Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A Real Life Nancy Drew - The Mildred Wirt Benson Biography Update & Archive

Today marks the birthday of the original Carolyn Keene, prolific children's book author, Mildred Wirt Benson, who wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books. She was a journalist for most of her life, a writer, and an adventurer. Much like Nancy Drew in that her style of Nancy was an out in the world, more rough and tumble version with lots of  pluck and gumption, much like herself.

I am currently working on her biography. Life and Nancy Drew Convention planning have sidetracked me a little - not to mention getting a ton of new research material to sort through - so it's an ongoing process but it's going to be amazing once done. It's been like playing Nancy Drew to put all the puzzle pieces together, which has been so fascinating. So many new stories and angles to things that really make her story an exceptional one. She was the right person and the right time to help breathe life into such a phenomenal character, Nancy Drew, who has inspired generations of kids and has become such a Pop Culture icon. 

You can follow my progress and learn more about Millie, her books and series and life at my website.

I also want to update on a special project to create a shelf to house Millie's author's copies at the University of Iowa, Women's Archive - see below. Thanks to Nancy Drew Sleuths for  helping make this happen.

Millie around the age she was writing Nancy Drew

Millie on an archaeological adventure 

1940s Image of Millie with her author's copies in her writing room, Toledo, OH

1950s image from Mille's writing room, Toledo, OH

When the Nancy Drew Sleuths fan organization visited the University of Iowa as part of their 2015 convention, a plan was made to help raise funds to have a book case built to house all of Millie's author's copies which were donated to the University of Iowa following the death of her daughter Peggy. 

Some members contributed to raise the funds for the shelf - and the man who made the shelf, dedicated it to his daughter, now deceased, who was a Nancy Drew fan. Some of our funds ended up going to help create a special website on Millie that the University created to showcase the donation and the collection they have of not only her author's copies but also her archive. Mildred donated many papers, manuscripts and other neat items to the IA Women's Archive, so fans and researchers can go and learn more about her life's work. 

Some of our funds were also used to purchase a few original letters and documents of Millie's to bring them "home" to the collection. Back in the 1990s, there were some auctions and sales of some of Millie's personal papers to Nancy Drew collectors. I'd like to take a moment to point out - to collectors - who purchased these items, that you consider donating them to the Iowa Women's Archive so they can go where they should be archived and preserved properly, as they are historical pieces of  publishing history and important. It's better to do so before the opportunity is lost, by confusion with heirs and what to do and how to do it in the future once you are gone. So, to those of you who have original documents, consider donating or even selling them to the archive while you can make sure that it happens properly and is accomplished. If for some reason, you are unwilling to donate or sell such documents, even after 20+ years of having them, consider making photo copies and donating those so that researchers have more scholarly material to work with. Photo copies should be easy enough to make and ship off. If you are willing and able to donate materials or send photo copies, they can be sent to: 

Karen Mason, Curator
Univ. of Iowa Women’s Archives
100 Main Library
Iowa City, IA 52242-1420

Here's images of the Millie Benson shelf that I took in the spring of 2018 when I researched at the library:


There's a really neat magnifying glass that thanks the Nancy Drew Sleuths inside the case.


Friday, June 28, 2019

Nancy Drew Haunted Savannah Convention Trailer

Attend the Nancy Drew Convention in Savannah! October 23-26, 2019. Register by August 1 - get all the details and clues to attend at our website.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Nancy Drew Trailer First Look CW Fall 2019

The first trailer for the upcoming CW Nancy Drew TV show has been released. It is going to be great! This fall it will air on Wednesday nights after Riverdale on the CW network.

As you can see from the trailer, the show has a supernatural element to it - ghosts and hauntings. Nancy Drew has never believed in ghosts - certainly not in the classic Nancy Drew book series - so that carries over to this show. However, when investigating this haunting, will she believe? Or get to the bottom of things and snuff out a killer? Stay tuned.....

And this fall, if you want to tangle with a very haunted city and have fun following in Nancy Drew's footsteps, you can join Nancy Drew Fans in Savannah, GA for the Nancy Drew Convention - click here for details!

