Wednesday, 6 May 2015

elegant variation and the stratemeyer syndicate

Back when most children’s literature was either solely educational or moralising, one publisher and producer saw them for the potential entertainment market they’ve become. In the early 1900s, Edward Stratemeyer got the notion to package or bundle books into serials and employed a winning formula to create many classic mystery and adventure books, appealing to different demographics: The Rover Boys, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, The Dana Girls, The Bobbsey Twins, etc.
The syndicate, as it became known as Stratemeyer after establishing the characters and the tone only wrote outlines for the continuing perils and a pool of secretaries and editors limned in the plot and the authors with the by-lines were ghost-writers and surrogates of Stratemeyer’s many nom de plume or house-names, produced over thirteen hundred books and sold over the years more than half a billion copies. Despite the consistency and quality-control Statemeyer exercised over his publications, sometimes individual personalities and quirks did shine through for these anonymous copy-writers. One such affectation was the purple-prose of one of the authors of the Tom Swift series. Seemingly unable to allow direct speech to just pass with a “said” and bracketed with quotation marks—he or she developed a penchant to insert colourful adverbs to punctuate and re-enforce the dialogue, often resulting in a pun. “Quick—let’s get out of here!” Tom exclaimed swiftly was probably where these off the garden path sentences originated. Concocting Tom Swifties became a past-time and some turned out quite elaborate—funny or painfully so. “Hurry up and get back to the boat,” Tom ordered sternly. “I forgot to bring flowers,” Tom mourned lackadaisically. “Be careful with that chain-saw,” warned Tom off-handedly. I think we don’t need further examples but would love to hear yours.