Tag Archive for: Nancy Drew

Gay Yellen: Talking to Trees

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal has me thinking about the emotional connection humans often feel for trees. In “Why a Tree is the Friend We Need Right Now,” columnist Elizabeth Bernstein describes her relationship with the banyan tree she first encountered while worrying about a sick relative, and to which she returned again and again to seek comfort under its boughs.

The heartfelt gratitude she expressed for her banyan reminded me of Shel Silverstein’s poignant picture book, The Giving Tree, and also of my own tree-friends.

My relationship with trees began with my childhood summertime reading and the mimosa tree in our front yard. I’d climb up to the sturdy limb that perfectly fit the curve of my back and, cocooned in the cool, dense shade of its feathery leaves, I’d read my latest Nancy Drew.

In the neighborhood today, hundred-year oaks and other wizened trees abound. Like the WSJ columnist, I feel an attachment to many of them. I revel in the shade of the ancient oaks that shelter a nearby path, bending toward each other like a giant arbor. There’s one with a burl that looks like a teddy bear. I pat its fat belly as I walk by.

Down the street there’s one that appears to be winning a decades-long power struggle with a city sidewalk. I cheer it on as it pushes the cement away from its powerful roots. Another favorite shelters a little fairy house.

Fairy house tree.

I also mourn the giants cut down too soon, along with the charming brick bungalows they stood beside—only to make way for new, gentrified, and decidedly unremarkable houses. 

Thoreau once opined that “trees indeed have hearts.” So when the WSJ states that a “calming and awe-inspiring tree is the perfect antidote to anxiety,” I heartily agree. Especially nowadays, when anxiety seems to lurk around every corner.

Do you have a special relationship with a tree? If not, go out and find one. Spend time there. Hug it, if you feel the need. It might be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Gay Yellen writes the award-winning Samantha Newman Mystery Series. She’d love to hear from you, in a comment on this post, on FacebookBookBub, or via her website.

A Salute to Mildred Wirt Benson, the first “Carolyn Keene”

by Shari Randall

When I was a little girl, I rarely noticed the authors’ names on the books I gobbled up like penny candy from the corner store.  The only exception was the author of my favorite books. Even though we referred to them as “Nancy Drews” my friends and I knew the author of the yellow covered books we traded was Carolyn Keene. 
Imagine my shock when I learned there was no “Carolyn Keene” and that it was a pen name for a stable of ghostwriters from the Stratemeyer Syndicate (is there a more terrifying corporate name?)

 As the years passed, I occasionally stumbled upon articles about the authors who made up that group, especially the first ghostwriter, Mildred Wirt Benson. Mildred and the other “Carolyn Keenes” inspired generations of young readers, especially girls. These authors gave us an independent female protagonist without parental interference or control, plus a jazzy blue roadster. I believe Mildred and her co-ghosts were one of the most influential groups of women in America (and if my FB feed is any indication, the world). Many women who broke glass ceilings have spoken of their hours reading Nancy Drew, women including presidential candidates and Supreme Court justices. My years as a children’s librarian have taught me that children’s world views are shaped by the stories they read.

Every July 10 on my Facebook author page, I commemorate Mildred’s birthday. As “Carolyn Keene,” she ghostwrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drews, creating the template for the determined girl detective who has inspired millions of young readers.
Here are five fast facts about Mildred:
  • Her typewriter is in the collection of the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.
  • She was an avid traveler and adventurer who trained as a pilot, traveling to South American archaeological sites before they were opened to tourists.
  • In 1927, she was the first student, man or woman, to earn a master’s in journalism at the University of Iowa.
  • She worked as a journalist for 50 years, mostly on the courthouse beat for the Toledo Blade.
  • Her role as Carolyn Keene was kept under wraps until researchers uncovered the story in the 1980s.

