Nancy Drew

Created by Carolyn Keene

The two greatest mysteries surrounding NANCY DREW were never chronicled in the series books.

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.

The Stratemeyer Syndicate books (which included not just the Nancy Drew books, but also those featuring the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, the Bobbsey Twins, etc.) were indeed lucrative, although most of the writers never got rich. The books were writing was done under contract, for a flat fee. These pens-for-hire, all using house pseudonyms, were generally paid a flat fee of $125 per book (granted, a big deal in the Depression), but were required to sign away all rights to authorship or future royalties. During the worst of the Depression the flat rate was lowered to $100.

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 that the Syndicate utilized to conceal the identity of the true writers of the books for decades. It was only in the late sixties and early seventies that some of the real identies of such Stratemeyer stars as Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon began to be revealed.

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.

Quibbles about authorship and reality checks aside, though, this series remains a mainstay of juvenile mysteries and a main gateway to adult mysteries. True, the plots have gaping holes in them; true, there are some regrettable racial and ethnic stereotypes, particularly in the early books; true, the heroine relies almost exclusively on "woman's intuition to solve cases. (Come to think of it, she could have benefitted from some of the Hardy Boys' extensive forensic experience.) But ask any gathering of adult female mystery fans how they got started, or just mention Nancy Drew, and you're bound to hear "Nancy Drew! I haven't thought of her in years, and I don't even know where my old books are, but when I was little. . . .

Now that, you've got to respect.

TEMPEST IN A TEAPOT

  • EDITOR'S NOTE: Among the many people who wrote the Nancy Drew series was at least one man, Walter Karig. and there might have been more. I pointed this out on a mailing list one time, and was still receiving flak for it years later. My comments to one such letter, more articulate than most, are in italics.

    "Mr. Smith,
    Reading your comments about Nancy Drew writers being men, I envisioned a chuckle or two coming from you in regards to feminism. It may be true that some men have written stories for Nancy Drew Mystery series. But not mentioning the true facts will always continue this man vs. woman debate. In the real world, truth is better then fiction.
    .
    Please consider if you care to, that the majority of the writers for Nancy Drew were women. Margaret Wirt Benson, the best of all the writers in this series, also wrote under male pseudonyms. Even today, there are women using male pseudonyms.

    Actually, I have no problem with the "true facts." But you seem to. With all due respect, I never said all the Drew writers were men -- just some of them, a fact you yourself admit "may be true." And the actual creator was Edward Stratemeyer himself. The books were plotted out, and writers were hired to connect the dots, with less thought given to their gender than to their ability to follow orders and meet deadlines. Even now, it seems, the question of the authorship of many of the books is in dispute. But definitely both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew were written by men and women. That's a fact. I'm not threatened in any way by that, but I am amused by the fact that so many sisters in crime feel threatened by it. I mean, big deal, a man may have written a few books that possibly inspired a little girl to reach a little higher! I can live with that. Why can't you?
    .
    As for women writing under male pseudonyms, who cares? If you're trying to suggest some evil, sexist conspiracy exists, you should be aware that men also write under female pseudonyms to get published. Even today... Ever read a romance by anyone named Chuck?
    .
    Oh, and it's Mildred Wirt Benson, not Margaret.
    .

    Also, some of those writers who wrote The Hardy Boys series were women! Who knows, perhaps women writers have helped famous male authors to write some of the most famous testosterone-laced detective books.
    .
    Actually, I know. You want to read some good hard-boiled women writers from the past, check out Leigh Brackett No Good From a Corpse or Delores Hitchens' two Sleep books. Those books are all classics, and ones that I continue to heartily endorse.
    .

    Furthermore, I always find it interesting that so many male readers interested in detective books will not read books about women detectives. Funny thing is, women mystery readers have read plenty of male detective books.

    If you bothered to remove your head from your ass long enough to check out this site or read my reviews, you'd see I have no problem reading (or recommending) books written by women.
    .
    As a young (straight) girl I read boy mysteries such as The Three Detectives and The Hardy Boys Series. But I have to admit I preferred girl series. However, growing up with a very curious mind, I read boy mysteries to expand my perceptions of how boys react to one another. Perhaps, someday in the near future, this understanding will help me to write mysteries for kids."

    Ah, now I understand. There's something somehow wrong with men who express a preference for books written by men, but women are express the same sort of gender preference are simply expressing a preference.

    You want to see real sexism at work, lady, go the mirror.


