Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her by Melanie Rehak is that rare lovely book about writers that just inspire you to write. I was in a Seattle bookstore with several hours to kill and I picked this book up and came close to reading it in one setting. It was just that compelling.
This book chronicles the histories of the women who had the most to do with the writing of the Nancy Drew novels as best as we can determine it. The identity of the writers was a trade secret by the well meaning though sometimes naive owners of the character. It is a fascinating story about the woman who was almost the real life Nancy Drew, Mildred A. Wirt, and the woman who wanted Nancy Drew to be the perfect girl no one could possibly be, Harriet Stratemeyer. Although the two did not always get along, they both contributed a huge amount to such a beloved character.
The book is about Nancy Drew but really it is the story of two women around the turn of the century. One woman was a tomboy who became a swimmer, a writer, a reporter and finally a pilot who produced a ton of work. The other woman inherited her father’s pulp empire and managed to keep it running in a time when kids were not reading. I am stunned this has not been made in a winter chick movie already.
I was most touched by stories of Mildred A. Wirt’s work habits. She would often send in manuscripts and mention in passing that she wrote the entire novel while going through some terrible tragedy. The owners of Nancy had no idea what Mildred was going through till after the fact, but the lady was always on time. The next time I don’t feel like posting a one page blog post, I remember Mildred typing at her husband’s death bed so Nancy can figure out the mystery of the mysterious Mcguffin.
What did amuse me endlessly is that Edward Stratemeyer, the creator of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, created a subcontracting system. He wrote outlines and sent them to writers to make the novels. Then Edward would give feedback and notes so that the writers wrote more to his style. He was teaching people how to write like him, and considering how successful he was, it wasn’t a bad thing. It does make me a little jealous though. I wish I could hire someone to write more Librarian stories. I’d love to read more instead of waiting on my slow ass.
If you are a fan of Nancy Drew, you’ll love it. If you are a fan of writing, you’ll love it. If you are a fan of incredible women doing the impossible, you’ll love it. It is just a great book.