Thursday, January 31, 2019

31 Days of Nancy Drew Topic #31 Nancy Drew Fans, Conventions & Nostalgia

31 Days of Nancy Drew Topic #31

Nancy Drew Fans, Conventions & Nostalgia

It's been fun to revisit so many aspects of Nancy Drew from 1930 to present day. I've been collecting, researching and writing about Nancy Drew for around twenty years now and I forget sometimes that there are so many who are new to collecting and that this kind of information while currently out there on websites like mine and in books and guides, is still being discovered by new fans. And even seasoned collectors can use a refresher or perhaps motivation to collect something new. So, I hope you all have enjoyed them!

For nearly 90 years, fans of all generations have read these books and many - moms, grandmas and you name it - have passed down their books or fondly purchase what they remember from childhood for the next generation. There are people everywhere who recognize and are nostalgic about reading these books. And then there's a more niche group of us who actively collect them, reread them, and search used bookstores or online sites for vintage editions and related collectibles. You know who you are if you're reading this right now. You are more likely than the average Nancy Drew fan to continue to purchase new books and merchandise and collect anything Nancy Drew. You join the Nancy Drew Sleuths fan organization, sport Nancy Drew tees and you may even wonder WWNDD (What would Nancy Drew Do?) from time to time. You might subscribe to our zine, The Sleuth, or attend the Nancy Drew Conventions. Whatever level of interest you have in Nancy Drew and collecting, there are all types of fans.

I wanted to save the fans of all generations, genders, and various walks of life for my final post. There have been amazing people from creation to the final product in producing these books and collectibles over the years and presently. As much as those behind the scenes to do keep Nancy Drew alive, it's also the fans who help keep her going too. One thing I've noticed - and this can exist in other types of niche groups and communities of fans - is that  when collectors get together online and especially in person, it's like a family of sorts - we have something in common that doesn't divide us to destructive degrees. There's an instant topic to discuss or a book related event to enjoy, without worrying about what's going on in the world or other issues that divide people. Now, don't get me wrong, there are fickle squabbles from time to time about Nancy's hair color and other trivialities, but when it's all said and done, fans still have that common denominator - Nancy Drew - that binds them.

Fans help keep things relevant and fresh as there are always new fans and new generations but there's also the older generations as well. And the buying power is in the older generations who make purchases for their own collections or to pass down to the younger generations - most young kids don't have funds to just spend anytime they want, it's the parents/etc. who make the purchases. Nancy Drew remains popular enough due to this passing down and sharing but also word of mouth and fans getting engaged. In the past it was via letters and now during the last couple of decades it's been e-mails and social media in recent years. Regardless of who makes up the fan base, the fan base does exist and it's the core or foundation of what helps keep Nancy Drew going. Economics also keeps her going - if she's profitable to those involved in producing the books and collectibles, they will keep getting produced. The easiest thing a company can do is cater to the existing fan base and then anyone else that comes on board, that's a bonus because anyone else outside the fan base is not a sure thing - the fan base however is a sure thing as long as they are not alienated. One thing I do know is that fans will never agree 100% on everything - there have been too many different styles of Nancy Drew and over 600 books published since 1930, so there's always been something for everyone and everyone has their style of Nancy Drew. Outside of things like looks and vintage vs. modern, as long as who Nancy is as a person and her sleuthing abilities aren't messed with too much, then typically most fans will be pleased.


I didn't set out to do what I do today. I read the books as a child and greatly enjoyed them. I moved on to college and law school and planned to be an attorney. Things changed and I revisited my childhood Nancy Drew books, discovered vintage ones, and found in the early days of the Internet in the late 1990s a message board on Nancy Drew and the rest was history. The rest included meeting other collectors, finding eBay, expanding greatly my childhood books to the larger collection I have today, researching behind the scenes of the series to the creators and original writers and forming a discussion group, Nancy Drew Sleuths. I created my website to share my collection and information about Nancy Drew with other collectors and fans. The pivot point was meeting Mildred "Millie" Wirt Benson, the first Carolyn Keene in 2001, along with a few other members of the discussion group and thus began our evolution into an the Nancy Drew Sleuths fan organization with annual conventions, merchandising and our zine, The Sleuth.