    (Name and e-mail address withheld)

NOVELS

  • Nancy Drew
    (The Originals)
    All credited to "Carolyn Keene"
  • Nancy Drew #1: The Secret of the Old Clock (1930; by Mildred A. Wirt)... Buy this book
    Revised 1959 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #2: The Hidden Staircase (1930; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1959 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #3: The Bungalow Mystery (1930; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1959 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #4: The Mystery at Lilac Inn (1930; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1960 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #5: The Secret at Shadow Ranch (1931; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1965 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #6: The Secret of Red Gate Farm (1931; by Mildred A. Wirt, 1931)
    Revised 1961 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #7: The Clue in the Diary (1932; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1962 by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #8. Nancy's Mysterious Letter, by Walter Karig, 1932
    Revised 1968 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #9: The Sign of the Twisted Candles (1933; by Walter Karig)
    Revised 1968 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #10: The Password to Larkspur Lane (1933; by Walter Karig)
    Revised 1966 by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #11: The Clue of the Broken Locket (1934; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1965 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #12: The Message in the Hollow Oak (1935; by Mildred A. Wirt,
    Revised 1972 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #13: The Mystery of the Ivory Charm (1936; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1974 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #14: The Whispering Statue (1937; by Mildred A. Wirt
    Revised 1970 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #15: The Haunted Bridge (1932; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1972 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #16: The Clue of the Tapping Heels (1939; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1969 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #17: The Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk, by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1976 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #18: The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion (1941; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1971 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #19: The Quest of the Missing Map (1942; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1969 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #20: The Clue in the Jewel Box (1943; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1972 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #21: The Secret in the Old Attic (1944; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1970 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #22: The Clue in the Crumbling Wall (1945; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1973 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #23: The Mystery of the Tolling Bell (1946; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1973 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #24: The Clue in the Old Album (1947; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1977 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #25: The Ghost of Blackwood Hall (1948; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1967 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #26: The Clue of the Leaning Chimney (1949; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1967 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #27: The Secret of the Wooden Lady (1950; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1967 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #28: The Clue of the Black Keys (1951; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1968 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #29: The Mystery at the Ski Jump (1952; by Mildred A. Wirt)
    Revised 1968 by Harriet S. Adams
  • Nancy Drew #30: The Clue of the Velvet Mask (1953; by Harriet S. Adams)
    Revised 1969
  • Nancy Drew #31: The Ringmaster's Secret (1953; by Harriet S. Adams)
    Revised 1974
  • Nancy Drew #32: The Scarlet Slipper Mystery (1954; by Harriet S. Adams)
    Revised 1974
  • Nancy Drew #33: The Witch Tree Symbol (1955; by Harriet S. Adams)
    Revised 1979
  • Nancy Drew #34: The Hidden Window Mystery (1956; by Harriet S. Adams)
    Revised 1975
  • Nancy Drew #35: The Haunted Showboat (1957; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #36: The Secret of the Golden Pavilion (1959; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #37: The Clue in the Old Stagecoach (1960; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #38: The Mystery of the Fire Dragon (1961; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #39: The Clue of the Dancing Puppet (1962; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #40: The Moonstone Castle Mystery (1963; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #41: The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes (1964; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #42: The Phantom of Pine Hill (1965; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #43: The Mystery of the 99 Steps (1966; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #44: The Clue in the Crossword Cipher (1967; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #45: The Spider Sapphire Mystery (1968; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #46: The Invisible Intruder (1969; by Harriet S. Adams (1969)
  • Nancy Drew #47: The Mysterious Mannequin (1970; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #48: The Crooked Banister (1971; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #49: The Secret of Mirror Bay, by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #50: The Double Jinx Mystery (1973; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #51. Mystery of the Glowing Eye (1974; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #52: The Secret of the Forgotten City (1975; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #53: The Sky Phantom (1976; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #54: Strange Message in the Parchment (1977; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #55: Mystery of Crocodile Island (1978; by Harriet S. Adams)
  • Nancy Drew #56: The Thirteenth Pearl (1979; by Harriet S. Adams)

OTHER BOOKS

  • The Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking (1973)...Buy this book

This cash-in collection features such yummies as Detective Burgers, Brass Bound Trunk Candy and The Whistling Bagpipe Crunchies. Reprinted as recently as 2005.

  • Nancy Drew Mad Libs (2005, by Roger Price and Leonard Stern)...Buy this book

Popular series of word games gets the Drew treatment. Ching ching!

COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS

  • NANCY DREW: GIRL DETECTIVE
    (2005, Papercutz)
    Written by Stefan Petrucha
    Art by Sho Murase
  • "The Demon of River Heights" (2005)....Buy this book
  • "Writ in Stone" (July 2005)....Buy this book
  • "The Girl Who Wasn't There" (2005)

  • NANCY DREW AND THE HARDY BOYS: THE BIG LIE
    (2017, Dynamite Entertainment)
    Written by: Anthony Del Col
    Art by Werther Dell'Edera

A supposedly hard-boiled take on the perennial kids' reads, as they return to their pulpy roots (well, sorta). Nancy femme fatales it up a little (Ooh! Stilettos!), as she travels to Bayport to clear the boys of the murder of their father, world famous detective Fenton Hardy. It's being billed as "a twisting, hard-boiled tale, complete with double-crosses, deceit and dames..." and promises to "bring the iconic teen detectives into the modern age, and redefine noir for a new generation of readers!" Uh-huh. We'll see... but in the meantime, it's fun to pick out the other Stratemeyer kids who pop in for cameos. So far I've spotted a couple of Bobbsey Twins and Tom Swift.

FILMS

......

  • NANCY DREW, DETECTIVE....Buy as part of a set
    (1938)
    Based on characters created by Carolyn Keene
    Screenplay by Kenneth Gamet
    Directed by William Clemens
    Starring
    Bonita Granville as NANCY DREW
    Also starring
    Frankie Thomas as Ted Nickerson
    With John Litel as Carson Drew
    and Frankie Thomas as Ted Nickerson
    .
  • NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE....Buy as part of a set
    (1939)
    60 minutes, black & white
    Based on characters created by Carolyn Keene
    Screenplay by Kenneth Gamet
    Directed by William Clemens
    Starring
    Bonita Granville as NANCY DREW
    Also starring
    Frankie Thomas as Ted Nickerson
    With John Litel as Carson Drew
    and Frankie Thomas as Ted Nickerson
    .
  • NANCY DREW, REPORTER....Buy this video....Buy this DVD....Buy as part of a set
    (1939)
    Based on characters created by Carolyn Keene
    Screenplay by Kenneth Gamet
    Directed by William Clemens
    Starring Bonita Granville as NANCY DREW
    With John Litel as Carson Drew
    and Frankie Thomas as Ted Nickerson
    .
    .
  • NANCY DREW, TROUBLE SHOOTER....Buy as part of a set
    (1939)
    Based on characters created by Carolyn Keene
    Screenplay by Kenneth Gamet
    Directed by William Clemens
    Starring
    Bonita Granville as NANCY DREW
    With John Litel as Carson Drew
    and Frankie Thomas as Ted Nickerson
    .
  • STARDUST ON THE STAGE
    (1942)
    Based on characters created by Carolyn Keene
    Starring Louise Currie as NANCY DREW
    .
  • THE TEXAS KID
    (1943)
    Based on characters created by Carolyn Keene
    Starring Shirley Patterson as NANCY DREW

  • NANCY DREW
    (2007, Warner Brothers)
    Based on characters created by Carolyn Keene
    Story by Tiffany Paulsen
    Screenplay by Andrew Fleming and Tiffany Paulsen
    Directed by Andrew Fleming
    Produced by Jerry Weintraub
    Co-producer: Cherylanne Martin
    Executive producer: Susan Ekins, Mark Vahradian, Ben Waisbren
    Starring Emma Roberts as NANCY DREW
    With Tate Donovan as Carson Drew
    Amy Bruckner as Bess
    Kay Panabaker as George
    Max Thieriot as Ned Nickerson
    Also starring Josh Flitter, Craig Gellis, Rich Cooper, Rachael Leigh Cook, Barry Bostwick, Cliff Bemis, David Doty, Laura Harring, Monica Parker, Caroline Aaron, Marshall Bell, Daniella Monet, Kelly Vitz, Phil Abrams
    River Heights meeting Mean Girls and it isn't too bad, all things considered. Still, for Nancy's first big-screen appearance in nearly 70 years, it's a bit of a letdown to have Nancy uprooted to Los Angeles. Surely part of the original's charm was the small town ambience of River Heights. But hey, if it sparks a new generation of mystery readers, I'm all for it. And while she's no Bonita Granville, Emma Roberts (Julia's niece, Eric's daughter) makes for a likable enough heroine.

TELEVISION

....

  • THE HARDY BOYS/NANCY DREW MYSTERIES
    Buy Season One on DVD...Buy Season Two on DVD
    (1977-79, ABC)
    Based on characters created by Franklin W. Dixon and Carolyn Keene
    Developed for television by Glen A. Larson
    Executive Producer: Glen A. Larson
    Starring Pamela Sue Martin as NANCY DREW
    Replaced by
    Janet Julian (1978-79)
    Guest stars: Mark Harmon, Robert Englund, Rick Nelson, Jamie Lee Curtis
    The Hardy Boys Mysteries and The Nancy Drew Mysteries began in 1977 as separate series alternating in the same time slot on ABC. Early the following year, the casts combined, but in the fall of 1978 the Nancy Drew thread was dropped (after the Pamela Sue Martin Playboy "scandal") and The Hardy Boys Mysteries continued on alone.
    .
  • NANCY DREW
    (1995)
    Starring Tracy Ryan as NANCY DREW
    .
  • NANCY DREW
    (2002)
    Made-for-TV movie
    90 minutes
    Teleplay by Ami Canaan Mann
    Directed by James Frawley
    Starring Maggie Lawson as NANCY DREW
    Also starring Jill Ritchie, Lauren Birkell, Marieh Delfino, Charlie Finn, Heath Freeman, Brian J. White

