Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her

I always heard that Nancy Drew was written by a guy. After reading this, I have learned that while that is partially true, it's not the whole story. Nancy Drew was an idea generated by a male publisher who wrote a bunch of treatments, then hired a writer to flesh out the stories. She developed the characters and followed the plot outlines creating by the male publisher but actually wrote the books herself. She was on a schedule where she wrote about one a month for a long time. While the books were credited to Carolyn Keene, they were actually a collaboration. Carolyn Keene never existed. They were total hits and they kept doing it for years. Then the publisher guy died. His daughter took over his publishing industry, which was kind of unheard of at the time, and kept the arrangement going. This book follows her success as a female CEO on a publishing empire and I kind of skipped over that part because I'm not really interested in females-in-business as feminist-success-story. Still it's pretty cool that this happened and totally interesting in light of the character "Nancy Drew". Later on another woman starting writing the books. Also at some point the early books were re-written, so that while the books you may have read in the 70s were probably the same books your mom may have read in the 50's, the books your mom read were Not the same as the books your grandma read, even though they were titled the same--so there are multiple versions of the same title depending on the year they were published.
If that all sounds confusing, yet interesting, then read the book! It can be done in one or two evenings, especially if you skip over the boring parts.
Writing style is not compelling and the author isn't strong on analysis but if you don't know this history and are a Nancy Drew fan, it's pretty satisfying on that level alone. I'm just excited to discover that Nancy Drew was a frankenstein creation whose character was influenced by several different independent women.


saralibrarian said...

me and james just watched the nancy drew movie they made in 2007. the fact that we watched the whole thing is only proof of our extreme laziness and not proof that it is an enjoyable or even watchable movie! In other Nancy-Drew-that-I-don't-recommend news: don't bother with "Confessions of a Teen Sleuth: Nancy Drew Tells All! A Parody." I was drawn in by the title and cover... a mistake!

Tobi Vail said...

Yeah I actually saw that in the theater and it's pretty terrible! I also remember it having a kind of moral or christian/family values vibe that I guess (?) makes sense that they would go that route, but still seemed weird to me.