Now nearly 20 years later, a hobby has become a business and a labor of love. I've been able to consult with the publishers, companies licensing the brand, Warner Brothers, wrote a lot of articles and even a book - Clues for Real Life which I compiled for Meredith Books, and am currently working on a biography of Millie. And over the past 20 years, I've heard from a lot of fans through my website, at our online groups and social media and in person at convention events. I've made some amazing connections and friends through this group. There are fans of all types and collections big and small - and they are all unique to each person and are amazing. There are so many different fans from all walks of life who have been touched in some way by reading these books from your average ordinary every day person on up to celebrities and Supreme Court Justices. I think that's an amazing testament to what Edward Stratemeyer created and how that legacy lives on today.

In researching Nancy Drew in NYC at the New York Public Library in the Stratemeyer Syndicate archives, I have come across references from time to time for fan clubs for Nancy Drew over the year - loosely organized clubs in different parts of the country which seem to be mostly localized and apparently fizzled out. There is also fan mail in the archive which is fun to read. From time to time, there are letters from the Syndicate to fans who have written that have been sold at eBay and I've acquired a few for my collection which I'll picture here.


Today I want to go over some of the fan clubs that have existed over the years from the 1930s movies to present day. I'll start with present day and then discuss clubs of the past and include images of some of the fan club memorabilia you can collect.


Nancy Drew Sleuths:

Nancy Drew Sleuths is an organization of Nancy Drew collectors, fans and scholars, established on April 10, 2000 for the purpose of fostering the enduring legacy of Nancy Drew. We achieve this in part by holding annual convention(s) in which fans can follow in Nancy Drew's footsteps in real life locations where some of the books have been set, through our donations to libraries of Nancy Drew books for today's generation to discover Nancy Drew mysteries and be inspired and thrilled as many of us were as kids, and through online discussion and social media.

We began as an online discussion group and grew into much more with annual conventions, officially licensed Nancy Drew merchandise, Nancy Drew Book Club, and our Nancy Drew zine, The Sleuth. We are an organization for both casual and advanced collectors, fans and scholars. We officially license Nancy Drew from Simon & Schuster.

At present we have fans not only in the USA but in other countries including the UK and countries like France, Singapore, Austria, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand and Canada among others. The majority of those outside the USA are in Canada. We have nearly 800 official members and then over 200 Jr. Detective Squad members who were grandfathered into the NDS organization when our kids club ended last year. So, 1000 members and counting.

If you want to join us officially you'll receive a membership kit which includes a card, magnifying glass charm and NDS totebag - click here to join.

If you're interested in attending our conventions, we have two this year - Toronto, Canada June 19-22 and Savannah, GA Oct. 23-26. Visit our website for all the details and registration forms.

We began publishing our zine, The Sleuth, online in the early 2000s and then went to print in 2006 and just published our 75th issue this month. It's all about Nancy Drew and similar series books and if you're interested in back issues or to subscribe - check out our website & our Facebook Group.

If you're looking for Nancy Drew merchandise, we have several spots online at my website and our Drewtique which is where crafty sleuths sell their handmade Nancy Drew wares - and finally our Nancy Drew Cafe Press Shop where we have lots of products they manufacture and ship to you with our images and logos.

Soon, we are going to have a big overhaul of our website and shops to consolidate that and so look for that announcement later in February!

Where to currently find Nancy Drew and Nancy Drew Sleuths Online and at Social Media plus other websites/links:

Other Websites I've Mentioned Here Recently:

And for links to lots more Nancy Drew and other similar series websites, visit my links page on my website.



1930s Nancy Drew Warner Brothers - Nancy Drew Club

When the 1930s movies debuted starring Bonita Granville as Nancy Drew, there were press kits released by Warner Brothers, who is currently releasing a new film, Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase, in March. I'll picture the press kit here and info on the club and a membership card. This was more of a PR thing than a real club that was very organized - it was very loosely organized. How many clubs actually formed as a result of this, is anyone's guess. If theaters did pass out any of these membership cards or post rules of the club, it was probable handled more like getting souvenirs at a party.