REFERENCE

  • Mason, Bobbie Ann,
    The Girl Sleuth: On the Trail of Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton and Cherry Ames
    ...Buy this book
    Old Westbury, New York: The Feminist Press, 1975.
    Bobbie Ann "In Country" Mason relives her childhood, and discusses how series characters inspired her and thousands of other young girls to "dream big." revised edition published in 1995.
    .
  • Billman, Carol,
    The Secret of the Stratemeyer Syndicate: Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and the Million Dollar Fiction Factory
    ....Buy this book
    New York, New York: Ungar Publishing Company, 1986.
    Ambitious first stab at the Stratemeyer story, though at times infuriating, as it cleaves far too closely to the corporate line. There are gaps in the story you could drive a speedster through. For instance, Raymond Chandler is cited several times in the book, but Leslie MacFarlane and Mildred A. Wirt, the people who actually wrote the first Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books, and indeed most of the actual authors of the books, are conspicuously absent.
    .
  • Capro, Betsy,
    The Mystery of Nancy Drew: Girl Sleuth on the Couch
    ...Buy this book
    Trabuco Canyon, California: Source Books, 1992.
    A therapist finally gets Ms. Drew on the couch. Being stuck in in River Heights for over seventy years is bad enough, but imagine never getting through adolescence???
    .
  • Plunkett-Powell, Karen,
    The Nancy Drew Scrapbook: 60 Years of America's Favorite Teenage Sleuth...Buy this book
    New York, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.
    .
  • Dyer, Carolyn Stewart and Nancy Tillman Romalov, editors,
    Rediscovering Nancy Drew
    ...Buy this book
    Iowa: University of Iowa Press; 1995.
    .
  • Heiferman, Marvin and Carole Kismaric
    The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys
    ...Buy this book
    Fireside,1998.
    The authors of the acclaimed Growing Up with Dick and Jane tackle Frank and Joe and Nancy, in a lavishishly illustration and literate look at the world's most famous teen detectives, and the culture that spawned them.
    .
  • Worick, Jennifer,
    Nancy Drew's Guide To Life...Buy this book
    Philadelphia, PA: Running Press, 2001.
    This tiny, illustrated volume offers always-timely wisdom from the pages of the canon, such as "When bound and gagged, you can still tap out HELP in Morse code to attract attention" and "Never sleuth on an empty stomach." Indispensible. Comes with a miniature magnifying glass/bookmark.

RELATED LINKS

  • The Official Online Home of Nancy Drew
    It features "original online mysteries, Shockwave games, Knowing Nancy history and reflections, online bookstore and book info, and Web-based discussion for everything Nancy-- something new every week. And the NancyDrew.com Email Club features a synopsis of the mystery and other Nancy tidbits by email every week." Release your inner Nancy!
    .
  • The Unofficial Stratemeyer Syndicate Web Page
    Ilana Nash's site contains complete bibliographies, lists of ghostwriters, etc. for the notorious publishing group responsible for The Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, and Nancy Drew.
    .
  • The Stratemeyer Syndicate on Keeline.com
    James Keeline's informative site details the history of the syndicate, and also lists (in convenient pdf format) the many ghostwriters of the various series. As its author himself freely admits, it "is not the only one to (offer this information)...and you can see others on the Links page, but it will contain some information which is not available elsewhere."
    .
  • Stratemeyer Syndicate: Mildred Wirt Benson
    The scoop on the real Carolyn Keene.

  • Kiddie Pulp
    Get 'em while they're young. A suggested reading list.

Respectfully submitted by Victoria Esposito-Shea. And thanks to Steve Bridge for the hot lead on a great site.


| Home | Detectives A-L M-Z | Film | Radio | Television | Web Comics | Comics | FAQs | Search |
| Trivia | Authors | Hall of Fame | Mystery Links | Bibliography | Glossary | Advertising |
| This Just In... | Word on the Street | Non-Fiction | Fiction | Staff | The P.I. Poll |

Drop a dime. Your comments, suggestions, corrections and contributions are always welcome.
"...and I'll tell you right out that I'm a man who likes talking to a man that likes to talk."

Copyright 1998-2017 , thrillingdetective.com. All rights reserved.
Web site by The Thrilling Detective Web Guy