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Nancy Drew Pilot Gets Picked Up By The CW

The recently filmed Nancy Drew TV pilot for the CW has been picked up to go to series! I'm looking forward to seeing what will happen to our intrepid sleuth in future episodes. There's a paranormal theme to the series beginning with a ghostly mystery lurking about the pilot in addition to a murder Nancy Drew has to solve. How this will play out in episodes airing after the pilot will be exciting to see.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Happy 89th Anniversary Nancy Drew

Happy 89th Anniversary to Nancy Drew!

Today, on April 28, 1930, the first three Nancy Drew books were released as a "breeder" set - The Secret of the Old Clock, The Hidden Staircase, & The Bungalow Mystery.

I'm writing a biography on the original Carolyn Keene, Mildred Wirt Benson, who at age 24 penned the first three Nancy Drew books plus another 20 of the first 30! Learn more about the bio here

I have an article at Smithsonian online about Nancy Drew and Mildred Wirt Benson.

At this blog, you can access a blog post at this link about the Drew Team - those who were instrumental in the creation of Nancy Drew and breathing life into her character and helping make her such a phenomenal success!

Next year is Nancy Drew's 90th anniversary and there are a lot of fun things coming to fans of the series. Including Nancy Drew Conventions! We have 2 this year - Toronto and Savannah, GA and then next year for the 90th we have a land and sea event in Hawaii - Honolulu for several days and then a cruise around 4 islands. Check out more info on the conventions at this link.

Stay tuned to this blog for more anniversary news in the coming months.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Nancy Drew Books: Scary Things Kids (& Adults) Do #129

If anyone finds The Hidden Staircase, please return to the East Sandy Elementary Library.....

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Nancy Drew & Her Mysterious History Featured on CBC q

I was interviewed for CBC Radio q on Nancy Drew and the segment aired today. The segment focuses on Nancy Drew and the new pilot for the CW and the new Nancy Drew & The Hidden Staircase movie from Warner Brothers, plus I discuss the Stratemeyer Syndicate and Nancy Drew and her mysterious history as I am writing a biography of the first Carolyn Keene - Mildred Wirt Benson - a real life Nancy Drew. Click here to listen.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Series Book Collectibles: Scary Things Kids (& Adults) Do #1

Did you ever watch that 70s Hardy Boys Mysteries show? You know the one with Frank Hardy and his brother Mr. Knuffles?!

Friday, March 15, 2019

Nancy Drew Hidden Staircase Movie Review


Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase releases today, March 15, in select AMC theaters around the US. It's a limited release and will go to DVD soon. Support of the movie and DVD sales will help boost the possibility of a sequel and I hope there will be one. If you actually haven't read this infamous classic Nancy Drew book, I recommend seeing the film first and then checking out my review.

What you'll find with this review of the movie is a fan's perspective and comparison between the Nancy Drew books which I know well and the movie. The movie is based on the classic Nancy Drew book, The Hidden Staircase, which was also made into a movie in 1939 starring Bonita Granville. Both movies focus on the haunted mansion in the book, the 1939 movie being based on the original 1930 text version written by ghostwriter Mildred Wirt Benson and this current movie starring Sophia Lillis as Nancy Drew is based on the 1959 revised version (currently still in print today) of Benson's story.  Both revolve around the haunting of an old mansion and ghostly happenings that Nancy must get to the bottom of. If you haven't read the book before, I recommend you read it after seeing the movie.Visit my website to learn more about Benson, whose favorite Nancy Drew book was Hidden Staircase. I'm currently writing a biography about Benson who was a real-life Nancy Drew in her own right and you can check out an article I wrote about her that was published at last year and recently reprinted in The Saturday Evening Post.

Written by Nina Fiore and John Herrera, the script attempts to modernize Hidden Staircase for today's generation of kids - the target audience for this movie and they do a good job of adapting it. There are "Easter eggs" to elements from the classic books and Hidden Staircase as well that fans of all ages should enjoy. Director Katt Shea, Exec producers Ellen DeGeneres and Wendy Williams did a great job as well as the rest of the cast and crew. It's never easy to adapt a popular character - especially from beloved books - to the big screen and I think overall they achieved their goal of doing so in a way that sticks close enough to the source material to make even the ficklest of fans relatively happy overall.

Modern technology is a part of today's generation, so that's been updated in this movie. Nancy even uses the flashlight on her cell phone when she forgets to bring her flashlight to snoop around the haunted Twin Elms mansion. Lucky for her a young Deputy Patrick, who admires Nancy, has a vintage-like shaped flashlight for Nancy to sleuth with.

