“There is no Carolyn Keene. There never was.” But as the author of 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew mysteries, Mildred Wirt Benson came closer than anyone else.
Digging into archives and the memories of surviving acquaintances as well as published histories, Rubini spins an account of Benson’s long and active life that throws a strong light on the source of Nancy Drew’s own admirably intrepid and independent spirit. The author briefly mentions updated editions of the original Nancy Drews and other publication details, but she largely steers clear of retold plotlines and literary analyses to focus on biographical details. These include Benson’s early years in Iowa and first publication at 13 (in St. Nicholas Magazine), two marriages, and twin careers as a local journalist and, under a variety of names, a writer of over 130 children’s titles. Family snapshots, old cover images, and side notes on topics from Nancy Drew trivia to a brownie recipe offer occasional distractions. More significantly, a quick history of the Stratemeyer Syndicate sheds light on the ins and outs of series ghostwriting, highlighted by the dramatic 1980 courtroom denouement (“I thought that you were dead”) that led at last to public recognition of Benson’s achievements.
An enlightening peek behind the curtain for Nancy Drew fans. (timeline, publication list, glossary, endnotes, bibliography) (Biography. 11-14)