Raise a glass with me to Mildred. She opened the door for so many of us to the joy of reading mysteries. To Mildred!
Shari Randall is the author of the Lobster Shack Mystery Series. It’s possible that her protagonist, Allegra “Allie” Larkin, and her chums, Verity Brooks and Bronwyn Denby, were inspired by Nancy, Bess, and George. You can see what she’s up to on Facebook

Writing by the Bechdel Rule—and Not Even Knowing it

by Kay Kendall

Even though the Bechdel Rule has been around for
three decades, I never heard about it until seven years ago when it first popped
up in film reviews in the New York Times.
Now, I love movies and try hard to keep abreast of trends, so I looked it up
pretty quick. I don’t like feeling behind the times.
Also known as the Bechdel Test, it judges
movies by three criteria:
(1) it has to have at least two
women in it, who (2) talk to each other, about (3) something besides a man. Cartoon
illustrator Alison Bechdel popularized her pal Liz Wallace’s concept in the
comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in
1985. There are now 8,151 movies listed at bechdeltest.com that pass the test.  
When I first read
the test’s definition, I was astonished. Movies I watch and books I read
routinely pass this test, even before I knew it existed. The first mystery I
was in the midst of writing, Desolation
, passed as do the two books that followed.
I believe I was
born a feminist so it’s no wonder this rule was one I lived by. There are
fictional female characters to whom I give credit for prodding me along my way.
They include the mighty Jane Eyre, the extremely curious Nancy Drew, and even
the tragic Anna Karenina. After all, the Russian woman came to a very bad end indeed
by living only for the love of a man and nothing else.  
recently returned to my treasured copy of Jane
to see if it held up to my current feelings about living one’s life as
a female. Again I was astonished because the proto feminism of the novel was
laid out on almost every page. For example, look at this passage, written in
complete contrast to the fate of poor Anna Karenina: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being
     with an independent will.”
While that is the second most quoted
passage from Jane Eyre, here is
another one, a real doozy, given the era it was written in, the 1850s in
Victorian England:
“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women
feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for
their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a
restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is
narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought
to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on
the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at
them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced
necessary for their sex.”

And yet Jane Eyre is also a magnificent love story because of the heroine’s
passion for Mr. Rochester. Proving that she could be not only independent but
in love too, she most famously stated, “Reader, I married him.”

Second wave feminism peaked in the
1970s and declined thereafter. Feminism was attacked as being anti-male. I
always thought that was utter bosh, complete nonsense. I am delighted that has
changed of late. We women can stand up for ourselves without trashing all men,
for certainly all men do not deserve that, only the ones who seek to hold women
down, to keep us, as the Rolling Stones gleefully sing, “Under My Thumb.”
In my second mystery, Rainy Day Women, I quote that awful
title from the Stones, and in my third mystery, After You’ve Gone, I have my heroine quote Jane Eyre, “I am no
bird; and no net ensnares me.”
So books that pass the Bechdel Test
with flying colors snared me as a young reader, and they do so today as well.
And, dear reader, now I write them too.


 Author Kay
Kendall is passionate about historical mysteries.     She lives in Texas with
her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills.
Her second book Rainy Day Women won the Silver Falchion for best mystery at Killer Nashville.

Visit Kay at
her website http://www.austinstarr.com/
or on Facebook at


How Mad Men in the Not-so-good-ole Days Made Women Mad Too

By Kay Kendall

advent of Mad Men on television marked
the return of the 60s to the popular consciousness. Before that, the tumultuous
decade of the 1960s had a bad rep. It was a divisive time, and people were sick
of it. The go-go economy of the 1980s buried “radical chic” in piles of money, and
even some famous 60s activists switched to making a buck, big time.

Mad Men on TV was soon followed by fashion trends. Today retro-hippie
clothes and accessories are back with a vengeance. I’ve purchased three items
with long suede fringe—stockpiling against the day when fringe falls out of
style again.

it’s not just 60s fashion that lures me in. I am a fan of that benighted
decade. Even before Mad Men hit TV in
2007, I was writing my first mystery set in the 60s. I was following that old
maxim, “Write what you know.” As a child of the 60s I had stories to tell.

