Sunday, September 20, 2015

Library Loot #1: Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak

      I have never read a Nancy Drew book. Ever. There. I have said it out loud. (Okay, typed it, but close enough.) I know who she is, I knew that Carolyn Keene was a pen name for the mysterious mystery author, but that was about the end of my knowledge. Well, that and the fact that 'Nancy Drew' was wildly successful, being in print for , what, 50 years? So the opportunity to learn whet went on behind the scenes was pretty intriguing.
    What I learned was that Edward Stratemeyer was a brilliant planner: he created a slew of story arcs and characters (the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, Rover Girls, and Rover Boys are just a few of them) but the real genius behind Nancy Drew and her success was an author and journalist names Mildred (Augustus) Wirt Benson. With the exception of four of the thirteen original titles, MWB turned out adventure after adventure, captivating girls (and boys) the world over, helping to make the Stratemeyer Syndicate the success that it was. (Another longtime writer, Leslie McFarlane, the genius behind the writer known as Franklin W. Dixon, played a major role in the Syndicate's success.)
      I also learned that Stratemeyer died quite young, and his daughter Harriet Stratemeyer Adams managed to step into her father's role as the head of the Syndicate quite successfully, especially considering that her parents sent her to college because it was 'the thing to do,' but refused to allow her to work. Essentially, she went to college so she'd be a good catch in the marriage market. Having no experience, HSA managed to run the Syndicate with considerable success, though relations between her management and several of the writers became strained, and ultimately ended, such as the contracts with MWB. However, years later, Nancy Drew is still going strong: in the 80's there were several spin-off series, and just the other day at my library while looking for a Nancy Drew to read, because I want to have a look at what immensely successful juvenile fiction reads like, I found the first four original stories, re-released by Grosset & Dunlap (the original publishers, now owned by Penguin Group) in the original format from the 1930's. (In the 80's, in an effort to boost sales, HSA re-worked and abridged several stories, to limited success. Okay, to no success. She should have left MWB's work alone.)

(I'll post a review of The Secret of the Old Clock at some point, probably under Library Loot, as I'm not reading it to Liam. Hardy Boys will probably go under Lulu's Library.)

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