Syndicate & Publisher Fan Mail

Not directly related to a club, but I wanted to share some letters that some fans out there received from Grosset & Dunlap and the Syndicate so I'll include those in what I'm posting here. They are neat to read and see how the Syndicate handled the response - a fictional "Edith Blake" secretary to Carolyn Keene often answered some of these.


ND's Inner Circle

This I mentioned in a previous posting here on book club editions - those yellow spine picture cover versions of the first 32 books. When you signed up for this book club you were sent a membership card and I found mine inside of #32, The Scarlet Slipper Mystery, that I purchased off of eBay years ago. So it fits both a book club and a fan club item.

70s TV show - The Nancy Drew Fan Club

The Fan Club Corporation of America ran many clubs for TV shows and TV stars. Back in the 70s they had clubs for both Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and you would get a club kit with scroll and membership card and lots of photos, poster, and promo items including bookmarks and ad materials.


1980s Wanderer Books - The Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Fan Club

During the Wanderer years in the 80s, there was the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Fan Club which was advertised in the backs of the Wanderer books at the time. There were 2 club newsletters issued - The Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Mystery Reporter - and a membership card.

When I visited the NYPL in NYC on a trip several years ago, I found a stack of cards featuring Nancy Drew from The Triple Hoax and the cards referenced the Official Nancy Drew Fan Club on them. I don't know if these were actually used or if these were  promotional or prototypes - if anyone has this particular membership card, let us know!


The Official Nancy Drew Girl Friends Club

This club was out for a very short time during the period Simon & Schuster was producing the digest paperbacks in the mid 1990s circa 1997. I'll include a small image of an ad that ran in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch I found online. And the membership card which I purchased on eBay. This was a very short-lived club.


UK Files Nancy Drew Club

A member from Australia shared these with me quite a few years ago - there was a club associated with the UK editions of Nancy Drew Files. I'll share some images here she sent me.

Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew Club

When the Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series debuted, there was a membership card you could print out online and promo cards of these - and you could go online to get info about it - it quickly fizzled out.

The Official Nancy Drew Fan Club - Nancy Drew Girl Detective

During the run of Girl Detective series, at one point they established a website online and had this printable membership card you could print out - nothing really came of this club other than that.

In the comments, let us know, did you ever join any of these fan clubs and if so do you still have your fan club memorabilia? Show and tell - show us what you have in the comments! If you happen to have the blue Wanderer Books Official Nancy Drew Fan Club card featuring the Triple Hoax Nancy face on it, let us know! And if I've missed any other official clubs from the publisher, let me know and others what we're missing out on.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

31 Days of Nancy Drew Topic #30 Nancy Drew Goes to Court, Celebrates her 50th & The Beginning of a new Nancy Drew Era

31 Days of Nancy Drew Topic #30

Nancy Drew Goes to Court, Celebrates her 50th & The Beginning of a new Nancy Drew Era

Today I'm going to round out our look at Nancy Drew and the classics over the course of five decades and part of another through the mid-1980s. We've covered Nancy Drew with some brief historical background through the 70s and today I'll focus on how it was the beginning of a new era of Nancy Drew by the year 1979. What would follow that and the Stratemeyer Syndicate's legacy, I'll touch on too.

As I mentioned yesterday, there was frustration at the Syndicate over the royalties being paid by Grosset & Dunlap, who had been publishing books for the Stratemeyer Syndicate for decades and specifically for 49 years for the Nancy Drew series. In a nutshell, the older contracts stated a certain percentage and over the years they never renegotiated the royalties. I won't bore you with contract law, but suffice it to say, this royalty issue and other issues that had transpired over the years, not to mention Grosset & Dunlap's lack of interest in doing something big for Nancy Drew's 50th anniversary, gave Harriet and the Syndicate partners the final impetus to do something. So, they made a decision - ultimately Harriet's - to switch publishers from G&D to Simon and Schuster. Simon & Schuster had been courting Harriet for awhile, wanting the Stratemeyer catalog. They also threw in a nice little cookie in the form of plans for a huge 50th Nancy Drew party and lots of publicity and promotion. Hook, line and sinker, Harriet switched to S&S. G&D wasn't exactly blindsided, but they apparently didn't think she would actually do that. And the 57th book in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series, The Triple Hoax, was published by S&S in paperback, ending the era of classic hardcovers in recent decades of bright yellow spines and there would be no more illustrations by Rudy Nappi. So, a new era began for Nancy Drew - a modern era where she would continue to sleuth and thrive for the last 40 years. This year is the 40th anniversary of The Triple Hoax going to print and S&S's beginning as Nancy Drew's second publisher. Ruth Sanderson was the new illustrator for the series and more would follow - it's Ruth's work that is rather coveted by collectors like Jim McNamara who owns The Triple Hoax and quite a few other Ruths, but there are other favorite illustrators too.