I also
believe that an author should write what she loves—and my favorite books are
historical mysteries. I chose my time period guided by the many authors who
locate their sleuths and spymasters during the wars of the 20th century. The
two world wars and the Cold War are overrun with novels. The war in Vietnam,
however, was such a debacle that few want to see it on the big or little screen
or read about it in books. Still, it was a comparatively empty niche that I
thought needed filling with mysteries. My books show the life of a young woman
named Austin Starr—not the radical type who made headlines, the Hanoi Janes or
Angela Davises—but a moderate swept along by history’s tides. All that turmoil
lends itself to drama, intrigue, and murder.
Rainy Day Women is set in August 1969, in the days between the
Charles Manson killings in Los Angeles and the big rock festival in Woodstock—one
she had hoped to attend. Instead, Austin flies to the West Coast, where she pursues
her knack for solving mysteries, built on her CIA training and inspired by countless
Nancy Drew books she read as a child. Austin tries to absolve a dear friend
accused of killing a feminist leader and is drawn into the movement. As she
learns about it, she learns more about herself.
feminism is the backdrop for the story, and Rainy
Day Women
is set against the historical details of the period. Though that
time is long gone, I “bring it all back home” again.* Some details are technological—the
endless searching for a much-needed payphone, the need to solve a crime without
using CSI-style techniques—and establish how much change our everyday lives
have witnessed. Other details are astonishing yet real—notably the casual but
overbearing sexist attitudes of way too many men in the book. But that
particular kind of madness led to rising anger among women. And then to a whole

Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, ca. 1965

Bringing It All Back Home is a Bob
Dylan album from 1965, including such masterpieces as “Subterranean Homesick Blues,”
“Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” Some literary critics
compare Dylan to Shakespeare. I don’t go quite so far but am a staunch fan.
That’s why I name my mysteries after his song titles. His work is so vast
in scope that his song titles cover every eventuality in fiction
that I could ever dream up. His attitudes toward women as portrayed in his
lyrics are sexist—true—but he was a man of his times. That’s the best excuse I
can make for him, and he certainly fits my material.

Kendall lives in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel
Wills. In her former life as a PR executive, Kay’s projects won international
awards. And she studied lots and lots of history in school, and loves it still!


