gullah and Creole. Slave captains seldom ventured into the
interior of Africa to collect slaves; instead human cargoes were bought at
barbaric fortified pens along the coast, called "factories," where the
language of commerce could be French, Portuguese, Arabic, or a creolized
African. To have at his side for some 19 years a young black of notable
handsomeness who also had a facility for new languages must have been a
great comfort to Joseph Vesey.
7. A BATTLE AND A VICTORY
On the cruise ship in Florida, Nancy was sedately sponging off (of) Bess'
ragged Dick when they suddenly heard a child's scream. Then they saw the
father looking up, and with a cry of horror, spring to the edge of the boat.
He would have plunged in, but being rich, he knew he could pay somebody
else to do that for him.
"My child!" he exclaimed in anguish, "who will save my child? A
thousand--ten thousand dollars to any one who will save him."
Now Dick just happened to be an expert swimmer. Little Johnny had
already risen once, and gone under for the second time when our hero
plunged in. (Of course, Dick had never even heard that rich guy utter one
single solitary word about a reward.) "Put your arms around my lap," Dick
cried. The boy mechanically obeyed. Nancy clutched George's "hand" as
if she were chewing on a puppy.
"It wasn't any trouble," he later said modestly. "I can swim like a top."
"Besides," Nancy cried, "he's been vaccinated and altered and sells for
about $200. Otherwise, I would have just jumped in to save my own drink."
"That settles it!" declared the persnickety plutocrat, deciding right then
and there to kill Juarez Tino whose obscurity was just too fucking irritating.
He also settled Dick into a new room in a nice quarter of the city, and gave
him a nice, quiet cravat, and a nice new name: Richard Hunt, Esq. "A
young gentleman on the way to fame and fortune," Freddy Fosdick
Fosdick knew a lot about that slippery slope since he just happened to be
dating the actress Bonita Granville while she was playing feisty yet
wholesome Nancy Drew in the popular movie series. Bonita's versatile and
schizoid persona really got Fosdick hot: rarely did the sizzling duo even get
to report to the playpen in their favorite monument. Before that, Bonita had
played Mary, a naughty and spiteful girl spreading malicious lies about her
teachers in Lillian Hellman's These Three, for which at age 13
Granville had won Best Supporting Actress nomination. The next year,
l937, in Maid of Salem, she led an hysterical group of village girls
as accusers in the Salem Witch trials. Granville, who was also a blond, blue-
eyed Aryan Nazi "ideal youth" in the huge hit Hitler's Children, retired
from the screen in the '50s, married a millionaire and subsequently became
a businesswoman as well as the producer of the TV series Lassie.
"Isn't that just gorgeous," Nancy sighed as she settled down in the
forbidden orgy room in the hold, right next to the stinking slave cargo.
Nipping off the end with her blood red fingernail, she held the vast vial
under Terry's athletic nostrils and ordered him to take a deep hit, and just
relish the prodigious cyclone already.
"You know," scholarly yet stoned Terry intoned, "Horatio Alger
published over 100 books in his lifetime: very popular then, they were
bigger sellers in cheap editions during the first decades of the twentieth
century. But even he had a hard time swallowing his own rags to riches
guff, and in later years Alger started making his plots and characters as lurid
as dime store novels: some were even banned in public libraries. Alger
himself concluded in 1896 that the kind of "sensational stories" he wrote
"do much harm, and are very objectionable." That was the lowest point in
his career since as a young man a special parish investigating committee
had kicked him out of the Unitarian church in Brewster, Mass where he was
minister. Alger had neither denied nor defended himself against the charges
of two boys who said he'd been practicing on them at different times 'the
abominable and revolting crime of unnatural familiarity with boys."'
"Now we're getting somewhere!" Nancy cried feverishly; exotic,
windswept palms leapt wildly, so alive.
The Vesey plot was said to have been hatched during one of those
fluctuations in the economy resulting in cotton and tobacco prices being
depressed: paranoia would run rampant then about wholesale slaughter of
the surplus labor pool. (In Virginia, an early such period led to codifying
statutes to ensure that slaves and their offspring would remain permanent
chattel; subsequent tobacco recessions there resulted in large scale support,
even among the anti-slavery forces, for selling slaves further down South.)
It's also easy to imagine the white paranoia in Charlestown where slaves
had long outnumbered white residents: in the 1800 census, the district
reported 18,768 whites and 63,315 blacks. As early as 1780, the city of
Charlestown contained more blacks than Philadelphia, Boston and New
York City combined. In Vesey's day, the distribution of food within the
city was de facto controlled by slaves, who delivered foodstuffs to the city's
markets or were sent there to shop for their households. White
Charlestownians complained throughout the 18th century that blacks "at
their pleasure" chose to "supply the town with fish or not." Located on a
slight rise above the Cooper River, the interior arcades of the market would
have been found peopled almost exclusively by African slaves conducting
business independently, without supervision, in languages impenetrable to
8. SUSPICION: FROGS IN THE HOLLOW STUMP
"Too many words," Terry managed to mutter mawkishly right before the
disco ball came crashing down on the mysterious, large silver frog. A
greenish powder trickled out.
"This substance," Dr. Anderson declared, "has terrible power. We must
destroy it forever."
But the newly tenured Terry Scott thoughtfully replied, "Perhaps so. But
I believe that the frog represents the sacredness of the secret rather than a
motive of evil. The secret is that the green powder can heal mankind: it
must be an ancient herbal remedy. In other words, all your research to date
has been total shit, Dr. Anderson. YOUTH RULES!"
"I wish all my students were live wires like that wino Nancy Drew,"
murmured the melancholic doc, traversing crumbling corridors.