From 1979 to the mid-80s, we have the Wanderer era - the imprint used by S&S for these books and I touched on all of that in a previous posting, so I won't delve back into all of those books and spinoffs - but I will picture some of them here plus an article on Nancy's 50th. The images of Flying Saucer, Kachina Doll, Captive Witness, Broken Anchor and Emerald-Eyed Cat are borrowed from collector Lea Fox's section of her website on the Wanderer paperbacks - here's the link to check that out.

I will note that Nancy in the Wanderer period and beyond in the run up to #175, stuck to her classic self for the most part - still the same mystery-magnet she always was and the stories were in the vein of the classics - especially the Wanderers. You go from a small family run type company - the Stratemeyer Syndicate - to a corporate environment at S&S where these books are some of many the publisher is focusing on and things are just not going to be the same. It's a different way to run and manage things. Nancy Drew didn't have a "mom" in Harriet anymore. And she had a lot of different editors and ghostwriters, so over time and with so many books being published, continuity would suffer at times and some books are written better than others. Nancy Drew Mystery Stories as a series ran its course with book #175, Werewolf in a Winter Wonderland, published in 2003 and two new series replaced it, the Nancy Drew Diaries being the the current series being published.

What I do want to focus briefly on is what happened when the publisher switch was made and that's the stuff of courtroom drama!

As you can imagine, Grosset & Dunlap didn't want to let go of these popular and good selling series - Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins, etc. So, they filed suit against the parent company for Simon & Schuster - Gulf & Western Corporation - and against the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Harriet was stunned and saddened. It was a shame that it came to a trial between all these parties and that G&D couldn't have worked out royalty issues to begin with. However, had they worked out something, who knows where we'd be today as far as the longevity of Nancy Drew. But, that's neither here nor there at this point.


1980 found the parties in Manhattan in NY at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York in a small courtroom before the Honorable Judge Robert J. Ward. The trial was fairly short and various people testified including Syndicate partner Nancy S. Axelrad, Harriet, and also a surprise witness to the stand - one Mildred Wirt Benson, "Millie" - the original ghostwriter of the Nancy Drew series. She was brought on as a witness by G&D, who was trying to get the rights to the series during the trial on the basis of several things - including copyrights. However, it didn't go G&D's way and in the end the result was that S&S could continue to publish new stories in paperback and G&D would have the right to continue to reprint the first 56 classic hardcovers. The cost of the litigation and resulting stress, didn't help anyone involved. But who got the better deal? And what would happen next? I'll be covering this more extensively in my biography on Millie that I'm currently writing. But for now, read on for a few more clues.....

Within two years of the trial, Harriet passed away in 1982. Her reign as Carolyn Keene and as Syndicate partner, had sadly come to an end. But the Stratemeyer legacy would live on and still does today. I don't imagine that Harriet's father, Edward Stratemeyer, would have ever thought his creations would last so long and inspire so many, or that his daughters Edna and Harriet would take over the company and run it for so many years. So, it's a very rich legacy indeed. By 1984, the remaining Syndicate partners and the Stratemeyer heirs decided to sell the business to S&S, it was financially beneficial to them to do so, finances were not as good as they had once been and there were other issues. So ultimately, S&S acquired the  backlog of Syndicate properties and continued to publish new books in the various core series. Today, they still own the rights and anyone who wants to license these properties must go through them and their licensing agents. Warner Brothers  is unique in that they still have a long standing contract that allows them to film movies based on the series through books 22 if they want to use anything  plot-wise/etc. from the books. I learned more about this from having consulted on the 2007 film and doing some research for the legal department at Warner Brothers. Since 1979, Nancy Drew has gone through a lot of changes as to cover art styles, spinoff series and the like. But she still endures - part of that is nostalgia and the passing down of these books from generation to generation.

