2007 Question and Answer Interview: Nancy Drew
2007 QUESTION AND ANSWER INTERVIEW: NANCY DREW
by William Land
In 2007, I was approached by a reporter from The Hamilton Spectator to answer
questions for a feature article she was completing about girl detective, Nancy Drew.
The feature was planned to coincide with the release of the new film, “Nancy Drew” starring actor Emma Roberts in the title role.
The contact with this reporter, Meredith MacLeod, had been arranged by Jennifer Fisher, President, NancyDrewSleuths.
Here is my interview with Ms. MacLeod:
So tell me about why you are a lifelong Nancy Drew fan. What drew you and kept you interested in the books? Describe the appeal to me.
One summer (I think I was nine), my parents had returned home from a visit with family in Southern Ontario. An older cousin had given my mother several worn books for me. I thought the battered copy of a Nancy Drew mystery; The Scarlet Slipper Mystery (1954 original text) must be a good book because it was so worn.
Soon after starting to read it, I found this story to be more exciting than the adventures of The Bobbsey Twins and Donna Parker, the books I had previously read before Nancy Drew. The pretty, blonde, girl detective and her thrilling adventures around smuggled jewels, lost paintings, and the scarlet ballet dancing slippers had me immediately captivated. After finishing that book, I craved other series books, especially Nancy Drew. This series was easily my favourite over Judy Bolton [a favourite as an adult], the Dana Girls, Cherry Ames, Vicki Barr, Kay Tracey, and many others. Additionally, I read boys’ series such as the Hardy Boys, Rick Brant, and Ken Holt, but the boys’ series weren’t as easily found in the late 1960s and early 1970s as the girls’ series books.
As a character in the original and revised books, Nancy Drew is resourceful, brave, independent, bold, daring, clever, and loyal. She is attractive, respected, popular and talented. All these traits were very appealing to this young reader, a child with cerebral palsy. I didn’t have many friends in childhood and Nancy Drew appealed to me more than some of the other series characters working in detective duos; e.g., the Hardy Boys or the Dana Girls. Yes, Nancy’s loyal chums assisted her during investigations, but Nancy clearly assumed leadership in every situation.
Nancy has an indulgent parent with apparently unlimited monetary resources and some adventures have taken her to many corners of the world (Hong Kong, Scotland, Turkey, Japan, to name a few), often at a moment’s notice. The “fantasy world” of Nancy Drew “where everything comes out all right in the end – the good are rewarded and the bad are punished” has had universal appeal.
As I read through the many books in this series in my pre-teens and teens, I discovered that I had been reading a mixture of original text stories and revised text stories. When I read the original text of The Hidden Staircase (1930), I had discovered that this story is radically different than the revised title (1959) of the same name. I wanted to read these original adventures and began a quest of used bookstores and dealers to unearth these cherished volumes.
As an adult, I periodically re-read some of the series books of my youth. I am charmed by descriptions of life in a bygone age and the richness of descriptions and spooky plots and mysterious elements that has made the world of the world’s best-known girl detective a very exciting one to share.
Why do you think she’s lasted 77 years? Are you excited about the new movie? Do you think it will carry Nancy Drew to a new generation of fans? Are you worried about Hollywood’s treatment?
Nancy Drew, as a series, has lasted for many years due to a daring heroine who investigates thrilling mysteries fraught with danger and excitement. Nancy leads her readers into exhilarating exploits as she is determined to right a wrong; e.g., finding a lost will and ensuring that deserving relatives receive an inheritance that had been promised, The Secret of the Old Clock (1930, revised 1959).
Periodically, the series receives a makeover to make it more current for today’s readers. Examples include when the original stories of the 1930s to the 1950s were updated, beginning in 1959, to remove dated references or plots. Some of the books were simply streamlined; others had completely different plots than the original book.
The Nancy Drew of the 1960s and 1970s investigated mysteries that took her far beyond her hometown and were faster-paced and the plots were sometimes more complicated or worldly than those of the original books; e.g., investigating sabotage at a NASA space centre (Mystery of the Moss-Covered Mansion, 1971 revised text). Contrast this plot to the original book, published in 1941, during which Nancy searches for a young woman who has falsely claimed a sizeable inheritance.
The publishers marketing and publicity has contributed to the success of this series. Grosset and Dunlap, the original publishers, made certain that booksellers were well stocked with their offerings, including Nancy Drew. Some other series may have been just as popular with children, but they weren’t as easily found. I recall the bookstore shelves of series books from my childhood in which the familiar yellow-spine Nancy Drew books (blue-spine for the Hardy Boys) far outnumbered those from other series including Judy Bolton and Cherry Ames.
In 2003, the classic Nancy Drew mystery series ended with #175. In March 2004, Nancy Drew made her debut in a new series, Girl Detective. The first book is Without A Trace. Noticeable changes were made to some of the characters, their personalities and traits, and, sometimes, their histories. The biggest reform is that Nancy’s adventures are now written in the first person.
Nancy Drew, like other series books, appeals to their intended audience because children crave adventure and sincerely enjoy mysteries. The much-loved books are handed to new readers from older siblings, parents who remember them from their childhood, grandparents who want to give the gift of reading to a cherished granddaughter or grandson, or from their peers. These sturdy books, currently being published in glossy hardback editions, or, in the case of the new series, bright, colourful paperbacks make inexpensive and welcome gifts to these new fans.
Nancy Drew has also had lasting appeal because of her staying power with adult fans. Each generation cherishes mementos of their childhood and many adult fans rediscover Nancy Drew again somewhere along life’s journey as an adult. Some, like I, have never left Nancy Drew behind from the days in which the multiple mysteries of her intriguing world were revealed.