Where I Live Now—AKA What I’ve Learned on Facebook

By Kay Kendall

If you watched me go
about my life these days, you would think you know where I live. You would say, why, that’s
a snap to answer. She lives in Texas. Look, there’s her house on that Houston
street. You can look her up on Google Maps.
Yet, strangely, you would
only be partly right. In fact, only one-third correct in your answer—to be
Sure, there’s my normal
life and it’s lived in Houston. But to that you must add the year 1969. Living
in that year makes up the second third of my life these days. That’s when my
work-in-progress takes place, Rainy Day
. I’ve been living in that world for more than a year now. Moreover, for
two years prior, I was living in 1968—the year when my debut mystery is set, Desolation Row. Hence, I have been
spending lots of time in the late 1960s for many years now. In fact, I’m going
deeper and deeper into the detailed past the longer I write about the late
(I have a vivid
imagination and a good head for detail. I’m surprised when people don’t
remember things as I do. Some get downright anachronistic, wanting to put cell
phones into a plot where they don’t belong. Boy oh boy, can technology change a
story—or ruin it if it’s done incorrectly. But, I digress.)
The third and final piece
of my life is now lived online. I’m a gregarious person and as my career as an
author has solidified, I’m staying put in my writer’s lair more often than I
used to. My husband and I are living a quiet life. So, to reach out to other
people, I go to social media several times a day. The majority of that time is
spent on Facebook.
Kay says CHEERS to Facebook!
Many of my Facebook
friends are boomers, as I am. I can start up a thread on a hot topic from the
1960s or 1970s and watch folks chime in. Then they share my head space with me.
I enjoy that a lot. This week’s subject has been what people remember about the
Watergate saga. Some of the answers have fascinated me. One man had a neighbor
who was one of the good guys attached to the Watergate investigation. Another
woman worked for a polling firm in Washington DC that compiled data for the infamous Committee to Re-Elect the President (later nicknamed CREEP, no kidding). She recalled going to the airport to pick up documents and delivering them to the office of the special prosecutor for Watergate…and found it a fascinating time to live in the national’s capital. Since I’m a history
buff, I would have loved that too, although I’m sure many would disagree.
The great crime writer
Tim Hallinan began a thread on his Facebook page a few days ago that asked his
friends to nominate their favorite rock albums. Well! You can imagine how
cantankerous that got, with many responders irate that their faves didn’t win.
My pick did not win—it was a Dylan album, naturally—Blonde on Blonde. I was not
irate, however, since I won a free copy of one of Tim’s mysteries. Since the
only other thing I’ve ever won in my life was a flashlight, I was thrilled
beyond words.
On Facebook I’m drawn to
historical detail, interesting trivia, and those silly BuzzFeed quizzes. On the
most recent quizzes, I scored ten out of ten for world history, found out that
the classic novel that best fits my personality is Pride and Prejudice, and was told that among Jungian archetypes I turn
out to be the sage.
Two fascinating posts
hooked my interest over the past week. First, one FB friend had discovered a
parakeet in her backyard. She wasn’t able to find the owner but did turn up a
neighbor who had also lost her parakeet. The neighbor agreed to take the bird,
vowing to search for the real owner and if s/he wasn’t found, then she would
adopt the lost bird. People commented on this, explaining similar situations.
This was fun and interesting. Sadly, a second Facebook friend lamented that her
sister who suffered from angina had died. The sister had forgotten to carry her
nitroglycerine tablets. When she had an attack, no one could revive her. That true
story devastated me.
I guess I’ve always lived
in my head. As an only child, I read a lot, as many potential writers do. I
just didn’t know that at the time. First it was horse stories and fairy tales,
then Nancy Drew and Little Women,
followed by the grand Jane Eyre. After
that it was more and more classics. Someone told me I should read all the
classic novels in order to be prepare for my SAT tests, and boy, did I go at
it. At sixteen I was far too young to appreciate the finer points of Anna Karenina, but I could tell you the
plot of it and dozens of other great novels.
Last summer I went back to
Kansas for my high school reunion. Along with a few dear, long-time friends I
trotted around our old high school building and reminisced. Pal Nancy could
tell each of us where our lockers had been and where our homerooms were. Most
of us had no idea, although I was more clueless than most. I’m guessing I was
lost in my head back then too. Nancy, however, must have been fully present in
order to recall all that detail of her life in high school.  
Do you live in your head
a lot, like me? Do you enjoy Facebook? Do you have another favorite among the
social media types? Or do you loathe the whole scene?
That’s all I’ve got for
now, my friends. I feel the comments on Facebook tugging at me. Excuse me while
I succumb to their sirens’ song.
 Kay Kendall set her debut novel, Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery,
in 1968. The Vietnam War backdrop illuminates reluctant courage and desperate
love when a world teeters on chaos. Kay’s next mystery, Rainy Day Women (2015) finds amateur sleuth Austin Starr trying to
prove a friend didn’t murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and
Kay is an award-winning international PR executive living in Texas
with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly
allergic to bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob
Dylan buff too.

What Really Influenced my Love of Mysteries

Like many mystery authors I often attribute my love of mysteries to Nancy Drew, but thinking back it was really something else.

Back in my childhood we didn’t have a TV until I was in junior high. Our entertainment came from the radio. We had our big standing radio in the living room, and my sister and I each had our own little Philco on our bedside table. I listened to every mystery show I could. Inner Sanctum was scary enough to send shivers down my spine, but among my favorites were I Love a Mystery, Sam Spade, The Shadow, and Philip Marlowe.

Every Monday night, Lux Radio Theatre had a live radio show, though later on they recorded them for later broadcast. Many of them were mysteries.

My very favorite though was Perry Mason. I went to one of the live broadcasts. Afterwards I went to the parking lot and got autographs of all the stars.

 Of course I continued to read Nancy Drew and soon graduated to grown-up mysteries. I loved the paperback detectives like Mike Hammer. I remember making book covers out of paper sacks so no one would know what I was reading at school.

If you like reading mysteries what ones do you remember best? And if you write mysteries, what influenced you to begin writing them?



