Early in grade school, I used to get completely absorbed in Nancy Drew books. I was sure I’d read every book ever written; until I researched the longest running series of books on Wikipedia and learned there were 175 volumes…so probably not…but I read many of them. I also discovered some interesting tidbits.
The series was started by a man named Edward Stratemeyer in 1930 who started the Hardy Boys series. The Nancy Drew books were written by a number of different ghostwriters, all under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene between 1930 and 2003. (I only read the early versions.)
Nancy Drew is a fictional 18-year-old amateur sleuth (16 in earlier versions). She lives in the fictional town of River Heights with her father, attorney Carson Drew, and their housekeeper, Hannah Gruen. Nancy is often assisted in solving mysteries by her two closest friends, Bess Marvin and George Fayne, and also occasionally by her boyfriend, Ned Nickerson. Ned is a college student at Emerson College.
Nancy has often been described as a super girl. At sixteen she ‘had studied psychology in school and was familiar with the power of suggestion and association.’ Nancy was a fine painter, spoke French, and had frequently run motor boats. She was a skilled driver who at sixteen ‘flashed into the garage with a skill born of long practice.’ The prodigy was a sure shot, an excellent swimmer, skillful oarsman, expert seamstress, gourmet cook, and a fine bridge player. Nancy brilliantly played tennis and golf, and rode like a cowboy. Nancy danced like Ginger Rogers and could administer first aid like the Mayo brothers.
Nancy never lacks money and in later volumes of the series often travels to far-away locations, such as Nairobi in The Spider Sapphire Mystery (1968). Nancy is also able to travel freely about the United States, thanks to her car, which in most books is a blue convertible. Despite the trouble and presumed expense to which she goes to solve mysteries, Nancy never accepts monetary compensation.
I wanted to be Nancy. This was a girl I looked up to and tried to emulate. My God! Talk about falling short. Who could ever even come close?
Recently my “bonus” daughter and I sat on her couch laughing hysterically over a little gem of a book she recently found called “Get a Clue. Life Wisdom from Nancy Drew” written by Amy Helmes. The cover reads: Everything You Ever Needed to Know about Life, You Can Learn From a Teenage Sleuth.
It’s a tongue in cheek handbook for getting through life, Nancy style. What made me laugh the hardest was realizing that when I was about 9 years old, I ate this stuff up. I really admired Nancy’s ambition and resourcefulness. I wasn’t alone though, apparently some of the most successful and intelligent women today – women like Sandra Day O’Conner, Martha Stewart, Barbara Walters, Laura Bush, and Mary Tyler Moore – credit Nancy as an early influence in their lives.
Here is an excerpt from “Get a Clue” and some Wisdom of Nancy Drew:
- When a loud, insistent ticking noise rouses you from your slumber, it’s probably only the alarm clock. Then again, it could be an altogether different cause for alarm: A time bomb! In any case, it’s advisable to make a beeline for the door rather than risk getting the wrong kind of wake-up call.
- Be mindful of the company you keep – especially shifty-eyed strangers devoid of good manners. Anyone who leaves dirty dishes in the sink or fails to say “Please” and “Thank you,” probably isn’t above plotting murder or committing serious fraud.
- Should someone break down your front door and sic an angry German Shepherd on you, jump behind the couch. You’d be surprised at how many aggressive attack dogs are sometimes intimidated by large pieces of furniture.
- As a rule, orphans and elderly people are walking saints. There is no earthly reason not to trust them. (At which point John reminds me he is both- ha ha!)
- Learn to read backwards. It’ll help you identify licence plate numbers in your rearview mirror when an angry road warrior insists on tailgating you.
- Knock on wood. Literally. Tapping on walls and floors is a good way to discover a secret trap door.
There are many more like these. And the last chapter is a quiz where you can test your Nancy Drew IQ.
Here are the results if you get more than ten answers wrong:
No offence, but you’re hardly going to have the bad guys shaking in their boots. Pure luck might help you stumble across a clue, but then again, you’ll probably be too busy hyperventilating from fear to actually be an effective detective. Get back to the basics by picking up a copy of Nancy’s first mystery, The Secret of the Old Clock. As Nancy would say, there are no hopeless cases – not even you!