Grosset & Dunlap, in preparation for the trial, actually reached out to Millie because, as collector and researcher Geoffrey S. Lapin notes, they had acquired Platt & Munk who had formerly acquired Cupples & Leon who published Millie's Penny Parker series. They were going through a backlog of what they'd acquired and wanted to have an alternative series to publish if they lost all rights to Nancy Drew. They reached out to Millie and wanted to see about her revising the Penny Parkers for the current market. It was then, that they discovered who she really was and that she'd written the first Nancy Drew books and that's how she got involved in being a witness at the trial. In fact, Geoff received a call, from G&D who had Millie in their office at the time of the call.

Geoff attended the trial in NYC and got to meet Harriet and observe the process, research behind the scenes and got access to exhibits and documents G&D subpoenaed from the Syndicate and S&S. Some of his books were also sent to G&D's attorneys to use during the trial. He sat with Millie at the trial on the wooden benches that filled the courtroom in the row behind Syndicate partners and Harriet's two daughters. He was with Millie when he was introduced to Harriet who had just walked in on day one. Startled to see Millie there, Harriet infamously blurted out, "I thought you were dead!" and Millie responded with a cute quip about that not being the case. Harriet hadn't seen Millie since the 1950s when Millie and her second husband George Benson stopped by the Syndicate's offices on a trip back east, so it had been nearly 30 years that the two had come face to face.

I'm curious though about why Harriet would have thought that Millie was dead, since just a few years prior, Millie had reached out to NBC erroneously in the mid-70s when news was trickling from Hollywood about possible TV show options on the series - this resulted in her being threatened with suit by an attorney for the Syndicate. So, she was on their radar in the mid-70s. However, by the time of the trial in 1980 and all its stresses, Harriet had a lot of health issues and her writing wasn't as up to par as it had been - her last Nancy Drew Book would be #57 The Flying Saucer Mystery which was presented to her on the witness stand during her testimony, as Geoff observed. Her attempt at the next book, The Secret of the Old Lace, had to be rewritten by Syndicate partner Nancy Axelrad. So, it's possible clarity on that day in court was a bit fuzzy.

I think overall, in my study of these books and hearing from many fans over the years, that both G&D and S&S got a good deal out of the trial. G&D gets to keep reprinting the classic 56 which are ultimately the favorites of most fans and collectors. They are still good sellers and the stories for the most part hold up well over time. S&S had to continually modernize and update Nancy Drew and that's proven to be hit or miss at times, but overall Nancy Drew keeps on sleuthing. S&S also gets the licensing end of the deal and the brand provides lots of royalties and opportunities there. The publisher didn't overly license and merchandise the series though until the early 2000s when there became a greater push to do so. I think some lost years in there didn't help the series as far as the brand goes due to lack of merchandising and licensing. After all, Warner Brothers had trouble getting Mattel to license and create a Nancy Drew Drew Barbie when they were looking to do merchandise for the 2007 film. It was only if a sequel came about, that they would get more companies on board to license--there was hesitation. My hope is that with the upcoming Broadway musical, the current WB Hidden Staircase film coming out in March and the upcoming CW TV series that's going to pilot, we'll begin to see more in the way of books and merchandise and the brand will evolve even more for the modern era.


I'd be remiss not to also mention the 50th anniversary birthday party that Nancy Drew was given by S&S - held in NYC with lots of fanfare and publicity. Famous authors and NYC glitterati attended. Actors dressed as characters from the books mingled with the crowd. There was a mystery to solve. A roadster was there that Harriet was seen posing in for news and TV. It was quite a celebration! Ruth Sanderson attended. Publicity blanked the country about Nancy Drew and Harriet. Here's a link to the CBS news coverage from the event reported on by Walter Cronkite. In the New York Public Library, there are items from this celebration and information. There was also an attempt to get a US Postal stamp to commemorate the 50th, but that never materialized.

