Saturday, March 31, 2012

I'm a Nancy girl!!!

In contemplating my early writing influences and seeing my fellow Word Whores' cool books they read as kids, I will admit I’m feeling a little SFF-paltry. While I was a great reader of all the mainstream fantasy and sci-fi books for children and teens, I can’t say any of them really influenced me the way the Nancy Drew series did.

To me, the Nancy Drew series was the shit! I had them all, and I read them over and over. 

The titles are so alluring, and even a bit forbidden-sounding: THE CLUE IN THE DIARY, THE SECRET PEARL, THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE, THE SECRET OF THE FIRE DRAGON. Nancy's mysteries took her to all corners of society, put her in contact with all kinds of characters, so you learned new things about new people. And they were fun. And kind of wacky, depending on which Carolyn Keene was writing.

Which is another thing, that they were written by another Carolyn, Carolyn Keene, which was significant to me. Apparently I was quite the budding little narcissist. 

But back to Nancy. She was such a can-do girl, with her galpals, Bess and George, and her Roadster and her college boyfriend, Ned, football star of Emerson College.

This whole question of the week is really interesting now that I think of it, because it is making me realize that Justine Jones from my series really is a kind of Nancy Drew - once she gets the scent of a mystery, she is out investigating, even though her friend Shelby is reluctant. (OMG! Shades of Bess!) LOL. 

Actually, now that I'm pondering, she really really is a bit of a supernatural Nancy Drew, if Nancy was more neurotic and slutty. Hmm!  

One of my fave Nancy Drews that I read OVER AND OVER was NANCY'S MYSTERIOUS LETTER. I was super into mail as a girl and had numerous pen pals.

Anyway, this mystery begins as Nancy and her friends drive past old Ira Nixon the mail carrier, who looks tired and bedraggled, and his mailbag is stolen while Nancy and pals are serving him cocoa.

It soon comes out that there was a letter to Nancy in that bag, informing her of a large inheritance, only the letter was meant for a different Nancy Drew. Basically, Ira’s evil brother is trying to get the other Nancy Drew, who doesn't know she's an heiress, to marry him before she learns about the windfall, and Nancy is trying to stop the wedding and let her know Ira Nixon’s brother is a bum.

These books were so dramatic. I always so loved that.

For example, early in Mysterious Letter, Nancy gets an excellent clue from a quick witted boy on a bike—a description of the mail thief’s clothes and a partial license plate. She relates this to mail carrier Ira:

“Mr. Nixon, do you know a tall, slender man who wears a yellow overcoat and hat, and has a beat-up car with the license plate TJ12?”

To the surprise of Hannah Gruen and the girls, Ira Nixon uttered a cry of dismay. The blood drained from his face. He put his hands over his cheeks and exclaimed, “No, no! It couldn’t be! Oh, what will I do?”

Ira Nixon slumped forward in a faint!
Seriously, I can feel that passage in my bones. Like these books are part of me.

One of the great unrecognized things in Nancy Drew books that influenced me was the quirkiness and randomness of things. People would tell her bizarre stories that went nowhere, or she would find random clues, but they wouldn’t always lead places. In this, it was way more realistic than other kids books. Very life-like.

Nancy is very compassionate and observant, too, something that is important to me in my work today.

An illustration of both of the above points, from THE THIRTEENTH PEARL. Nancy's sleuthing takes her to the home of Sailor Joe, whose every exclamation is a sea thing (“Heave your anchor lass, come into the parlour.”) He tells her this really random and sort of insane story about being kidnapped because he was mistaken for a pearl diver, but when he'd said he was a pearl diver, he'd meant a dishwasher.
Sailor Joe laughed uproariously. Nancy wondered what was so funny about this. Instead, it seemed tragic.
One of the coolest ND covers, but I
recall the story was disappointing.
One of the most frightening Nancy books was THE SECRET OF THE OLD ATTIC where Bush Trott tied her up in the secret room next to the attic of Pleasant Hedges. He left behind a poisonous spider to do her in. Thankfully Ned rescued her and stepped on the spider!

