Judy Bolton

The Judy Bolton Mystery Stories
by Margaret Sutton

The Judy Bolton series was written by Margaret Sutton, who was born Rachel Irene Beebe in Odin, Pennsylvania on January 22, 1903.  Rachel Beebe married William H. Sutton in 1924.  Around 1930, Rachel Sutton completed a novel entitled Melissa of Dry Brook Hollow, or, The Great Roulsville Flood which she submitted to several publishers.  The novel was finally accepted by Grosset and Dunlap, but the publisher believed that Rachel's name was too ethnic so she changed it to Margaret Sutton.  Sutton later legally changed her first name to Margaret so that she would be more than just a "ghost writer" for the series and would still retain the rights to the series.  The publisher also requested that the heroine's name be changed.  Margaret chose the name Judy Bolton, and Melissa of Dry Brook Hollow was finally published as the first Judy Bolton book, The Vanishing Shadow, in 1932.

The Judy Bolton series never attained the high sales of the Nancy Drew series but did command a very loyal following amongst its many readers.  Judy Bolton is a real girl with real emotions and faces many of the same problems that face teenagers.  Judy has friends that are both wealthy and poor.  The main selling point for the Judy Bolton series was that each adventure was "based on something that actually happened."  Margaret did indeed use ideas from real life in her Judy Bolton books, and fans gather each year to visit the various places in Pennsylvania which inspired the books.

Titles in the Judy Bolton Series:

  1. The Vanishing Shadow, 1932
  2. The Haunted Attic, 1932
  3. The Invisible Chimes, 1932
  4. Seven Strange Clues, 1932
  5. The Ghost Parade, 1933
  6. The Yellow Phantom, 1933
  7. The Mystic Ball, 1934
  8. The Voice in the Suitcase, 1935
  9. The Mysterious Half Cat, 1936
10. The Riddle of the Double Ring, 1937
11. The Unfinished House, 1938
12. The Midnight Visitor, 1939
13. The Name on the Bracelet, 1940
14. The Clue in the Patchwork Quilt, 1941
15. The Mark on the Mirror, 1942
16. The Secret of the Barred Window, 1943
17. The Rainbow Riddle, 1946
18. The Living Portrait, 1947
19. The Secret of the Musical Tree, 1948
20. The Warning on the Window, 1949
21. The Clue of the Stone Lantern, 1950
22. The Spirit of Fog Island, 1951
23. The Black Cat's Clue, 1952
24. The Forbidden Chest, 1953
25. The Haunted Road, 1954
26. The Clue in the Ruined Castle, 1955
27. The Trail of the Green Doll, 1956
28. The Haunted Fountain, 1957
29. The Clue of the Broken Wing, 1958
30. The Phantom Friend, 1959
31. The Discovery at the Dragon's Mouth, 1960
32. The Whispered Watchword, 1961
33. The Secret Quest, 1962
34. The Puzzle in the Pond, 1963
35. The Hidden Clue, 1964
36. The Pledge of the Twin Knights, 1965
37. The Search for the Glowing Hand, 1966
38. The Secret of the Sand Castle, 1967

Margaret Sutton, 1940s
Margaret Sutton, publicity photo, mid-1940s

Through the years, Margaret had to fight the editors at Grosset and Dunlap over the direction the series would take.  The editors did not wish for Judy to age much and certainly did not want to see her get married.  Margaret finally had her way when Judy married Peter in The Rainbow Riddle.  Margaret also had Judy take on the role of being a parent at the same time when young Roberta came to live with Judy.  Unfortunately, the editors forced Margaret to write Roberta out of the stories after just a few volumes, and Roberta became a part of Judy's past.  Many readers consider the "Roberta books" to be the best books in the Judy Bolton series.

The Judy Bolton series was cancelled after the publication of volume 38, The Secret of the Sand Castle.  Margaret Sutton believed that the series went out of print due to pressure placed on Grosset and Dunlap by the Stratemeyer Syndicate; she believed that the Stratemeyer Syndicate wished to eliminate all competition for the Nancy Drew series.  Helen Wells shared this view concerning the demise of the Vicki Barr and Cherry Ames series.  It is possible, however, that the non-Syndicate series went out of print simply because of low sales and not because of a blatant conspiracy.  Bookstores were most likely to stock larger quantities of the books that were the biggest sellers.  By stocking many Nancy Drew books, the stores would have had less room for Judy Bolton and other series books, and this would have resulted in ever-diminishing sales for the more obscure series.
Margaret Sutton, 1993
Margaret Sutton, 1993
The termination of the Judy Bolton series left Margaret bitter and upset as she still had adventures that she planned to write about Judy.  Judy was to travel to the Panama Canal in volume 39, The Strange Likeness, and was to give birth to twins Peter and Pam.  Margaret also had planned for Honey to marry Horace.

Margaret often answered letters from her fans and even showed up at Judy Bolton gatherings during her later years.  Margaret Sutton died at the age of 98 on June 21, 2001.

In the summer of 2006, I purchased some original Pelagie Doane sketches from the estate of Margaret Sutton.  I purchased a set of six rough sketches for The Riddle of the Double Ring that were sent to Margaret Sutton for approval before the book was published. 

I also purchased a concept sketch for the cover art of The Warning on the Window, which is pictured at the right.

Double Ring Sketches

Summaries for #1-12

Summaries for #13-25

Summaries for #26-38

Formats Page

Volume 34 Manuscript Page

Judy Bolton Blog Posts

Cover Art Gallery

Cameo Library Bindings

FLB Library Bindings

Patterned Library Bindings

Foreign Editions

The Judy Bolton series is one of the most popular series to collect and also one of the more difficult series in which to build a complete set.  It is believed that the higher-numbered volumes went through only one print run apiece and are quite scarce.  Not enough copies exist for the people that want them today.  Some volumes are no longer as difficult to acquire as they once were due to reprints from recent years, and the prices on the original editions of those volumes have come down dramatically.  Not all volumes are currently available in reprints, so some of the higher-numbered volumes are still quite difficult to acquire and pricey.

Some reprints are still available from Jim Towey, owner of the Ken Holt Home Page.  More information on reprints and also discussion of the Judy Bolton series can be found at the Judy Bolton Fans group at Yahoo! Groups.

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