I recently shared my upcoming manuscript—Third Degree—with a trusted friend who is also a book reviewer by trade. She pulls no punches. She always lets me know what she likes and what she thinks is not so great. (She still contends that Quick Study was her favorite, and to her mind, my best. I beg to differ. The best one is the one that just came out. Every single time.) I hold my breath until she finished whatever I have shared with her and this time, I was relieved that she really enjoyed the soon-to-be-published work. I also thought it curious her overall reaction: “I like that your characters live lives. They change. They make mistakes. They move on.”

I got to thinking about this because some of the mysteries I love best include characters for whom nothing ever changes. Nancy Drew never got any older (nor did she get to second base with Ned, a disappointing fact to the fifteen-year-old I once was). The Hardy Boys stayed just slightly post-pubescent (again, a major disappointment until I was able to visualize them as Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy). Miss Marple never married. Stephanie Plum remains in limbo, caught between two men, blowing up a new vehicle in each subsequent book in the series.

But in the Murder 101 series, mayhem ensues in terms of mystery and in terms of just living life because to me, Alison, Crawford, and the cast of characters are real and I can’t imagine them standing still. I recently mentioned to my editor—the fabulous Kelley—that I was thinking of taking Alison to Dublin to do some Joyce research in a novel down the road. I asked her if she thought that was a good idea. Her answer? “Only if everyone else goes with her.”

I see what she’s saying, but I wonder how realistic it is for Fr. Kevin, Max, Fred, and a host of other people in Alison’s “life” to hit the road with her and spend a summer in Dublin researching Alison’s dissertation subject, James Joyce? When it comes down to it, it really isn’t. So the challenge becomes how to keep Alison and her peeps interesting without taking them too far out of their milieu or just far enough.

It’s always been easy for me to write about Alison and the other characters because they live in a very distinct world that is not entirely unlike mine, except for the part where they occasionally trip over dead bodies or find heroin residing in their plumbing. My life is exceedingly routine: get the kids off to school, walk the dog, empty the dishwasher, do the laundry. Oh, and write. I’m supposed to write in there somewhere. I’m not complaining. It’s a great life. But there wouldn’t be a series if Alison’s life was just like mine. It also wouldn’t be a series if I didn’t create an alternate universe where my grown-up Nancy Drew finds the dead bodies or tries to flush a brick of heroin down the toilet. Nobody wants to read about my life, but some people want to read about Alison’s and the goal is to keep her life interesting.

I guess my question for you, Stiletto faithful, is do you like characters that live lives? Or are you more comfortable with characters who stay pretty much the same? How much do you have to suspend disbelief to enjoy your favorite amateur sleuth’s investigations?

Maggie Barbieri

The Sign of the Twisted Candles

Last night I read my mother’s well-worn copy of The Sign of the Twisted Candles. She’d been given the book as a young girl. The copyright date inside the battered cover is 1933. Coming from a family with limited financial resources and lots of siblings, she didn’t own many books as a child. She’s treasured this one for almost 60 years. I’ll be returning it to her bookshelf this weekend.

My mother introduced me to Nancy Drew when I was in the third grade. Many of the words were strange – commodious, oculist; the phrases unusual – jolly friends; the foods strange – jellied consommé. But I still loved the book.

Oh, Nancy! I’m afraid to go any farther, and I’m afraid not to. Won’t you speed the car up!”

Nancy Drew smiled grimly to herself, despite the awe-inspiring situation with which she had to battle. (The Sign of the Twisted Candles, Carolyn Keene, 1933).

Teenaged Nancy Drew wasn’t afraid. She seemed to thrive on meeting challenges head-on; her confidence in herself and the power of good to triumph over evil was indeed “awe-inspiring.” An only child of a wealthy criminal lawyer and a deceased mother, Nancy is often on her own or having adventures with her two best friends. She gives free reign to her curiosity when she and her friends take shelter at a crumbling Civil War-era mansion that has been converted into a combination restaurant and inn. There is a mysterious old man in the tower room, an overworked, ill-treated foster child, an evil innkeeper and wife, and strange happenings galore. Asking questions, watching people, and following the clues, Nancy solves the crimes and plays fairy godmother to the foster child.