The release 2007 movie, starring Emma Roberts in the title role, is exciting to Nancy Drew fans of all ages. I am curious about it, although I have found that all of the film and television adaptations don’t exactly succeed in capturing the true essence of the Drew books. However, I recognize that television is a different medium than print. These versions include the 1930s movies with Bonita Granville, the 1970s television series starring Pamela Sue Martin, later Janet Louise Johnson, the 1995 TV series (Tracy Ryan), and the Maggie’s Lawson’s role in the 2002 Walt Disney movie.
As a Nancy Drew fan, I hope the new book series, Girl Detective, and this new film succeeds in introducing Nancy to new generations of fans. I don’t have any first-hand knowledge, though, about how well the books are selling and if they appeal to the young readers of the current generation. I find it interesting, though, that the first 56 books, published by Grosset and Dunlap, are still in print to this day. As long-time fans know, the first 34 books were revised from 1959-1977 and these are the stories available in today’s bookstores in addition to original text volumes 35 to 56 (1957-1979).
Also, interesting is that the current publisher, Simon and Schuster, has published many movie-tie titles to the new Nancy Drew movie. These are currently displayed and available in bookstores.
What items have you collected? Which are your favourites?
In the years since I’ve started seriously collecting series books, I’ve collected all the Nancy Drew classic mysteries in various formats, and the related series including The Nancy Drew Files, the Nancy Drew Notebooks Nancy Drew On Campus, and the Super Mysteries with the Hardy Boys.
I have some of the original books with dustjackets from the 1930s and 1940s. Luckily, I was able to complete a set of the books with 1950s dustjackets in the 1980s and early 1990s. I have most of the book club sets, including the Cameo Editions in dustjackets, the 1962 picture cover set, and some of the library editions. Additionally, I have a near complete set of the British (Collins publishers) hardcover editions, some of the paperbacks, and some Nancy Drew books published in other languages including Japanese and Spanish. Also, I have some of the series memorabilia including both versions of the Nancy Drew board game; some of the 1970s TV series tie-in items and an original cover painting to one of the books from the Nancy Drew Files series.
My favourite items include a copy of The Message in the Hollow Oak in wrap-around dustjacket (1961 cover art) and the British version from Sampson Low of The Password to Larkspur Lane which has the cover art that wasn’t used in North America, presumably because Nancy, who is kneeling near a fence to speak with an elderly woman in a wheelchair, is showing too much thigh, the Cameo book club editions and the aforementioned original painting.
Do you know other men interested in Nancy Drew? What is the reaction of family and friends to your interest? What was it like growing up?
I have a close friend who is also a Nancy Drew and other series fan. Greg Finnegan and I met in 2001 when a book dealer at a flea market gave me a card promoting a musical Greg had written based on girls’ series books and the musicals of the 1940s. The musical is called The Case of the Curious Cabaret, featuring The Three B’s, girls who solve mysteries and sing show tunes. I attended this musical and was fortunate to meet the playwright and the director. Quickly, Greg and I formed what became a close friendship.
In 2003, Greg adapted the musical to fit the Toronto Fringe Festival venue and was successful in staging this and two subsequent adventures in Toronto Fringe Festivals. In 2005 and 2006, the first two plays in the series were performed in the Edmonton Fringe Festival. Currently, Greg has written 12 or 13 plays featuring The Three B’s.
I know of other men who read and collect Nancy Drew, although I haven’t met most of them. In the years prior to the Internet, I had subscribed to a few series fanzines and “became acquainted” with other collectors in various parts of North America. Many of these are members of the NancyDrewSleuths, an online discussion and Chat group for Nancy Drew fans. The development of the Internet has made the world a smaller place. For many years, I thought I was the only adult who read and collected series books except for those from the “fanzine community;” in the past few years, I discovered this is not so and have personally met a few “Nancy Drew chums” in recent years.
My family members and friends are either somewhat fascinated and supportive of my hobby, or indifferent to it. Many have been with my on trips to “brick and mortar” bookstores or have heard of my “online” shopping experiences and finds and are interested in these stories. Some have confessed that they don’t understand why I’m so interested in these books and want to read and own them. I’m not sure that I can adequately explain it either except the series genre, particularly Nancy Drew and Judy Bolton [by Margaret Sutton, an actual author not a ghostwriter, 38 volumes, 1932-1967], have struck a strong chord with me. These books were welcome companions during a frequently lonely childhood and satisfied a longing for excitement. As an adult, I enjoyed searching for and finding sought after volumes, reading and comparing the differences between original and revised text books, reading or re-reading about the adventures of familiar heroes and heroines bygone ages, and connecting with kindred spirits, other adult fans, to read and discuss these beloved books.
Then I just need some personal stuff to describe you. Your age, occupation, family, that sort of thing.
I am 47 years old (born 1959, the same year as the revisions on the Nancy Drew series began), single, and live in Sudbury ON. I have lived in various Ontario communities: Massey, Elliot Lake, North Bay, Orillia, and Sudbury. In 1980, I started my first full-time position and, coincidentally, my book collecting that same year. I am a library technician and have worked in academic, government, special and medical libraries throughout my career. Currently, I work for the Sudbury Regional Hospital – Health Sciences Library. I shall conclude by emphatically stating series books are a “hobby in which I dabble” and “not an obsession” for me! <smile> I am currently searching for suitable and affordable accommodation in Sudbury to “hold all these books!” <another smile>
Here is a link to the actual article from the newspaper:
Yes, I was reduced to only a few words! Still, I really participating in her research and reading the final submission. The article was on a full page of the issue in which it appeared. A very fitting tribute to 77 years of girl detective Nancy Drew!
From: June 2007