Saturday, April 29, 2017

What Nancy Drew on

Did you ever read any of the Nancy Drew mysteries? I read book after book, more than fifty of them. I think I learned as much about writing from those books as from English class. But when I recently rediscovered them, I fell in love for a new reason: the cultural currents she "Drew" on. (forgive me).

The earliest volumes were published in the 1930s, when the US was a different place. Did you know that the first two dozen books in the mystery series were rewritten in the 1950s and 1960s to make them more modern? The original versions of the Secret of the Old Clock and its dozen or two follow-ups had Nancy wearing gloves and hats, and this was changed when the books were revised.

Racist stereotypes were also changed. Irish servants. References to a (stupid) black woman as a "negress."

The first detective story, of any type, is generally credited to Edgar Allan Poe in the 1840s. Children weren't really a market for them (or for anything else) until at least half a century after that. Oh, and in the 30s and 40s, Nancy as a strong female character, and a youth, was controversial.

Since the first Nancy Drew novel appeared in the 1930s, and are still being produced, it is now obvious that "Carolyn Keene" is a pseudonym. But it always was: no such person ever existed. Nancy Drew stories were contracted from a publishing company from the very start, with a clause taht the actual author could not receive credit or compensation beyond a small fee.

Some people dream of being given a new car (if not a blue roadster). I dream of being given a bunch of old (or new) Nancy Drew books. I'm a bibliophile and not wealthy (this is not a good combination). Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

I'd type more, but I want to go back to reading Nancy Drew mysteries. They're really fun!

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