Since this time period, Nancy has celebrated even more anniversaries and her 90th will be April 28, 2020. For nearly 90 years, fans of all generations have read and collected these books and related collectibles. For tomorrow's posting, and my final of the 31 days of Nancy Drew series, I'll be focusing on the fans - like Nancy Drew Sleuths - and the various fan clubs out there over the years among other things. As much as those behind the scenes do to keep this series alive, it's also the fans who help keep them alive too.

In the comments, what do you think about the outcome of the trial and how it has effected all of those involved behind the scenes? Do you prefer the classic 56 over what came later? Who is your favorite illustrator of the classic paperbacks? Feel free to share your art if you own any.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

31 Days of Nancy Drew Topic #29 1960s & 1970s Nancy Drew Books

31 Days of Nancy Drew Topic #29

1960s & 1970s Nancy Drew Books

By the 1960s, Nancy Drew had been trailblazing through generations for 3 decades and the world had seen a lot of changes - inside the world of Nancy's mystery solving in the books, she had transitioned as well. By the 1960s, we had counter culture movements, radical  protest groups, anti-war sentiment with the Vietnam War, a new wave of feminism and yes, hippies, as was sometime referenced in news articles on Nancy Drew that began to appear by the 1970s and 1980s. There was also the mod 60s and fashion that  played some role in keeping Nancy up to date on the covers and inside the books. The Stratemeyer Syndicate's mantra - and stated ideal for the Nancy Drew series and their other series books, had always been "Safe and Sane" - these were wholesome books, without the drudgery of daily life, drugs, divorce, politics and other social issues. They were pure entertainment and fun for kids, as it should be, and that was the intention of these books for the previous and current decades. I've heard from many fans over the years who have said that these books helped them escape from their real life problems and cope. That is a good thing! They also helped hook kids to reading, another good thing!


Also by the 1960s, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams had been writing the books, according to releases signed by her found at the New York Public Library's Stratemeyer Syndicate archives, so these two decades especially reflect her ghosting style. And Nancy's characterization had made a full transformation by this time from the brash rough and more spirited girl from the 30s and 40s to a much more demure Wellesley girl Harriet always said, if Nancy had gone to college, she would have been a Wellesley girl and she tried to instill the Wellesley motto into Nancy's life and choices she made in the books - "Non Ministrari sed Ministrare" which means "not to be ministered unto, but to minister." Nancy was beyond respectful to authority figures and the police at this time, rarely sped, followed the rules and the law as much as she possibly could, and she relied more on her chums and Ned to help solve her mysteries, delegating lots of tasks to them and even to Chief McGinnis. Nancy and her chums and their beaus were like a team. Nancy was still a fantastic sleuth and still very determined to help others, right wrongs and solve baffling cases, but her methods and her individualism were not quite like they had formerly been. She still found herself in peril - often kidnapped or knocked unconscious and still used her wits to get out of a jam, but she also found herself rescued by Ned and others more frequently and if a villain was going to get punched, it was Ned who was going to be the one doing it! In revised versions of former books, often other characters did not-as-nice things that Nancy did in the originals, so there were changes to the revisions that toned down Nancy more as well.


In the 1970s replete with bell bottoms, disco and then the post-Vietnam years, Nancy's characterization was consistent as in the 1960s and the revisions process of the first 34 books would be complete by 1977. By the early 1960s we saw the transition from the dust jacketed blue tweed hardcover Nancy Drew books to the yellow spine picture cover format - matte picture covers featuring the image on the cover with no need for a dust jacket and featuring a list of the books on the back of the book. This format would be in print through the mid-1980s when the glossy yellow spine "flashlight" editions would debut. Also during the 60s and 70s, illustrator Rudy Nappi would revise art on most of the first 34 books and he painted the covers for books 37-56 during this time period. With the exception of books #6 and 7 (Bill Gilies artwork), all the current covers from 1-5 and 8-56 still in print today from Penguin (who acquired Grosset & Dunlap) are all Nappi art.