There are quite a few elements from the book fans will recognize in the film - the train and local politics, the haunted mansion, threats from the villain, Nancy's dad Carson going out of town and getting himself kidnapped, a hideous mask outside of the window to scare everyone, radios playing all of a sudden, shadows and other strange happenings around the mansion, discovering the hidden staircase and more. This is an origin story as it's the first movie, so there was a lot to introduce among the characters and their relationships. I liked the relationship between Nancy and her Dad - it was respectful like in the books and yet modern for today's times. Nancy's housekeeper Hannah is now her Aunt Hannah in this movie, her father Carson's sister. Nancy's mom has passed away and she and her dad have relocated to River Heights from Chicago, to live with Aunt Hannah. River Heights, compared to Chicago, bores Nancy a bit, but soon excitement follows her.

Classic Nancy Drew elements that any fan of Nancy Drew will recognize include the titles in the beginning sequence of the film in blue letters with a yellow background evocative of the current in print "flashlight" picture covers.

Other elements are the color blue - in the movie it was Nancy's mom's favorite color as it was hers in the books. Nancy doesn't have a blue convertible to drive of her own, but her skateboarding helmet is blue. She does attempt - quite poorly - to drive her Aunt Hannah's blue convertible. The opening scene complete with Emily Bear's song, "More Than Just A Girl" is a powerful message - one that resonates, as in the books villains were often underestimating Nancy and her abilities because she was a "mere slip of a girl" or due to her age.

Other classic book elements include Nancy seeking justice, wearing a disguise, Hannah's baking prowess, Nancy looking for logical explanations for ghostly things as she never believed in ghosts in the books, Nancy bravely facing the ghost(s), a secret room/hidden staircase, chloroform, lock picking and trespassing to sleuth, following footprints, checking out for hollow spots and sleuthing to find a hidden way into the mansion. A next-mystery-notice like the books would have at the end, pops up at the end of the movie to clue you into what the sequel might be about - and you guessed it - another classic Nancy Drew mystery!

There is humor - Linda Lavin plays a great Aunt Flora and I enjoyed her very much in the role as the eccentric aunt from the book. We learn her former burlesque dancer name from decades before was Strawberry DeVille and she was worried she was losing it over seeing ghosts - or as she puts it - her cheese sliding off her cracker. 

My advice to anyone adapting Nancy Drew to TV or film has always been to not stray too far from characterization or source material as the fan base - who are also part of the majority of those who will turn out for a niche character movie like this - can be negative about too much change. I think this movie, while it has its changes in part to modernize the story, overall doesn't stray too far from basic concepts in Nancy's world - friendship, mysteries, and loyalty. No matter how many threats to stay off the case or else or how baffling the mystery, Nancy's always seeking justice and righting wrongs. Those are concepts that are ingrained in the character of Nancy and are her driving force in this movie. The movie is a good family friendly movie, unlike the upcoming CW Nancy Drew pilot being filmed in Vancouver which is a much edgier take on Nancy Drew for the older CW audience. So families should take their kids to see this film and get the DVD when it's released.

There are changes - Nancy's only 16 (instead of 18) and is still in school. Helen is considered more of a mean girl at first and in the book she was Nancy's friend, but they work out their "feud" in this movie in order to help Helen's Aunt Flora. George (characterized really well in a very George way by Zoe Renee) is African American, she and Bess don't appear to be cousins, they were also not in this book, as they were not introduced until book #5, so they are appearing out of order, but fans really shouldn't care too much about those changes. These things are inconsequential and I honesty didn't care about them as I was watching the movie. Bess is a bubbly blonde in the books who is into fashion and boys, but in this movie she's a science nerd who gets bullied by a popular athlete at school and Nancy and George rally to help her overcome that in a form of vigilante justice that Nancy later regrets, and has to face the consequences of. Nancy is more tomboyish in this film, but overall that didn't bother me. She was still the same determined resourceful character as she was in the books and that was really all that mattered. There are good lessons learned in this film too - that revenge is not the answer and you should never stoop to a bad person's level to solve your problems - and if you do, you should face consequences of your actions, as Nancy does. But there are also lessons on friendship and sticking together and helping others in need that are quintessential elements of the classic Nancy Drew books. Nancy is inspiring in the books and is also inspiring to today's generation in this movie.

