I’m a mature–well, at least older–male who reads Nancy Drew. The original series of 64, that is.
Why on earth would I do that? Well, I started reading them to check them out to see if they would be appropriate for my granddaughter to read. They are. But surprise! I found I like them. Why so? They’re good, that’s why. None of them will ever vie for Great-American-Novel status. But the stories are solid, as well as good examples of sound story structure.
Granted they’re dated. They’re straight like a boy scout convention (or should I say “girl scout convention”?), kosher and proper in every way–no sex or violence or even occasional profanity. Darn! They’re filled with frequent and sometimes funny coincidences and some improbabilities here and there. They have wonderful. honey-coated endings that at times rival a Disney feature presentation. And Nancy Drew herself, in addition to being pretty and brave and smart, consistently comes across as a saint with strawberry-blond hair.
But, these novels, incidentally, have sold zillions of copies. And starting in 1930, they have been translated from English into as many as 25 additional languages and published in an impressive number of European, Scandinavian, Latin American, and Asian countries–and most recently in Estonia. Not too shabby.
Want to learn mystery writing? Read Nancy Drew. Now why would I say that to you my savvy readers? Rather cheeky, right? Empty boast? I don’t think so, based upon thoughtful and commendable consideration. But Why? Because their mystery-writing bones are nearly naked for all to see, laid bare certainly to the critical eyes of students of the craft–those of us who know some of the tricks well enough to spot them easily where and when they occur. The books are chuck full of classic mystery and thriller/suspense techniques, twists and surprises. And come complete with simple, straight-forward examples of those techniques right there on the page to learn from. At least if you’re relatively new to the genre. And for you veterans, some reminders couldn’t hurt.
I am often pleasantly amazed at how when reading these stories, I keep getting worried when Nancy or also George and Bess get themselves into dargerous situations. And I keep getting mad when those diabolical bad guys and gals–some of which are downright nasty–devise and pull off such shameful trickery against such a likeable heroine (old fashioned word, I know). And I must also confess that my heart is often warmed by the nifty, all-loose-ends-neatly-tied-up endings, each like a cleverly wrapped Christmas package.
Hey, they’re a quick read, and I don’t lose any sleep when I make them my night cap, which lately has been embarrassingly often.
Well, having gotten that off my chest, I’m off to start chapter 1 of The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, #25 in case you’re wondering. That’ll be my reward for some exhausting editing work done earlier today.
P.S. I do read other novels too.
P. S. S. Your turn. Be honest now. Have your read Nancy Drew?