Nancy's mysteries in the 60s and 70s involved some intriguing plots and at times were reminiscent of Scooby Doo mysteries. They definitely got a little more modern and involved science and invention themes at times. Nancy got involved with smugglers, dancing puppets, mysterious castles, sheep thieves in Scotland, phantoms and sunken antiquities, went scuba diving for clues, snuffed out a fake alchemist in France, solved a mystery involving the Nazca Lines in Peru, traveled to Africa and tangled with Swahili Joe and the sapphire stealing gang, went ghost hunting, searched for a mysterious mannequin, tangled with a wacky robot and a room of poisons, dealt with female villains who looked a lot like her and mountain "sorcerers," double jinxes and real estate swindlers along with bizarre villains like Merv Marvel, a mysterious glowing eye that causes temporary paralysis, takes to the skies to solve a mystery involving arms smugglers, deals with union racketeers who use mechanical birds to attack people, tangles with camera smugglers and submarines and deals with a pearl cult of international jewel thieves. Whew! Revised stories sometimes became all new stories like #18, Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion in which Nancy gets tangled up in a mystery involving NASA, exploding oranges and a mad scientist who tries to boil her alive.  It was also a period of travelogues and to mostly foreign countries - Hong Kong (#38 The Mystery of the Fire Dragon), Scotland (#41 The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes), France (#43 The Mystery of the 99 Steps), Peru (#44 The Clue in the Crossword Cipher), Kenya (#45 The Spider Sapphire Mystery), Turkey (#47 The Mysterious Mannequin), and Japan (#56 The Thirteenth Pearl). Harriet liked to travel and so she would often take trips to turn into books, so she or others at the Syndicate did visit many of these places. US travels included NYC (#38 Fire Dragon), Maryland (revised #11 The Clue of the Broken Locket), Illinois (revised #12 The Message in the Hollow Oak), Florida (revised #18 Moss-Covered Mansion), Cooperstown, NY (#49 The Secret of Mirror Bay), and Las Vegas, NV (#52 The Secret of the Forgotten City).


By the late 1970s, it's not just Harriet running the Syndicate - over time she has taken on partners and her sister Edna has passed away (1974).  Now after almost 50 years running her father's company - a very ballsy thing to do for a woman back in the 30s to take on in male-dominated world of publishing and during the Great Depression - things were about to change. Frustration with Grosset & Dunlap over royalties will come to a head and on advice from her partners, Harriet will make a huge decision that will transform life at the Syndicate and Nancy Drew's world immensely and involve court room drama all centered around the 50th anniversary of Nancy Drew. I'll briefly cover that in tomorrow's posting. Stay tuned...

To round out our historical look behind the scenes of the 1960s and 1970s Nancy Drew books, during this time period, you begin to find quite a few letters at the NYPL's Stratemeyer Syndicate archive, between Harriet and Grosset & Dunlap related to Harriet's writing of these books. Even though the Syndicated handled the manuscripts and edited, the books went through a further thorough editing process at G&D before going to print. Harriet had quite a volatile relationship with G&D's editor Anne Hagan and this back and forth relationship between the two could get quite contentious at times--especially on Harriet's side of things. Hagan was a whiz with red ribbon corrections to Harriet's consternation and was apparently a real thorn in Harriet's side. You don't really see letters like this for previous volumes, so you can get a sense of Harriet's resentment at being critiqued on the books she wrote. Harriet was often very miffed over red ribbon corrections as she'd describe it and would take Hagan to task. Harriet could get quite snarky and would often counter Hagan's corrections with more corrections of her corrections. Hypers! as Nancy's chum George would often say.

As early as 1960, in a 10-19-60 letter regarding #38, The Mystery of the Fire Dragon, Harriet gets edits back from Hagan and writes

"Was it because you want to keep "Nancy Drew the best-selling juvenile in the world, or because you were weary and overworked, that you were so hyper-critical in your remarks on the enclosed manuscript? Whatever your personal reasons were, I feel that you went way beyond the province of an editor. I consider that much of the criticism and advice on what the characters should do and say, if followed, would have changed the personalities of well-known fictional heroines, and slowed down the tempo...Your inference that I do not know how to construct a good mystery, because several nameless members of the Dragon gang appear 10,000 miles apart is a bitter dose to ask Carolyn Keene to swallow. And to top that, you say Nancy is slipping--just because she does not think the way you would have her. The author of an already successful series should be allowed to write additional stories about the existing characters as he sees them. It is my personal opinion that for Nancy to run to the police with each little suspicion of hers would give Nancy little to do and ruin the stories. Besides, it would give the young reader a false idea he need not bother to try solving his neighborhood, school, or social problems himself--just tattletale to an officer."

