Thursday, May 7, 2015

Teen Detective Turns 85: Happy Birthday Nancy Drew

Before there was Veronica Mars or Katniss Everdeen, the teenage detective Nancy Drew opened the door setting an example that women can be strong leading characters on their own merit.  This year marks the 85th anniversary of the first Nancy Drew mystery novel, The Secret of the Old Clock, which have been since followed by numerous books, television shows, movies, and video games featuring the female sleuth.  As a father who doesn't want his daughter limited in life by stereotypes, I appreciate that Nancy Drew sets an example of women being able to be the standout hero of a story without a man coming in to save the day.  What was unheard of at the time the stories first came out in the 1930s, this girl drove a car, packed a gun, didn't hesitate about getting into a brawl, and most importantly relied on herself to get out of tough jams.

The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories were created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer after marketing research showed his successful Hardy Boys detective stories were very popular with girl readers.  He set about creating a similar series for girls featuring an amateur teen detective as the heroine.  Stratemeyer himself didn't write the stories though, the very first books were authored by a woman named Mildred Wirt under the pen name Carolyn Keene.  Wirt wrote 23 of the original Nancy Drew Mystery Stories with numerous other ghost writers joining her in drafting stories under the Carolyn Keene name over the years resulting in 175 novels being published between 1930 and 2003.

I've noticed that there is a lot of lip service by brands about providing more hero characters in books, movies, toys and video games but much of what I've seen out there in that regard has been more contrived at getting into parents pocket books rather then really addressing the need for such things.  The nice thing about Nancy Drew is that she really is genuine.  In fact, Wirt whose work really established the foundation and identity for Nancy Drew stated that she wanted to create a "genuinely adventurous heroine" that would inspire girls with stories featuring someone like themselves.  I wish more brands took this approach which seems so simple yet seems to confound so many in our society.

While I don't notice Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books lining the book shelves at libraries and stores like they did when I was a kid, Nancy Drew is still out there solving mysteries and inspiring new generations of boys and girls to be inquisitive and adventurous problem solvers.  While the original Nancy Drew Mysteries Stories series was canceled in 2003, here are a few new adventures people can still enjoy.

Simon & Schuster is currently publishing a series of contemporary books titled Nancy Drew Diaries and penned by Carolyn Keene aimed at children 8 to 12 years old which has the young detective traveling the world and using her brain to solve brand new mysteries.  Nancy and her friends Bess and George tackle everything from sabotage to kidnapping, using impressive powers of deduction and reasoning to creatively crack cases and outsmart their enemies.  So far Simon & Schuster have published eight books in the series with two more set to be released in 2015 - Clue at the Black Creek Farm on May 12th and Script for Danger coming out on September 22nd.

Papercutz also publishes graphic novel adventures featuring Nancy Drew in a series also called Nancy Drew Diaries. There newest issue Nancy Drew Diaries - Volume 5 hits stores July 7, 2015.  This comic book story features Nancy Drew teamed up with an eccentric scientist to find a prototype engine that can operate at 200 miles per gallon that was lost during an experiment on a tank during the final days of World War II.  In addition to finding the engine there is one other problem to deal with...the engine and tank are haunted.

Additionally, Papercutz has 21 volumes of Nancy Drew stories available in an older series called Nancy Drew - Girl Detective that have more of a similarity to the original Nancy Drew Mystery Stories books and three other graphic novels Nancy Drew The New Case Files that have more of a trendy supernatural vibe to them and also feature the Hardy Boys joining her in the stories. Papercutz focus is providing quality comic books for kids and if you haven't checked out their products you really should.

By Her Interactive has an iPad app that allows you to solve a mystery as Nancy Drew titled Ghost of Thornton Hall which has some good reviews on the App Store.  Her Interactive's focus though has been more on PC games for Nancy Drew with several titles having been published over the last few years that have sold more than 9 million copies.  Their 32nd Nancy Drew video game - titled Sea of Darkness is scheduled to be released on May 19, 2015 and will be available for Windows and Mac PC operating systems. In the game, players take on the role of Nancy Drew as they must solve the mystery through interrogation of suspects, solving puzzles, and discovering clues.  These Nancy Drew games are also available through STEAM for cloud based play on your home computer.

Happy Birthday Nancy Drew! Thank you for being an inspiration for so many years and wishing you many more adventures in your future.


  1. Wow. ND sure looks different nowadays! Used to love her books when I was younger.

    1. Agreed... what an update. It is interesting To see her on iPad too

  2. She does look different. I think I read a few. My favorite was always Anne of Green Gables.

  3. I loved Nancy Drew. I read some of my mom's older editions and the Case Files series from the late 80s. The new Nancy Drew from the Diaries looks younger than I remember Nancy Drew being. I should check out some of these books for my 9 year old.

  4. Haven't got a good chance to read any of the Nancy Drews. But by the looks of it, it surely looks amazing. Hopefully, a movie can come out out of it soon!