On Nancy Drew

I just found a rather amusing discussion of the “two greatest mysteries in Nancy Drew” that I’d like to share with everyone.

First, who was the “real Carolyn Keene”? Like so many well-known juvenile mysteries (see The Hardy Boys) the Nancy Drew series was conceived and (in the beginning) outlined by Edward Stratemeyer. His daughter, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, later took over the book business and for a time claimed to be the author of all the Nancy Drews written from 1930 to 1982. As it turns out, this was not the case. Nancy, like Stratemeyer’s other series, was ghosted by a number of anonymous professional writers, most notably Mildred Wirt Benson, until Harriet Adams did indeed begin writing new volumes and revising old ones, in the 1950’s.

What is truly unique about the Nancy Drew/Carolyn Keene mystery, however, is the care that was taken to obliterate any and all traces of the “real authors. Karen Plunkett-Powell, in her excellent book, The Nancy Drew Scrapbook: 60 Years of America’s Favorite Teenage Sleuth, documents Byzantine plots and conspiracies involving changed copyright records, disappearing Library of Congress files, and nonexistent government employees.

But, fascinating as this question is, it pales beside the other mystery: What did this chick do, anyway? At age 16 (18 in the revised and later editions), Nancy has graduated from high school. She’s not in college, though she does take the occasional class in art or scuba diving, as required by a particular plot. She has plenty of time to shop and tea with her chums Bess Marvin (the fat one) and George Fayne (the tomboy), not to mention visiting steady flame Ned Nickerson at Emerson College. Nancy only works when she’s detecting undercover (and at that, only in the new and putrid Nancy Drew Case Files), and faithful housekeeper Hannah Gruen takes care of the hearth, yet Nancy always seems to have the latest roadster (convertible in the revised and later editions). (Then again, her loving father Carson is a successful attorney.) When the series started in 1930, Nancy may have been every parent’s dream, but in 1998 she reads more like a nightmare–the Daughter Who Won’t Leave.

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