Last week I read Nevada Barr’s latest book, Winter Study. Anna Pigeon, Barr’s heroine, is a 40-something, National Park Service Ranger. Anna was recently married. But in her words, “They’d been married four months. They’d been together ten days of it.” In Winter Study, Anna is temporarily assigned to the wolf population study at Isle Royale on Lake Superior. The survival of the wolves on the island might be threatened, but it’s the humans who are doing the dying. As usual Anna uses her experience, survival skills, and keen powers of observation and deduction to solve the murders.

When I decided to compare the two books for my blog entry for Nancy Drew week, I ignored the issue that one series is written for children and the other is written for adults. Although Nancy is around 16 or 17 years old, the themes in the Nancy Drew books are ones that a 10-year-old would enjoy most. Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon books are definitely for older teens and adults. Was a comparison of the 1930-heroine with the 2008-counterpart fair? Do they have anything in common?

Freedom for a woman in Nancy’s day (1930s) was accomplished by being upper class, having inherited money or a generous parent, having a supportive yet distant family who gave you time and space to solve mysteries, and an extraordinary inherent confidence in your own beliefs and intellect.

Freedom for a woman in Anna Pigeon’s day (now) is accomplished by hard work and earning your own money, pushing back against stereotypical female roles, having a supportive yet distant family who gives you time and space to solve mysteries, and an well-earned confidence in your own beliefs and intellect.

In both books there is “good versus evil” theme, with “good” winning in the Nancy Drew books and if not winning in the Anna Pigeon books, at least a rough justice is achieved.

Both heroines solve mysteries by using their powers of observation, understanding human nature, and their own personal courage. Both Nancy and Anna walk out into the night alone to confront the unknown. They are both smart, curious, creative and willing to take risks. As my co-author says, “Independent women were revolutionary in the 1930s. And perhaps they still are.”

What do you look for in your favorite “mystery” heroines? When you examine the fine print – are they all versions of Nancy Drew?

Evelyn David

My Literary Best Friend

Distant father…housekeeper slash surrogate mother…pretty-boy boyfriend (according to the northern half of Evelyn David)…a trio of interesting girl friends, one a tomboy, one an obsessive eater, one a giant fraidy-cat…these are my adult recollections and interpretations of my favorite sleuth and heroine, Nancy Drew.

But when I was a child? She was literary gold. I had received a few of the 1959 editions from my older, goddess-like next-door neighbor, Maureen. If Maureen recommended the Nancy Drew books, then by golly, I was going to read each and every one of them. (And for proof of Maureen’s regalness, you need only know her nickname from her five brothers: “Maureen the Queen.” They shared one bedroom in the small Cape Cod next door; Maureen had the other bedroom, complete with canopy bed. But I digress.) She dropped off the books, now too old to enjoy them, and told me to start with “The Secret of the Old Clock.” I think I was about nine at the time. I finished the book and I was hooked.

A couple of thing struck me about Nancy:

1. Nancy drove a roadster. A what? Figuring out that it was just a sporty car didn’t take too long but I wondered why Carolyn Keene didn’t just call it a car. Then I grew up and became a mystery writer myself and realized that there are just so many ways to say that so-and-so “got in her car and drove away.” I’m trying to figure out a way for Alison Bergeron to refer to her car as a roadster but I haven’t been able to quite work that out yet.

2. Nancy eschewed all things in bad taste. Remember when those irascible Topham sisters were mean to the sales girls at the department store? Or when the aforementioned sales girl gossiped to Nancy about Josiah Crowley? Nancy looked down on both. Me? I am never mean to sales girls but do enjoy idle gossip. Alison Bergeron, for one, wouldn’t be able to solve mysteries without idle gossip, conjecture, or jumping to conclusions. Nancy frowned on all three.

3. Nancy loved a bargain. When one of those infernal Topham sisters ripped one of the dresses in the department store, Nancy asked for a discount. And got it! 50% off the retail price! That girl had some shopping cojones.

