I was in the fourth grade when I discovered Julie Campbell’s Trixie Belden mystery series.
I had been given five dollars to spend on books for my birthday—which was very exciting, because at that time my allowance was only a dollar and the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys mysteries I always coveted were $1.50, which meant waiting a week—and so I was pretty excited to head down to the Woolworth’s on the corner of 26th Street and Pulaski in Chicago.
You can image, then, my crushing disappointment to realize I already had a copy of the only books they had in stock.
Eager to spend my five dollars, I noticed there was a spinning rack of books at the end of the aisle, so I walked down to take a look at what titles were there. It was for children’s books published by Whitman, and I noticed there were several titles of a mystery series I’d never heard of before—the Trixie Belden mysteries, and they were only eighty nine cents! That meant I could get FIVE books instead of only three—so I grabbed the first five books in the series (The Secret of the Mansion, The Red Trailer Mystery, The Gatehouse Mystery, The Mysterious Visitor, and The Mystery Off Glen Road) and headed for the cash register. I hurried home with my bag of treasures, and sat down on the back porch in the shade of our massive oak tree, and started reading the first one.
“Oh, Moms!” Trixie Belden twisted one of her sandy curls around her finger. “I’ll just die if I don’t get a horse.”
By the end of the first chapter, a lot had happened: Trixie was hired by her mother to do chores at Crabapple Farm, and baby-sit her younger brother Bobby for five dollars a week so she could save up for her own horse; her father came home with grim news about their neighbor, crabby old Mr. Frayne who’d been hospitalized (he lived in the Mansion of the title), and their new neighbors, the Wheelers, arrived to move into the empty Manor House. I was caught up in the story, and the burgeoning friendship not only between tomboyish Trixie and wealthy, fragile Honey Wheeler, but also with the runaway grandnephew of old Mr. Frayne, red-headed Jim, who was hiding out in the clutter of the Mansion (old Mr. Frayne would today have been on an episode of hoarders).
Unlike Nancy Drew and the other teen sleuths, Trixie was not a confident girl who was good at everything. Trixie was only thirteen, she had a temper, she was impatient, and she wasn’t always nice—in other words, Trixie and her friends were more like kids I knew rather than idealized teenagers, which made them more relatable and more fun to read about. As the series progressed, the number of kids involved expanded to include Trixie’s older brothers Brian and Mart (off being camp counselors for the summer, which was why they didn’t appear until The Gatehouse Mystery,volume three); Jim, who was adopted by Honey’s parents; wealthy Diana Lynch; and eventually Dan Mangan, nephew of the Wheelers’ groom. They formed a club called the Bob-Whites of the Glen (for Glen Road, the main road in their part of the countryside), and had a lot of adventures.
And even though I continued to read the other series, they never seemed to be quite as good to me as they had before I discovered Trixie. As I had precociously started writing fiction, I learned a lot about characters from reading about Trixie and her friends. Reflecting on it now, when I was creating Paige and writing Fashion Victim, I may have subconsciously even patterned Paige a bit after Trixie. Paige certainly has Trixie’s fearlessness.
It’s a shame Trixie and her friends never achieved the popularity or name recognition of Nancy Drew. I passed my copies on to my nieces when they were old enough, and they loved Trixie, too.
I do miss that wonderful world of Crabapple Farm, the Hudson River valley, and the camaraderie of the Bob-Whites of the Glen.
To hear her buddy Chanse McLeod tell it, Paige Tourneur is rotund, cute as a button, a truly bad driver, and the best friend a gay P.I. could possibly have.
Now Paige gets a chance to tell it herself in her own witty and worldly-wise way. Please! Is that really her name? Seems like she has quite a past, and in Fashion Victim, it’s starting to haunt her.
Since his first novel, Greg Herren’s fans have been begging him to spin off their favorite character, the hard-drinking, hard-bitten, smart-mouthed red-headed reporter with the heart of gold and the unlikely name.
In her first solo outing, she’s long since left the Times-Picayune, played out a stint on television, and has now landed a job at Crescent City Magazine, which sends her out to do a personality piece on bitchy fashion designer Marigny Mercereau. Only Marigny ends up dead fifteen minutes before her fifteen minutes of fame.
Twisting through Marigny’s creepy past, Paige is accompanied, as always, by best friend Chanse, her cop buddies Venus Casanova and Blaine Tujague, and (finally!) by the perfect man: her new boy friend, Blaine’s brother Ryan. So what happens when a woman meets the perfect man and her past comes calling?
About The Author
Greg Herren is a New Orleans-based author and editor. Former editor of Lambda Book Report, he is also a co-founder of the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, which takes place in New Orleans every May. He is the author of ten novels, including the Lambda Literary Award winning Murder in the Rue Chartres, called by the New Orleans Times-Picayune “the most honest depiction of life in post-Katrina New Orleans published thus far.” He co-edited Love, Bourbon Street: Reflections on New Orleans, which also won the Lambda Literary Award. He has published over fifty short stories in markets as varied as Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine to the critically acclaimed anthology New Orleans Noir to various websites, literary magazines, and anthologies.