I received a major emotional blow this weekend: I found out that my favorite heroine (or at least she was my favorite from the time I was about 10 to 13 or 14), girl detective Nancy Drew, was created and perpetuated by a committee! The author Carolyn Keene was a composite of several writers and editors! I am crushed!
As happens to a lot of 10-year old girls, I became completely smitten by the adventures of this bold and brilliant teenager with the strong sense of ethics who stumbled upon mystery after mystery in her daily life, of which she took tenacious hold and didn’t let go until the ne’er-do-wells were revealed and brought to justice.
All my life—or all my life since I read my first Nancy Drew book —I thought there was a real author, nearly as brilliant, and certainly every bit as creative, as Miss Drew herself. Now I know that was not the case. The Wikipedia article neatly sums up the sorry truth, and a whole lot more. T.M.I.
Unfortunately the Wikipedia article and the rest of the internet are bereft of good images of the wonderful illustrations from the earlier editions. Much of the appeal of the Nancy Drew books for me was aesthetic. The books themselves—who knows where I got them, they somehow didn’t seem to be new—were intriguingly old fashioned. The paper was always a little yellow, the print a little rocky, the binding redolent with the smell of dust and old paper. And the dress and hair-dos of the characters in the pictures were appealingly retro, to use a term no one had thought of in the early 1960s.
As time went on, images of Nancy, and I would bet her language and her relationship with her boyfriend, at the very least, were progressively modernized, much to their detriment. I’m not the only one who feels this way. The market for beat up old Nancy Drew books on eBay is robust. I’m tempted to buy one for myself, just to feel, smell, and peruse it for a big, pleasant bolus of nostalgia.
If I get one I promise to scan in the images and post them here.