Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys (Carole Kismaric and Marvin Heiferman)

Hooray for kilometric blog titles.

Fact: Finding out that Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon didn't exist was more devastating to me than the discovering that Santa Claus was not a real man living in the North Pole. I read my first original Nancy Drew mystery when I was in the first grade (Nancy's Mysterious Letter) after my older bus mates bullied me for reading a kid-friendly Nancy Drew picture book (Mystery of the Lost Dogs). That was my rite of passage; ever since, the girls have included me in their make-believe games while waiting for the bus. I never got to play Nancy, by the way. I never even made it to Bess and George status. I was always one of the guest characters (like Carla in The Clue of the Crossword Cipher). It may not have been nice to be laughed at and made fun of, but because of that experience, I have grown to be a big mystery fan.

That is why I was ecstatic when I came across this title at our local Booksale branch. It gives an in-depth look at the origins of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, which was created by Edward Stratemeyer and his writing syndicate during the late 20's. The book continues to chronicle how both series have changed through the years, and how these well-loved characters have affected and inspired countless readers.

What I like best about Ms Kismaric and Mr Heiferman's work is how they have analyzed Nancy, Frank, and Joe and presented these characters that would make any reader -- both old fans and new to the series -- a clear picture of the world they inhabit. Reading it made me wish I had written a paper about Nancy back when I was still an undergrad. I especially enjoyed seeing how Nancy Drew mysteries measured up to the Hardy Boys' cases (I own about 15 of the Boys' series compared to about 40 of Nancy's but I have read more than that). Nancy's mysteries tend to be more cerebral while the Hardys' are more action-packed. The book also goes on to analyze the roles that their friends play in the mysteries, as well as the characters' relationships to the adults around them.

The book contains sidebars that were interesting for the most part, included to help the readers see the series through the various social milieus that have shaped them. There were lots of accompanying photographs too, but they had little to do with Nancy or the Hardy Boys and I wish there weren't so many of them. I was also looking forward to reading more about the various adaptations made of both series for TV and film, but although this was already included, it wasn't as detailed as I had hoped. The most recent TV reincarnations were only mentioned as photo blurbs.

Still, reading The Mysterious Case... was such an enjoyable experience. I felt transported to my childhood days and it made me wish that I had my collection here with me. I can only wish that these series that have greatly inspired and influenced me would still find a place in the shelves of a new generation of readers.


Alex Lapa said...

I want this book! I grew up with Nancy Drew, the one with the old covers like this one! Like you, I was devastated when I finally found out that Keene didn't exist (after that, I tried to find out if Francine Pascal of Sweet Valley was, but now I can't remember the answer to that). I never got to read Hardy Boys, though.

skysenshi said...

Wah! Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon didn't exist??? I'm this old and I feel exactly how you described it (Santa not being real). I want to find this book. I finished the original series for both titles pa naman when I was a kid.

dementedchris said...

Booksale rocks!

There was also some details in the book on how the covers have changed through the years, but somehow I wanted more info! The book is filled with illustrations from the original series that I think you'll enjoy.

Francine Pascal is real but the SV series had different authors :P

Eeeep! I feel like Scrooge tuloy. Hehe. Another fact I picked up: Grosset & Dunlap reprints the original series but because of some legal battles, Simon & Schuster makes the newer, updated titles, although they're still credited to Carolyn Keen and Franklin W Dixon.