hi nancy!

For all the years I read Nancy Drew, and well beyond, I thought she, Nancy Drew herself, was the author. This was before I noticed anything like third person narration and ‘Carolyn’ and ‘Keene’ were just words on the cover. At one point my greatest ambition was to become a blonde detective who wrote novels.  

Then I grew up and at some dinner party or wherever such things are revealed I was horrified to learn that ‘Carolyn’ and ‘Keene’ was the author.

Then I grew up some more (this time only very recently, in the last month or so) and learned that even Carolyn Keene was a sham, that the Nancy Drew books were written by a posse of writers employed by a syndicate—all under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene—each of them receiving $125 per book.

Not a small shock to the system, this.

I’ve kept a handful of the series, I’m not sure why, and flipping through them I wonder—because I don’t read much YA—how much and in what way books for kids have changed. For instance, Nancy Drew is eighteen in the first book, ancient really, considering we were reading this in grade four or five. And her friend, Helen Corning, is three years older… twenty-one. Does this still happen? Are books with eighteen year old protagonists who have friends that are the legal drinking age written for nine and ten year olds? I’m not saying they shouldn’t be… although it does seem a little odd, but just wondering how and what and why things have changed.

What do ten year old girls read today?

Who are their literary heros?

Nancy Drew began peeling off her garden gloves as she ran up the porch steps and into the hall to answer the ringing telephone. She picked it up and said, “Hello!”

“Hi, Nancy! This is Helen.” Although Helen Corning was nearly three years older than Nancy, the two girls were close friends.

“Are you tied up on a case?” Helen asked.

“No. What’s up? A mystery?”

“Yes—a haunted house.”

Nancy sat down on the chair by the telephone. “Tell me more!” the eighteen-year-old detective begged excitedly.

“You’ve heard me speak of my Aunt Rosemary,” Helen began. “Since becoming a widow, she has lived wither her mother at Twin Elms, the old family mansion out in Cliffwood. Well, I went to see them yesterday. They said that many strange, mysterious things have been happening there recently. I told them how good you are at solving mysteries, and they’d like you to come out to Twin Elms and help them.” Helen paused, out of breath.

“It certainly sounds intriguing,” Nancy replied, her eyes dancing.

“If you’re not busy, Aunt Rosemary and I would like to come over in about an hour and talk to you about the ghost.”

“I can’t wait.”

After Nancy had put down the phone, she sat lost in thought for several minutes. Since solving The Secret of the Old Clock, she had longed for another case. Here was her chance!

~from The Hidden Staircase, Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, by Carolyn Keene

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9 thoughts on “hi nancy!

  1. Oh Ms. Magtree, if only you knew how deep the secrets run of so many YA “authors”.

    Frank W. Dixon wrote “The Hardy Boys” (I confess to preferring the boys to the girls so Nancy was an occasional read). And the author who ghost-wrote no less than 20 (or 21 but you will have to see my play about that controversy) of the Hardy Boys books for the Stratemeyer Syndicate lived in Durham Region. Whitby, Ontario, in fact. An Academy Award nominee, prolific journalist and screenwriter and documentary film maker, Leslie McFarlane even had a Durham school named for him but, alas and alack, here is another sad truth about “acclaimed” writers.

    They tore down the school and renamed it for an astronaut. A woman no less. Which is lovely but where does that leave our old friend, Leslie?

    It’s a mystery, isn’t it? I’d ask Frank and Joe Hardy to team up with Nancy to solve why writers are so easily tossed aside and their honours disassembled, brick by brick but…I suppose those kids have bigger puzzles to solve.

    1. Holy moly. Really? The Hardy Boy guy, or one of them, lived in Whitby? Fascinating. And what do you mean I’ll have to see your play [about the controversy]? What play? Where do I get tickets?? :))

      1. I wrote a short play called The Secret of the Hardy Boys for Whitby’s sesquicentennial. It was produced along with Karen L. Cole’s terrific short play about rum runners during the Prohibition and another of my short plays about ghost hunters at the old Whitby Psych. All three were part of the Harbour Days celebrations in 2005.

        I rather like my Hardy boys play (yes, children, writers do often like their work) and hope to work it into a longer play. Your blog triggered a neat idea about Nancy Drew’s involvement too. Oh Carin, there are only so many days in the life and so much to write about.

        And Leslie McFarlane should still have a school named for him. So many youngsters came to love reading because of those books.

      2. It’s true, Matilda! Leslie McFarlane not only wrote as Franklin W. Dixon, but also as Carolyn Keene! Yes, Carolyn Keene wasn’t Nancy – in fact, she wasn’t even a woman half the time. (McFarlane also contributed a few of the Dana Girls mysteries).

        Ah, Durham Region is a shadowy place filled with little-known literary truths. A few others can be found here: http://www.openbookontario.com/news/five_things_literary_ajax_whitby_ontario_ingrid_ruthig

  2. Carin you would have made a fabulous blonde detective who wrote novels. But I like the novelist you turned into even better.

    But omg – rereading the sample of prose you put in here. What dreadful writing! Just goes to show, it’s the story that hooks us every time. Even with Nancy’s dancing eyes (whose POV is this?!) and her begging excitedly, I confess to wanting to know who is haunting the Twin Elms.

    And nine and ten year olds are reading about Vampires these days. Legal drinking age doesn’t even come into it. :-)

    Love the post!

    1. Thanks for that vote of confidence re ‘blonde ambition’! As for the novelist I turned into… still turning. At best I’m a storyist. ;)

      And yes, the writing in the Nancy Drew! But there’s a lot of that about, still. As you say, it doesn’t seem to take away from the tale. Funny to think of it as a sort of [albeit cult] classic given its pedigree. (Whose POV? Good question. Now that we know mostly men wrote this stuff it would be interesting to give it a quick scan. Dancing eyes indeed…)

      As for contemporary tastes, I’d somehow forgotten about vampires. Silly me. (And no drinking age, eh? Obviously an oversight…)

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