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All about Nancy Drew and Carolyn Keene
Creators of the Nancy Drew CD-ROM mystery series
The Nancy Drew Sleuth Unofficial Website
Information on the series, including lobby card photos.
The original Nancy, as introduced in 1930, is the 16-year-old daughter of lawyer Carson Drew. In the early stories, Nancy's mother died when Nancy was ten years old; this age is changed to three in later stories. With no living mother, Nancy is clearly in charge of household affairs of the family's large, three-story brick house, including giving orders to the housekeeper, Mrs. Gruen.
When the 16-year-old Nancy is first introduced, she has already completed high school, and her many friends frequently visit her house. The first of these friends, Helen Corning, appears in the first four volumes, but is never a sleuthing companion. Nancy is often joined in her sleuthing activities by her close friends George Fayne (a girl) and Bess Marvin, cousins who have opposite personalities, George being a bit of a tomboy, while Bess is the series' most traditionally feminine character. Helen returns briefly in the original volumes 8 and 10 (which were not written by Benson). In these volumes, she has changed her personality to be more like George Fayne. Helen disappears when Benson resumes ghostwriting with volume 11, but returns from Europe (a favorite vacation spot for characters unneeded in serial novels) for one final appearance in volume 20.
When the original stories began to be updated in 1959, Helen Corning became an older friend of Nancy's, and is actually more of a George Fayne character, serving as actual sleuthing sidekick in these tales. The stage is also set to explain her departure from the series: Helen becomes engaged; in her last appearance before she is married, she is planning her wedding while she helps Nancy sleuth.
Nancy's boyfriend is (usually) Ned Nickerson who often lends his support and help, while George calls on her on-off counterpart Buck Rodman, later Burt Eddleton, and Bess on Dave Evans. Burt and Dave are introduced in the early 1950s.
The original Nancy is blonde, and gradually ages from 16 to 18 in the books. Her blue roadster becomes maroon, then green and black, then finally a plain coupe, before returning to a blue convertible in the postwar years. The original versions of the books often contain depictions of other races and ethnicities in what are now considered negative stereotypes, as well as containing customs and courtesies in popular culture that were completely outmoded by the 1950s. For these reasons the series' earliest 34 volumes were revised from 1959–1977. Mrs. Gruen becomes Hannah, a somewhat mothering (and at times restrictive) housekeeper, and Nancy's Aunt Eloise, her father's much younger sister, pops up to add New York City place settings for mysteries, or serve as a chaperon for the increasingly mixed group of sleuths. Subplots and vocabulary were cut down, and the action became faster-paced, resulting in slightly shorter and simpler stories in most cases. Although early Nancy travels once to Canada and once to South America, the later stories feature a quick trip to England, then finally some sleuthing destinations in Latin America, Europe, and Africa. Many of the volumes were completely re-written, only including some character names and the titles from the original stories.
Nancy becomes strawberry-blonde or titian-haired, and revises her sleuthing techniques to become more politically correct and less sneaky. Old stereotypes, technologies and fashions disappear. The bold Nancy, who knows how to use a revolver (and carries one), who occasionally illegally enters property, trespasses, and appropriates "stolen" property as evidence, becomes more sedate, and just happens to come across incriminating evidence. George Fayne becomes less masculine and brusque, and also learns judo--so she can help Nancy with thugs when Ned isn't around. Bess becomes completely obsessed with food and boys in later writings, but also overcomes her fear at times to be a more formidable, useful friend to Nancy. Female villains emerge to tie up and threaten Nancy, instead of the male counterparts who were verbally and at times, physically abusive to original Nancy. Crimes become international, instead of revolving around River Heights. Classic preppy Nancy, with her pageboy since 1947, updates and becomes psychedelic in the 1960s, with a trademark flipped hairstyle, and wild print dresses and blouses. These covers, using a startled Nancy in the foreground (often disheveled) with images from the mystery scattered about, now appear more "dated" than the portrait covers of classic "preppy" Nancy they were replacing.
The series was ghostwritten in the early years primarily by Mildred Wirt Benson. Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, who succeeded her father Edward as the head of the Syndicate, contributed a number of volumes and oversaw the substantial revisions begun in the fifties.
Over 200 million books have been sold worldwide. Many people collect the series, which has gone through several formats over the years. The books have been in print continuously since 1930, however, many titles were revised or changed completely in the 1950s and 1960s. All titles currently in print are known as "revised text". Starting in the early 1980s, the original series was extended with new volumes published in paperback, and in the late 1980s a new series was created for Simon & Schuster under the epithet The Nancy Drew Files, starting with Secrets Can Kill. In recent years, the spinoff series Nancy Drew on Notebooks , Nancy Drew: On Campus have been published. The Nancy Drew Girl Detective series is the newest version of tales about the titian-haired sleuth.
Nancy Drew also appeared with The Hardy Boys in the 36 volume Supermystery series, plus a Be Your Own Detective series