The Doris Force Series   

The Doris Force Series
by Julia K. Duncan

Kitty looked at her chum with new respect.  "It's too bad you are going to waste your time on opera singing," she said.  "You would make a success as manager of something—a store or a detective agency, or an army."

                                                      — pages 154–155, Doris Force at Raven Rock

Decorated endpaper from a Donohue edition; signed by Helen Chamberlin
This Stratemeyer Syndicate series was written by Mildred A. Wirt Benson and Walter Karig.  The first two titles were written by Benson, and the last two by Karig.  The cover art and internal illustrations were drawn by Thelma Gooch.  The series was first published by Altemus in 1931 and later reprinted by Donohue and Goldsmith.

The Donohue books have good quality paper and four glossy illustrations.  Some of the Donohue books have decorated endpapers while others have blank endpapers.  The Altemus editions have four glossy illustrations and blank endpapers.  The Goldsmith editions, which are the most common, have pulp paper, blank endpapers, and a plain frontispiece illustration.

Glossy Illustrations Gallery

This short series has a high occurrence of eccentric people and strange situations.  During her adventures, Doris encounters a sheltered cripple, a mentally ill teenager, an eccentric hermit, a forgetful old man, a mentally incompetent old woman, a snake-carrying magician, a tramp, and a number of crooks and schemers.

Titles in the Doris Force Series:

  1. Doris Force at Locked Gates, 1931
  2. Doris Force at Cloudy Cove, 1931
  3. Doris Force at Raven Rock, 1931
  4. Doris Force at Barry Manor, 1931

Doris Force is an orphan who is gifted with a beautiful voice, and it is her ambition to be a famous opera singer.  Doris lives with her Uncle Wardell Force in a boarding house run by Mrs. Mallow.  Mrs. Mallow's very overweight son Marshall, known as Marshmallow, is a friend of Doris.  Doris's friend Kitty Norris is fond of Marshmallow, while Marshmallow's friend Dave Chamberlin is highly fond of Doris.

The first three books in the series form a story arc which has to do with Doris's missing Uncle John Trent and his estate.  The fourth book takes the series in a completely different direction, and in fact is remarkably similar to the Dana Girls series.  In Doris Force at Barry Manor, Doris and Kitty return to Barry Manor for their junior year.  Doris must contend with Clarice Crowin, a jealous classmate who has red hair and always dresses in bright red.  Clarice plays mean tricks on Doris, gossips incessantly, and tattles to the headmistress when she sees Doris doing something that could be interpreted as inappropriate.  Clarice's roommate, Beatrice Busey, known as "Busy Bea," is described as Clarice's "flattering imitator."  Doris plays tricks on Clarice in return for some of the mean-spirited pranks that Clarice plays on her.

  #1 Doris Force at Locked Gates                                       1931
            or Saving a Mysterious Fortune
Doris Force receives an intriguing letter from the Misses Gates requesting that Doris visit them at her earliest convenience.  The letter reveals that Doris has an unknown uncle, John Trent.  Doris immediately assumes that she is to inherit some money from her unknown uncle.  Doris and her friend, Kitty, travel to the Gates' home, Locked Gates, to learn that the sisters want Doris to loan them money so that they can pay for a lawyer to settle John Trent's estate!

Doris stalls, as she instinctively dislikes John Trent's son, Ronald, and feels certain that the man is swindling the sisters with the help of their servants.  Doris and Kitty investigate the house, discovering a crippled young woman who has been hidden away her entire life.  They also eavesdrop on one of the servants hiding important papers in a suitcase.

Doris Force at Locked Gates
In a thrilling climax, both Doris and Ronald Trent accuse each other of swindling the Trent sisters, and it is only the timely arrive of Jake, Mrs. Mallow's hired hand, that saves the day.  Jake recognizes Ronald Trent and exposes him for what he is.  Doris, her friends, and the Trent sisters equally share the reward for the capture of the swindler.  Doris and her friends travel home happily, and the Trent sisters pledge to use the reward money to send the crippled girl away to school.
  #2 Doris Force at Cloudy Cove                                         1931
            or The Old Miser's Signature
Doris Force and her friends journey to Cloudy Cove to settle Uncle John Trent's estate.  During their trip, Doris is harassed by an obnoxious snake-carrying magician who is quite attracted to Doris.  Doris rids herself of Ollie Weiser by letting his snakes loose during a short stop at a train station so that he misses the train's departure.

Upon the group's arrival at Cloudy Cover, Doris learns that it will not be as easy to settle her uncle's affairs as she thought it would be.  As Doris reflects upon her turn of bad luck, she is once again plagued by Ollie Weiser's unwanted attentions.  In spite of her dislike for Weiser, Doris is drawn to helping him after the group's hotel is destroyed by a fire, and Weiser is unfairly blamed for the disaster.  By helping Weiser, Doris unwittingly makes an enemy of the very lawyer who could provide information about Uncle John's estate.

Doris Force at Cloudy Cove
Doris now has little hope of claiming her inheritance but soon events take a surprising turn.  Doris finds clues that suggest her Uncle John is indeed alive and for some strange reason has stayed in hiding for many years.  Doris discovers the whereabouts of her uncle, receives his promise to become a part of her life, and considers herself much more blessed than if she had inherited his estate.
  #3 Doris Force at Raven Rock                                          1931
            or Uncovering the Secret Oil Well
Uncle John Trent and the Gates sisters hold the deed to a property in the southwest.  As Doris, her friends, and Mrs. Mallow prepare to travel to Raven Rock to survey the property, the deeds are stolen!  Since the land claim has never been officially recorded, anybody who possesses the deed can claim ownership of the land.  Doris fears that her Uncle John and the Gates sisters will lose their claim.  The trip must be made quickly so that Doris can establish her claim first, and the solution is to go by air.  However, Mrs. Mallow is deathly afraid of planes, and it is only after much pleading that the young people convince her to fly.

During the trip west, the pilot discovers a sullen stowaway on board the plane.  The young man's motive is questionable, and Doris wonders if he may be part of the gang that is after Uncle John's land.  The young people urgently race to Raven Rock hoping to arrive before the thieves.

Doris Force at Raven Rock
Doris and her friends do arrive first, but they have no proof of ownership and are unable to claim the land.  The schemers stake their claim, and Doris must find a way to get the deeds away from the trespassers so that she can claim the land for Uncle John and the Gates sisters.
  #4 Doris Force at Barry Manor                                          1931
            or Mysterious Adventures Between Classes
Doris and Kitty return to Barry Manor for their junior year.  Before their arrival, they become acquainted with a very confused elderly lady who is looking for her grandson Barry.  Doris takes Mrs. Tindell to a nearby boarding house, promising to help her the next day.

Upon arriving at school, Doris and Kitty meet an unhappy new student, Violet Washington, who refuses to reveal anything about herself.  Doris and Kitty do their best to win Violet over and gradually succeed.

Doris returns to the boarding house to see about Mrs. Tindell only to learn that Mrs. Tindell's pearls have disappeared.  While it is possible that the pearls are a figment of the old lady's imagination, Doris can only assume that the pearls are real.  Doris begins a frantic search for Mrs. Tindell's pearls.

Doris Force at Barry Manor
Doris now has two compelling mysteries to solve:  the secret sorrow of Violet Washington and the missing pearls of Mrs. Tindell.  Doris and her friends have several exciting and dangerous adventures before they learn the solution to each mystery.
Back to Mildred Wirt Benson's Stories and Novels for Children
Back to Main Page