Nancy Drew, Legendary Sleuth

“Nancy recalled that it was sometimes possible to pick a lock with a wire. She removed a bobby pin from her hair…”    [Book 1, pg 112]

Nancy Drew has been an iconic figure in both literature and film for quite some time now. She is known for her brilliant intellect in solving the mysteries she often comes in contact with. It’s no wonder she has been the role model of millions of girls growing up — she’s adventurous, confident, and possesses incredible deductive skills, as well as a keen sense of fashion.

But most importantly, she is grounded in her personal status, something I personally admire her for, being evenly balanced in independence and femininity, never feeling the need to prove herself or show those who doubt her ability up. She eagerly chases down clues while keeping her family and friends near and dear to her.

Some say Nancy is too perfect to be true, and they would be right. I highly doubt you will ever come in contact with a woman as astute at everything as Nancy. But I do not find this a reason to dislike her or criticize her character. After all, she is fiction and fiction is often a mod-podge of fantasy and reality, that is why we like it so much.

Classic Books

“Nancy leaped to her feet, hoping the call would be from Ned Nickerson, her favorite date.”  [Book 9, pg. 31]

Recently I decided to read through all the Nancy Drew books we own. I was looking for something light and simple to fall back on after busy days. Of course it hasn’t taken me long since we only own the Books 1-10 collection and a scattering few others. I knew there was more but I wasn’t exactly sure how many until I looked it up. The classic books go through to book 56 but after changing publishers multiple times, the series continued until early 2000, ending with book 175. I haven’t read any of these but, like many other fans, I hesitate to include them in the classics that began in 1933. In my opinion, too much time has elapsed, and authors have changed, to keep Nancy Drew true to character. So I prefer to think of the classic series as stopping at book 56, and at the most 64. This isn’t to say I will never read the others. As a good critic, and curious person, I’d readily read them all.

The character of Nancy Drew was created my Edward Stratemeyer after he saw the success of his first creation the Hardy Boys Mystery Series with girls as well as boys. Though he and his daughter, Harriet Adams, wrote many of the outlines, the books were ghostwritten by many people through the years, with Mildred Benson being the first and most well known author.

Sadly, Adams later took many of Benson’s originals and rewrote them making Nancy, according to some, less spunky and more charitable. The originals are known by their basic design of a solid blue book with orange writing on the front. Later publishings and editions changed in book design by adding a silhouette and changing the title colors. In fact here’s an example.

I received this from my Grandmother many years ago as a child, and loved it immediately for both the story and the age of the book. But little did I know that it was one from the first publishing in 1951. When I realized this I was ecstatic. It’s an original! I want to put it in a display case, under lock and key! Of course, I won’t. I’ll just be very gentle with it and make sure others do to. Very gentle.

I can’t tell you how much I would love to get my hands on the originals. Who knows how many people have these treasures without knowing their worth! They are priceless!

Old books are priceless, but I digress…

Nancy Drew in the Movies

“Suddenly the wall pushed inward. Nancy lost her balance and disappeared into a gaping hole below!” [Book 2, pg 167]

Bonita Granville from Nancy Drew… Reporter (1939)

The earliest Nancy Drew movies were produced in 1938 and 1939 starring Bonita Granville as the slightly younger and even more spunky sleuth. I really wish they had made more with her because they were great. I would say she differed a little from the Nancy Drew of the books I have read but then again, I only have read the revisions.

Later on, a TV series was produced in the late 70’s with Pamela Sue Martin playing the role of the legendary sleuth. In description, I would have to say that Martin played similarly to the classic Nancy Drew but the heavy influence of the era makes it hard to really point out. I do love these and the Hardy Boy’s from the same series. In fact, I think my siblings and I have seen each one too many times to count. One thing I have to mention is the fashion. Check out this post I wrote many years ago about Martin’s outfit from one of the episodes.

Pamela Sue Martin in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977-1979)

More recently though a movie was produced casting Emma Roberts as Nancy Drew but I really have to say this one was a bust. The character was rather white-washed and very goody two-shoes, not at all like the classic Nancy Drew. The only good thing I have to say about it was her costume and even that was a bit out of era, not keeping with modern or even early Nancy Drew.

Now CBS is promoting a new series called Drew in which Nancy will be much older and now a member of the NYPD. Their intentions are to modernize her entirely, which already makes me doubtful of the resulting quality. Only what surprises and offends me most is their declaration that this Nancy Drew will be of any origin but Caucasion. Is there a problem with Nancy being white, so to speak? She always has been so why change her? You wouldn’t change Sherlock Holmes’ character from British because that is what he is in the very essence of his character. You wouldn’t make a story about Harriet Tubman and cast a Caucasion person in the role would you? Then why change Nancy?

I find it rather silly anyway, since the woman they have chosen is a Texan even if her heritage is not. I’m sure if I hadn’t already found out her origin I would have taken her for just another “white American.” After all, American is a mix of practically all nationalities down the line.

I dislike it greatly when political endeavors change what I know and love, but enough of my tirade. No matter what people may do to her character she will always be first and foremost respected as the Nancy Drew of the classics, the one Mildred Benson first breathed life into.

Nancy Drew Video Games

“Suddenly the young sleuth snapped her fingers. “I know what I’ll do! I’ll set a trap for that ghost!” [Book 2, pg 88]

Our collection of Her Interactive Nancy Drew video games.

If you’re like me, you would love a chance to take a whack at a mystery like Nancy Drew. Unfortunately, life doesn’t provide such convenient mysteries, and when it comes to danger, it might be a good thing. That’s when I spend a couple of hours (*ahem* at least), playing one of Her Interactive’s Nancy Drew video games.

The first one I played was Message in a Haunted Mansion many years ago and since then I have tried to play them all. My favorites so far are Treasure in the Royal Tower and Danger on Deception Island, simply because of the scenarios. I can’t wait to get my hands on Sea of Darkness!

The Nancy portrayed in these games are naturally a modern Nancy, that is, except for Secret of the Old Clock. She’s pretty spunky herself, and since you are the character, sometimes you can be as annoying to a suspect as you want. That’s me, annoying. I find her personality to be a good Nancy Drew recreation, though sometimes she’s more patient than I would like to be.

They are point-and-click adventure games, usually based around interesting mysteries and provide the player a chance to question suspects, work puzzles, detect clues in your own time, and often fix food or drinks as an added way of making money. I recently played The White Wolf of Icicle Creek and enjoyed making the meals. That is, except for when I wanted to be out working on the mystery and was instead stuck inside. But then, they provide ways to get around that some of the time.

So what do you think? Are you a Nancy Drew fan? How many books/movies/games do you have? Do you have an original book without knowing it? And which are you favorite? Leave me a comment below!

Some references taken from

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