It was clear that Harriet did not take criticism of her writing well and asked Hagan to avoid all "contentious criticisms!'"


A couple of other examples between the two women involve what Harriet considered unauthorized editing on #46, The Invisible Intruder, and she lodged "a loud and angry protest from me at the unauthorized editing on the part of your company." She found 200 additional corrections made without her knowledge. She felt that a majority of them were unnecessary and many "altered characterization, the intent, deleted humor and often deviated from the Carolyn Keene style of writing." She even threatened that there would not be any more manuscripts from the Syndicate until it's settled that she sees and okays the final versions before the books go to print. The last example is possibly the most extreme and involved Hagan's criticisms for book #51 Mystery of the Glowing Eye. This is the mystery in which Ned is kidnapped by a crazy rival nicknamed "Cyclops" who has a paralyzing light, a robot helicopter, and other assorted oddities going on for him. It was kind of an odd mystery when you think about it. After getting back Hagan's corrections, Harriet wrote to her this gem, "It pains me to write this letter, but you must have known I would not take your vitriolic editing of THE GLOWING EYE without comments...Your propensity for 'red ribbon' corrections is exceeded only by the frequency of their caustic nature. The excerpts which follow can hardly be classified as constructive comments, much less as top-quality editing."

What was Harriet referring to you might wonder? Here's a few comments of Hagan's on the edits, that Harriet threw back in her face and these somewhat amuse me:

page 6 "Ned is doltish"
page 12 "McGinnis sounds like a dumb cop."
page 33 "Nancy's question is silly"
page 71 "This is icky"
page 162 "Ned's dimwittedness is beyond belief"
page 169 "Nancy sounds like a nasty female"

Harriet questioned whether Hagan got some kind of "sadistic fun" out of "downgrading and offending" her. She felt like Hagan overstepped her function as an editor. This was a typical disagreement with them over the years and it would flare up from time to time. She then ended the letter with "It will take me a long time to live down the remark, 'Nancy sounds like a nasty female.' "


Here's but a few of the many things we learned about Nancy from the 60s and 70s books:

1. Nancy always carries a birth certificate with her in case she needs it for sudden foreign travel.
2. The nicest man Nancy knows next to her father is Ned Nickerson.
3. Nancy' Scottish family wears the Douglas Tartan.
4. Talk of marriage makes her change the subject.
5. She likes to communicate with her chums via bird calls when sleuthing.
6. Nancy blushes at hearing Ned Nickerson's name.
7. Nancy has a secret switch under her dash that locks her wheels.
8. She and Ned have devised a code in order to alert the other if one of them has been kidnapped.
9. She likes to use the library for research.
10. She considers herself to be strictly an amateur.
11. Her nail file doubles as a handy lock picker.
12. She can subdue an assailant by pinning their arms behind their back.
13. She doesn't like to take full credit for solving her cases.


Here's some fun lessons we learned from Nancy:

An alias is much more successful when paired with a disguise.

When questioning shopkeepers, it's polite to make purchases in their shop as a way to thank them for their time.

People can't walk on water, but people on stilts can!

If you come into contact with acid, bathe the area in mineral oil for relief.

Modeling clay can be used to uncover hard to read words or images on plaques and similar objects.

Real Phantoms don't write notes.

Sometimes the butler doesn't always do it!

Red lipstick makes the perfect stylus for writing an SOS on a window.

In the comments, let us know if you've read any of the 1960s and 1970s Nancy Drew books from 37-56 and the revised versions that came out of the previous 34 books which came out 1959 to 1977. (These books during this time period only had one text - 35-56 were only 20 chapters, remember that tip!). Do you have a favorite among these books? How do these books compare with the previous decades? Have you read the original and revised versions back to back for each book to see the differences and similarities? Were there any particular mysteries in the 37-56 range that you preferred over the others?