Nancy teases her friends in the end that she's giving up mysteries for Instagram, boys and doing her nails and then winks at the audience and let's us know she's just kidding. Clearly Nancy Drew will always be a mystery magnet! And we wouldn't have her any other way.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase Movie Premiere

Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase debuts on March 15 in select AMC theaters around the US. I was able to attend the official premiere on Sunday, March 10 in LA at the AMC Century City theater and it was so much fun. I met up with the team from Her Interactive, whose Nancy Drew computer games are so much fun, their latest soon to be released Midnight in Salem comes out this year. There were snacks and selfie areas set up in the theater - including a neat giant magnifying glass,  the facade of Twin Elms, the haunted mansion from the book and movie and a skateboard you could pose on as if you were skating like Nancy from the movie.


The movie was fun and I enjoyed it overall - a much more straight portrayal of book Nancy than the 2007 Nancy Drew attempt was, so that was great.

Before the film, producers and the director Katt Shea said a few words and welcomed everyone. Katt sported one of our Nancy Drew Clutch Bags from The Sleuth Shop that I gave her. I thought she did a great job directing the film.


I got to meet "Nancy Drew" a.k.a. actress Sophia Lillis who signed my Nancy Drew Hidden Staircase book on which the movie was based. She was great and is currently reading the classic Nancy Drew books. I enjoyed her as Nancy Drew and thought she did a good job. Executive Producer Wendy Williams was so nice to talk to and shared her family having passed down the Nancy Drew books to her, she was a fan! Everyone was very nice and they were all excited about the film coming out and the DVD release and possible sequels.


Sunday, March 10, 2019

Nancy Drew Books: Scary Things Kids (& Adults) Do #128

Someone better check on Kelly's whereabouts! Her arch nemesis Beattie's taken her Nancy Drew book. Next think you know Beattie's styling her hair just like Kelly and trying to steal her boyfriend and solve all her mysteries!

Thursday, March 07, 2019

New Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase Movie Clip

A new clip from the Nancy Drew and The Hidden Staircase movie coming out in theaters on March 15. See the movie, solve the mystery! And learn more about Nancy Drew at my website.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Nancy Drew & The Hidden Staircase Movie Poster Giveaway

I'll be giving away posters from the new Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase movie, out in theaters March 15! In order to be entered to win a poster, comment on this blog and let me know what your favorite Nancy Drew book is and why it's your favorite.

Comments between now and March 14 will be entered and the drawing will be done on March 15 the day the movie comes out. I'll announce the winners here in an update to this posting.

UPDATE: In thee drawing of blog comments here and all FB posting comments on our FB pages, we have a winner of a Nancy Drew movie poster! Winner is Colleen T. and I'll message you for details on where to ship your poster!

Photo Credit: ©Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Nancy Drew Books: Scary Things Kids (& Adults) Do #127

Little did Nancy know when she asked Madame Alexandra to rip that Jewel Box open, a pandora's box of fire and water would be unleashed!

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Nancy Drew Cookbook Challenge - Crossword Cipher Chicken & Emerson Cookout Potatoes

Nancy Drew Fans are doing the Nancy Drew Cookbook Challenge over at Facebook at the Nancy Drew Book Fans Group - join the group and participate!

Let's get to the bottom of the mystery of whether or not the Nancy Drew Cookbook recipes are good recipes! Your mission if you choose to accept it, is to select at least one recipe from the cookbook - feel free to make more than one however, and then share your findings - a review. Take pictures! You can also share at Twitter @nancydrewfans or Instagram @nancydrewsleuths and #nancydrewcookbook

This weekend I made what could best be described as delicious comfort food. From page 78 and 80 from the Nancy Drew Cookbook - the Crossword Cipher Chicken and the Emerson Cookout Potatoes.

Both were very tasty and Bess Marvin would have totally approved! I really didn't find a need to change the recipes as I'm want to do with this cookbook, there were no sinister ingredients in these. Instead of cutting up a chicken and using the pieces we just used chicken breasts we cut up into smaller pieces. So with chicken breasts - boneless - the cook time is a little quicker. The potatoes are to be cooked in a foil packet over hot coals but the oven works just fine as well and we cooked them at 450 degrees for about 45 minutes. I would definitely make these two recipes again. The chicken was tender and moist, the potatoes very savory.