My favorite reading genre is the mystery and suspense. I choose to blame Nancy Drew.

Nancy came into my life as soon as I could read well enough to tackle her books. I would go visit my best friend, Nancy and spend the night at her house.  In her room was a small bookcase with little worn green books with no covers.  I started reading them when I visited her home.  Her mother had read them as a child and I loved reading every one of them. I devoured as many of the books in the series as I could get my hands on, spending many happy hours following clues with Nancy and her friends.

As a quiet and shy child, I deeply admired Nancy, and would have loved to be more like her. Nancy, the motherless daughter of an attorney named Carson Drew, was spunky, fearless, intelligent and compassionate—a fine, and somewhat unusual role model for girls at the time the books first came out (see below). She solved mysteries in her fictional hometown of River Heights with the help of her friends, cousins Bess and George (a girl).

The story of Nancy Drew is an interesting one. She first made her appearance in 1930 in The Secret of the Old Clock. The first 34 volumes were published between 1930 and 1956. Eventually, 175 volumes were published in the “classic” Nancy Drew series (there are several “spin-off” series that bear her name). Edward Stratemeyer, founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, created Nancy, wrote many of the plotlines and hired ghostwriters to complete the books. All the Nancy Drew mysteries have been published under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene, but were ghostwritten by a number of different people, including Mildred Wirt Benson, who wrote 23 of the original 30 mysteries. Stratemeyer’s daughter, Harriet Adams, edited and wrote many of the Nancy Drews until her death in 1982. She also revised the original 34 stories beginning in 1959, to eliminate racist stereotypes. In the process, she also shortened the books slightly and toned down Nancy’s independent personality.

Beautiful endpapers
According to Wikipedia, more than 80 million copies of the various Nancy Drew series’ books have been sold. The books have been translated into 45 languages and Nancy has been featured in five movies, two TV shows and numerous computer games.

Through the years I moved on to other authors—Faye Kellerman, Michael Connelly and suspense writer, Gayle Lynds.  But my heart will always have a special soft spot for Nancy, the teenage girl who chased villains in her blue roadster.

What were your favorite books from childhood?


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