4. Nancy pretended that her father was fascinating. Sure, it was one way to get the information she so needed to solve the case but, boy, could this girl massage a man’s ego or what? Just read one passage of her dining with good old Carson Drew and you can see why he was putty in her hands. And why he gave her access to everything she needed to solve her cases.

5. Nancy was multi-talented. She possessed basic first aid skills, was a strong swimmer, could sail, and considered herself a “dog tender” (see The Bungalow Mystery). Nancy had an impressive intellect and a sharp wit. Was it the function of hanging around her widowed father and middle-aged housekeeper or was she just born that way? I never could figure that out.

6. Nancy is true to her friends. She never tells her female friend, George Fayne, to knock it off and go by her given name, Georgia, nor does she tell plump friend, Bess Marvin, to lay off Hannah’s scones and jam. Helen Corning, who appears in the first book in the series and then, later on, takes an extended jaunt to Europe, doesn’t have the stomach for sleuthing but Nancy never brings it up. Just imagine those girls on “The Hills” being so accepting of their compadres. Nancy is the alpha girl but never lets it show, never lauds it over her posse. She’s the smartest, the hippest, and wears all of these characteristics with grace and class.

Maureen the Queen and I discussed every Nancy Drew that she had given me after I had read them once. And when I was done, I read them again, because this was in the days before the ubiquitous Barnes and Noble or the easy access that Amazon affords us modern-day folk. My 1959 editions are dog-eared, a little water-logged (the flood of ’73 that soaked everything in our basement saw to that), and yellowed from age. But the memories that I get when I crack open one of the three that are left on my bookshelf cannot be described, even by me, the writer. It’s memories of my older and cooler friend, Maureen, it’s memories of finding a girl to whom I could relate, it’s memories of a time gone by when we played outside from dusk ‘til dawn, when we read books over and over again and committed them to memory.

So her father was distant, she was raised by a housekeeper, and she had a curious gaggle of friends. Didn’t matter and never will. Nancy Drew was and always will be my literary best friend.

Maggie Barbieri

Nancy Drew in the Dark Ages

Believe it or not, even though I am the ancient member of the Stiletto Gang, Nancy Drew was popular when I was a girl. I received Nancy Drew mysteries every birthday and Christmas and had them read before the days were over.

Like many others, I imagined myself doing all the things Nancy did on her adventures. Her tales fueled my imagination, causing me to suspect our neighbors of all sorts of suspicious doings, from being spies to kidnappers.

I babysat for a police officers two children and the foolish man left a loaded gun in a drawer in case I had to protect his kids from bad guys. Once I was sitting and someone actually tried to get into the house. The person shook the doorknob and rattled the door. I grabbed the gun (I was all of eleven being a seasoned sitter since the age of 10) and went to the door. “I have a loaded gun and I’m pointing it right at you.” Whoever it was must have believed me, because it became quiet.

I put the gun away, called my dad who lived two doors away. He was in bed so had to get dressed before he came up to look around the property. It took him so long, of course no one was to be found.

WWII was going on when I was a kid. Every house in the neighborhood was different. Back in those days, kids were allowed to roam without adult supervision. I loved to ride my bike to new places. Once I discovered a multi-turreted three story home built into the side of a hill. I imagined someone being held hostage inside or at the very least, it was filled with a bevy of ghostly beings.

I often pictured myself as the heroine who would come to the rescue or sound the alarm. I knew if we were invaded by the enemy I’d be recruited as a spy. After all, who would suspect a kid of being a spy?

Back in those days, I wrote my own mystery stories. By the time I’d outgrown Nancy and moved on to adult mysteries (often ones my mother told me not to read), I was putting out my own magazine reproduced on a jelly pad. (It had another name beginning with an h which I can’t remember, but it had a resemblance to hard jelly.) Since I wrote all the content, there was always at least one short mystery starring a young female sleuth.

As you can tell, Nancy Drew had a huge influence on me. When the movie came out I could hardly wait to take a couple of great-granddaughters. I enjoyed it much more than they did.