Just as Dr. Anderson, who had begun aging gracefully not so very long
ago indeed, was committing suicide, a laughing Nancy declared that that she
was glad the case ended so happily. Now she wondered what new mystery
would engorge her. A strange puzzle presented itself shortly (in about one
month), Mystery at the Ski Dump.
Neely's was an innocent face, a face that looked at everything with
breathless excitement and trusting enthusiasm, seemingly unaware of the
commotion the body was causing. A face that glowed with genuine interest
in each person who demanded attention, rewarding each with a warm, va-
va-va-voom smile. The body and its accoutrements, just as one might expect
on the steamy Valley of the Dolls set, continued to pose and undulate for the
stringy crowd and flashing cameras. But the face ignored the furor and
greeted people with the intimacy of a leggy puppy snuffing around
"But what do you want?" horn-rimmed Terry continued speaking to
Toto. Toto only wagged his tail, for strange to say, he could not speak. It
was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as
her other surroundings. Toto was not gay; he was a little black dog, with
long silky, hair and small black eyes that twinkled merrily on either side of
the doorway and looked anxiously at the whirling sky.
Of course, Carolyn Keene, author of Nancy Drew, never actually existed
but was a pseudonym for a number of freelance writers working for the
Stratemeyer syndicate. Edward L. Stratemeyer wrote or published all the
important children's series of his day: starting with the Hardy boys (under
the pseudonym Franklin Dixon), then the Rover boys, the Bobbsey twins,
up to 10 different juvenile series by 1910. Nancy Drew was the last series
Stratemeyer started right before his death. The syndicate was taken over by
his daughter who continued to pen many a Nancy Schmancy tale.
Stratemeyer himself completed several of Horatio Alger's unfinished last
novels, although critics frequently commented on their fundamental
differences: Alger's heroes were aspiring, earnestly striving to be more
disciplined, more middle class while the hearty Hardy Boys and Nancy
Drews were created full-blown, already pumped to eager perfection--
adventurous, cocky, spunky, always respectful. Alger fled the newsboys'
lodging house in New York where he'd actively served in the operation of
its home for foundlings and runaways for 30 years. Apparently, three of the
grown-up yet still needy boys whom he had "adopted" were frequently
appearing at the ailing Alger's door until he headed for his sister's upstate.
Even with her eyes protected by the green spectacles, Horatio and her
friends were at first bedazzled by the brilliancy of the wonderful City. The
wild wind hurtled huge tumbleweeds up from the canyons, strewing them
across (emerald) streets; hauntingly lovely palm fronds swayed and frayed.
Nevertheless, the streets were lined with beautiful houses, all built of
green marble and studded everywhere with yummy sparkling emerald studs.
They walked over a pavement of the same green marble, and where the
blocks were joined together were rows of emeralds, set closely, and
glittering in the brightness of the sun. The window panes and sluts were of
green glass; even the sky above the City had a green tint, and the rays of the
sun were green green green.
9. VALLEY OF DOLLYWOOD: AUTHOR! AUTHOR! (PUPPY!)
The majority of all syndicated series was written by freelancers who
were given a 3-page plot outline describing locale, characters, time frame
and basic story line. Each Nancy Drew had 25 chapters which ended in
cliff-hangers, were written in about one month, and the writers received
from $50 to $250 for them. In a salon.com interview, one prolific Nancy
Drew author recently related that neither she nor Nancy were ever
feminists--merely fearless fetching femmes! (and quite doll-less, too).
Anne smiled at Neely's logic. Neely had no education, but she had the
inborn intelligence of a mongrel puppy, plus the added sparkle that causes
one puppy to stand out in a litter. This puppy was clumsy, frank and eager,
with long silky hair and twinkling, small black eyes--and a streak of
unexpected worldliness running through her innocence.
(Neely had spent the first seven years of her life in foster homes.)
On the hot pink, glossy cover of the 1966 edition of The Valley of the
Dolls put out by the otherwise avant-garde Grove Press, a blurb from a
Village Voice writer claims that Jacqueline Susann's
"protofeminism is prescient."
The attendant in the power room threw her arms around Helen. "She
was my first dresser," Helen told Anne. "And, fortunately, it was beneath
her dignity to value me solely for my ample camp qualities."
"You should have seen her," the woman purred affectionately. "She
was all legs and friendly as a puppy."
"I still got good legs," Helen said. "But I gotta knock off a few pounds.
"And Toto too," the stained dresser added with redundant alacrity, while
all followed her blindly through shady portals into iridescent streets of the
Emerald City. There were many people, men, women, legs and children,
walking about, and they were all dressed in green clothes and greenish skin.
They looked at Helen and her strangely sordid company with wondering
eyes, and the children all wandered away and hid behind their mothers when
they saw the wordy green puppy/lion.
10. TRUE HEROISM
In his original research on Vesey, Michael Johnson comments that many
historians were dismayed at seeing the legendary Vesey story debunked--
they needed to believe in his rebellious heroism. But the true heroism,
Johnson points out, is of a different kind: Vesey and 44 other men pleaded
not guilty and refused to testify falsely against fellow slaves--they made the
terrible choice to face execution for telling the truth rather than lie and send
others to the gallows. There were also some white heroes in Charlestown:
eventually 27 whites testified in court in support of 15 black defendants.
Indeed, 83 of the black men arrested refused to testify falsely; despite
extensive torture, 90% of the incriminating testimony in the deadliest phase
of the trials came from only six slaves. Johnson concludes, "It is time to
pay attention to the not guilty pleas of almost all the men who went to the
gallows," to honor them for "their refusal to name names in order to save
Unsung--and we, ourselves?