Nancy Drew Series

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Nancy Drew Series

Nancy Drew is the ultimate girl private investigator. Her adventures began in 1930, when Mildred A. Wirt Benson (1905–) wrote the first Nancy Drew mystery novel, The Secret of the Old Clock, under the pseudonym "Carolyn Keene." Like the Hardy Boys (see entry under 1920s—Print Culture in volume 2) series, the Nancy Drew stories were produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a company that specialized in mystery series. The Nancy Drew mysteries soon became the best selling juvenile fiction in America. The mysteries remain in print in the twenty-first century. Nancy has adventures every bit as exciting and dangerous as the Hardy Boys', but many of her cases are solved through her "feminine" interest in the arts, in crafts, and in fashion.

Nancy, whose mother is dead, lives with her father and their housekeeper, Hannah Gruen, in the town of River Heights. She manages the household affairs and even helps her attorney father with his more difficult cases. She is brave, strong, determined, and she never fails to bring crooks to justice. For some readers, she is just too perfect. By the 1990s, there were different versions of Nancy Drew to suit different readers. In the Nancy Drew Notebooks series, for example, Nancy is in grade school. Older readers can enjoy the Nancy Drew on Campus series. Late twentieth-century Nancy deals with issues from drug abuse to premarital sex, although the heroine herself is a model of good behavior.

Over the years, there have been several failed attempts to bring Nancy to cinema and TV audiences, including TV's The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977–78) and a series of movies in the late 1930s. In 2001, the Nancy Drew books appear in college Humanities courses. Original editions are highly collectable, and several Nancy Drew fan sites appear on the Internet. Not only was the series a landmark in children's publishing, but Nancy Drew's courage and determination have entertained and inspired generations of young women around the world.

—Chris Routledge

For More Information

Billman, Carol. The Secret of the Stratemeyer Syndicate: Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and the Million Dollar Fiction Factory. New York: Ungar, 1986.

Mason, Bobby Ann. The Girl Sleuth. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995.

Nancy Drew: The Official Home of Nancy Drew Online. (accessed February 12, 2002).

The Unofficial Stratemeyer Syndicate Homepage. (accessed on February 12, 2002).