Ned was awesome. I never thought much of the Hardy boys, and never approved of Nancy teaming up with them. Ned was the one for me. (Ahem, I mean, Nancy!).

Here is a bit that is so Nancy:

As soon as luncheon was over, Nancy told Hannah Gruen she was tired of staying in the house and waiting for news “I’m going to do some investigating,” she announced.
Oh, where would I have been without Nancy? I'm a Nancy girl all the way!


  1. I am a Nancy Drew girl too! Read all of them as a kid. My collection was a borrowed one from an older cousin. I kept them for years. Years. Until she had a daughter and, in my mid-twenties, cried while I packed them in a box and sent them back to her at her request so she could gift them to her daughter. I totally understood but dang! I've been thinking about rebuilding that collection now that I have a daughter. :)

    Nice piece!

    1. Thanks for the comment! It is hard to part with a collection of Nancy Drew books! My Nancys are with my nieces and I desperately hope they are treasuring them...and caring for them! Oh, you must rebuild for your girl. Won't they be fun to read together!!

  2. Oh, Carolyn, I can SO see how Justine and Shelby come out of this tradition. What a fun thing, that some of these topics lead us to examine our roots this way. I loved Nancy, too. (Old Attic scared the shit out of me!) I remember one summer, my friend Monique LaForce and I played Nancy Drew most days. We'd spend half the day riding around on our bikes planting "clues" and the other half then discovering them and solving the mystery. Ha! Good times.

    You go, Nancy girl! ~tosses strawberry blond tresses~

    1. Another fellow Nancy girl! I love your Nancy Drew clue game. Just re-looking at these covers sends shivers through me.

  3. I never read a Nancy Drew book. I don't think my library stocked them. I might have to read one some day.

    1. Sullivan: LOL! No Nancy for you?? I have to say, I think you might not be so impressed with them as an adult.

    2. I noticed there's one called 'Operation Titanic'. I might have to get hold of that one for my Titanic collection. Although it's a newer one and with those Hardy Boys (who I also do not know).

    3. Maybe you can just black out the bits with those stupid Hardy Boys in them. They were dorks. (And still the faces of Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy pop up in my head, dammit...)

    4. Uh Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy. Beware, Sullivan! Beware of the Hardy boys! You must report in if you get that for your collection. LOL.

  4. I loved Nancy Drew. I even bought a bunch of the books for my daughter when she got old enough. Unfortunately, she wasn't as excited about Nancy as I was. She was more interested in Harry Potter and growing up to be Hermione.

    Do you remember Nancy Drew from the TV series? It was awesome. I wanted to be that girl so bad.

  5. BE: I think blogger must have eaten your comment...nooooo! But it made it to my inbox!! So I'm replying with two comments: one - very super cute of your girl ...and two: YES!! So remember the show, too. The girl they had for Nancy was really cool. So agree!

    1. It was here when I left. Stupid Blogger's been eating my comments at other places, too. I keep telling my daughter I'm paranoid for a reason. ;o)

    2. What's weird was that is was there enough for it to go to my subscribed inbox! I am pasting it here myself for you, your original question, LOL! Now if blogger erases it, you REALLY have a reason to be paranoid!
      B.E. SAID:
      I loved Nancy Drew. I even bought a bunch of the books for my daughter when she got old enough. Unfortunately, she wasn't as excited about Nancy as I was. She was more interested in Harry Potter and growing up to be Hermione.

      Do you remember Nancy Drew from the TV series? It was awesome. I wanted to be that girl so bad.

  6. Oh, Nancy Drew! I managed to sneak a handful of those books away from my older sister and loved them.

  7. Gah. I'm probably the only one out there that didn't like Nancy Drew. (Sorry.) I tried. My Aunt gave me several of those and Trixie Belden (which were similar). But I just couldn't get into them. >_<