Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What is the official Nancy Drew canon?

Like most collectors, when I stumble across a title in a series, I right away know that if I read one, I'm going to have to have them all. This seems to be a borderline sickness. If the book has a number on the spine, I immediately want to find the other titles in the series, and make sure I have them all at my disposal. Even worse, I'm one of those people who feels he must read the books in the order they were published. I have to tell myself it's okay to read The Hidden Staircase if I haven't first read The Secret of the Old Clock. And if I found out that a particular book series was not written in the same order they were published, I have to decide if I read the series in written order or published order. Sometimes I think I must be a victim of some strain of OCD disorder, but the messy desk I have by the middle of the school year assures me I don't!

I read Nancy Drew. Even better, I collect Nancy Drew as well. I don't talk about it a whole lot. I suffer from the gender stereotype that says a boy reads The Hardy Boys and girls read Nancy Drew. I read The Hardy Boys and the Three Investigators as a kid, but would have never been caught dead reading one of my sister's Nancy Drews!! The whole idea was crazy! But my fourth grade teacher did read the revised text Old Clock to us out loud in school, and I had to admit the story was interesting. Since then I have read numerous other titles in the series, and now, drawing close to fifty, I have to say it out loud... Not only do I read and collect Nancy Drew, I also enjoy her.

I have had to "give myself permission" to read Nancy Drew out of order. I have read most of the early original text tiles, and quite frankly I am captivated by the look into the past that it gives. I enjoy the roadster, the social etiquette presented, and the slice of midwestern Americana that it celebrates. I have read a couple of the later yellow spine titles, and recently have been exploring some of the paperback digest tiles after procuring a large portion (almost a hundred!) from a fellow collector.

I have been reading The Bluebeard Room and am almost done. In this book, we see a slightly different Nancy Drew. She is involved in a mystery that surrounds drugs. In addition, she kisses a young man, and it's not even Ned! She is anxious over what other people think of her, and she is given to other emotional feelings not commonly seem in the Nancy of the Thirties and Forties! This Nancy is not your grandmother's Nancy.
Personally, I have been enjoying the paperback Nancy Drews. They have pretty good story lines, and they seem to still be sticking to the basic premise started by the Syndicate so many years before. But what do fans think? What is considered the Official Nancy Drew book series?
Is it the Grosset and Dunlap published 1-56? Or is it all 175 titles before the Nancy Drew, Girl Detective series was started? Or is Nancy only the original books written before the G&D yellow spine editions were brought out? Does the series end with the last dust jacketed book The Mystery of the Fire Dragon, published the year I was born, 1961? What is the official Nancy Drew canon? Does a Nancy Drew purist lower his or her self reading the paperbacks? Must a real Nancy Drew story have blue multi-pic endpapers? Can Nancy drive a convertible instead of a roadster?
I'm curious what most of you think. Is Nancy a character frozen in time, or does a modern Nancy Drew fit in the Twenty-first century? Perhaps because of my desire to have each title in the series, numbers 57-175 sit on my bookshelf along with my matte picture cover Nancy Drews. I want them all! (BTW, I don't have them all yet, but I'm getting there!!) Since I want them all, 1-175 works for me!


  1. I'll start. All of #1-56, original and revised text, are in the Nancy Drew canon. I also include #57-175 in the Nancy Drew canon. One time, I read the books in order from #1 up to the then-currently published last title, which was around #160 or so. For #1-34, I read the original texts, and I read the only text version of the rest of the titles.

    I found that Nancy Drew changed just gradually from 1930 into the early 2000s. The more modern Nancy Drew was still Nancy Drew. Most of the stories remain true to what Nancy Drew is supposed to be, and most of them are enjoyable.

    I exclusively read the revised text books as a child, so I am more open to later variations than many of the people who only read the original text books.

    The Nancy Drew Files are sort of in the Nancy Drew canon. Nancy and Ned are so darned flaky in those books that many of them read like a lame Sweet Valley High book. I slogged through all of the Files, and they all blended together by the time I was done.

    I don't consider the Nancy Drew On Campus, River Heights series, or the ND/HB Super Mysteries to be in the Nancy Drew canon. I consider the Girl Detective books to be more canon than the three series I just mentioned, but even they are a bit off of what Nancy Drew was created to be.

  2. I agree with Jennifer with the exception that I'd include the SuperMysteries in with the Files in the "sort of" canon. Also, I'd categorize "classic paperback" #s 77 and 78 more as Files, and also put them in the "sort of" category. While I kind of enjoy Bluebeard Room for its setting, Nancy does actually kiss TWO non-Ned men in this book (and then 2 more in #78). But aside from the romance aspects, the real reason for me to put the Files in a different category is all the dead bodies. In general Nancy deos not solve murders in the "core" books.

  3. What? She kisses someone else? I haven't read that far yet!!

  4. I grew up in the 90s, so for me canon was what I had available-the mix of revised and original texts that had been passed down in the family, some Wanderers, and the Files and Supermysteries I found at booksales. I still read all of those, as well as the Girl Detective and graphic novels; I guess I've gotten used to adjusting my expectations depending on which series I'm reading.

    In some ways, I think Nancy's evolution is necessary, or else she would become stagnant. Look at what happened to the later volumes in the classic paperbacks and Files-no one would call them the best in the series. In theory it would be nice to imagine 100+ volumes of 1930s Nancy Drew, but I suspect even that would eventually become trite and predictable.

    Ironically, Hardy Boys canon is completely different for me. I know I must have read the revised texts because I remember missing Iola, Biff, etc. later on, but after finishing the ones I owned I moved on to an almost exclusive diet of Casefiles. To this day I can't think of Joe as anything but a ladies man.In fact, other than the anathema On Campus series, I would say the Hardy Boys have undergone more drastic changes than Nancy in terms of personality and supporting cast. It's impossible for the paperbacks and Casefiles to coexist, and don't even get me started on the current books...