Monday, May 6, 2013

Nancy Drew and Friends or How I Learned to Love Mysteries Once Upon A Time...

The Mystery of the Brass Bound Trunk by Carolyn Keene. Gorgeous cover art by Russell Tandy.

The Message in the Hollow Oak by Carolyn Keene. Artwork by Russell Tandy.

The Clue of the Broken Locket by Carolyn Keene.

The Secret at Shadow Ranch by Carolyn Keene.

The Dana Girls. By the Light of the Study Lamp by Carolyn Keene.

The Dana Girls. The Ghost in the Gallery by Carolyn Keene.

The Dana Girls. In the Shadow of the Tower by Carolyn Keene.

The Hardy Boys. The Secret of the Old Mill by Franklin W. Dixon.

The Hardy Boys. The House on the Cliff by Franklin W. Dixon.

The Hardy Boys. Footprints Under the Window by Franklin W. Dixon.

Beverly Gray's Vacation by Clair Blank.

Beverly Gray's Adventure by Clair Blank.

A Judy Bolton Mystery. The Midnight Visitor by Margaret Sutton. Probably illustrated by Pelagie Doane.

A Judy Bolton Mystery. Seven Strange Clues by Margaret Sutton. Probably illust. by Pelagie Doane.

A Judy Bolton Mystery. The Yellow Phantom by Margaret Sutton. Illustrated by Pelagie Doane.

A Melody Lane Mystery. Terror at Moaning Cliff by Lilian Garis. Illustrated by Ruth King.

A Melody Lane Mystery. The Tower Secret by Lilian Garis. Illustrated by Ruth King.

The School on the Moor by Angela Brazil.

Two Girls and a Mystery by May Hollis Barton.

Jimmie Drury Candid Camera Detective, by David O'Hara.

Cherry Ames Chief Nurse by Helen Wells.

Vicky Barr series. The Mystery of Flight 908 by Helen Wells.

Jane, Stewardess of the Air Lines by Ruthe S. Wheeler.

Five Go to Smuggler's Top by Enid Blyton.

The Sea of Adventure by Enid Blyton. Cover art by Stuart Tresilian.

The Rockingdown Mystery Enid Blyton

The Outdoor Girls in the Air by Laura Lee Hope

I like to say that I jumped from Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie because that's the way I remember it. But I know I also read The Dana Girls (which I loved even more than Nancy) and likely there might have been a couple of other series - now faded from memory. 

All I know for sure is that I loved the titles, the early covers, the artwork, the end-papers and of course, the adventures which showed how young people could do for themselves and take charge even way back then, all the while solving mysteries which baffled the rather ordinary police. For sure, it was fantasy, but I fell hard for it all.

I can't remember reading any Enid Blyton, but I'm thinking it's never too late. At one time Blyton was a beloved and widely read writer whose books were in every kid's library - maybe even mine.

You can read more about these various series at this providential link.

Eventually and with regret, I outgrew Nancy and her friends but I know that these books instilled in me a love of mystery fiction (and reading) which continues to this day.

And I know I'm not the only one.

P.S. Wanted to add that my original link to download the Blyton books for free no longer applies. Apologies for that. But I did download the first of the The Five adventures for 99 cents over at Amazon. You can also download various others for 3.99. At least for now. Of course I'd rather have the actual books with the oh-so-charming covers but needs must.


  1. No, you're not the only one! As I mentioned on one of your earlier posts, I was drawn to reading for pleasure when I was introduced to the Hardy Boys series.

    As a visual person from the very start, I was most attracted to picture books, and I distinctly remember that the adults around me — parents, teachers, book sellers — assumed that meant I was a "slow learner."

    The Hardy Boys (excuse me for lumping them in with Nancy Drew) changed all that, and I owe them and the author a belated thanks!

  2. Oh, the joy of finding a Nancy Drew book under the tree at Christmas.

    Loved the Cherry Ames books. I recall a post-WWII series called Rick Brant. He was some sort of boy scientist who also solved mysteries.

    Half the fun of these books were the vivid, imaginative covers. Thanks for reviving the memories.

  3. I grew up on Enid Blyton books and preferred them to The Hardy Boys. As a child I was something of an Anglophile apparently.
    Try "The Five Find Outers" series or maybe the "Mystery" series or "Famous Five". 40 years ago, they seemed much less "twee" and my son agreed when I read them to him. The Secret Seven seem very dated, but the FFO's in particular, he loved.

  4. I 'lumped' them in too, Mark. :)

    Don't you love those covers? The older versions had it all over the 'newer' editions over the years.

    I do vaguely remember wondering (once upon a time) who would want to read a book without any pictures. I mean, really. Right?

  5. You're welcome, Jacqueline. This is a post I've been meaning to do for awhile. It was a lot of fun to choose which covers to include. I could have gone on forever. Ha!

  6. Anonymous: Oh I was an Anglophile from the moment I first became addicted to Agatha Christie's books. Maybe even before.

    But I thank Nancy and friends for my leap to Dame Agatha.

    I am definitely going to read some Enid Blyton. Maybe they'll jar a memory or two loose. :)

  7. I read about twenty Nancy Drew books years ago, and loved them. They were the yellow hardcover reprints. Then one day a relative of a relative lent me an old 1930s edition of one I'd already read...and it was an entirely different book! I was never able to figure out exactly why and how much those yellow reprints were rewritten, but I think that's why I didn't go any further in the series.

    My first mystery series, though, was when I was very young—the Boxcar Children! I never read the Hardy Boys or any other juvenile series, but my mom tells me she used to love Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden when she was a kid. She ended up giving away her collections shortly before she was married, I think.

  8. I loved Nancy Drew & I'm sure she was the link to Agatha Christie for me too. Those original covers are just wonderful, aren't they? Have you read The Lady Investigates by Patricia Craig & Mary Cadogan? It covers the girl detectives like Nancy & all the female detectives from Miss Marple & Miss Silver to the policewomen of the 1970s like Charmian Daniels. Published in 1986.

  9. I lived and died for Nancy Drew mysteries once upon a time. Never thought about that being the beginning of my love of a mystery. It's true the cover art had much to do with the appeal of the books.

  10. It's amazing how many mystery lovers first fell in love with mysteries because of these series, Yvette. I don't recall reading many of the Hardy Boys books, but I really came into mysteries via the Sherlock Holmes stories. They hooked me, and I've never been released - nor would I want to be!

  11. Your post brought back memories of school days. I preferred the Five Find-outers, and the Three Investigators to Nancy Drew and Company. I remember reading Trixie Beldon too but by that time I was already moving towards Agatha Christie. Recently, I read a Penny Parker book.

  12. First I read the Hardy Boys, then got into Nancy Drew mysteries, which I loved. I had a friend who actually owned many of the books, and I loved to visit her so I could curl up with Nancy in her investigations.

    Then i read Cherry Ames' books, too, and that began my life-story of reading under the cover with a flashlight until the late night.

    I have never heard of the Dana girls until now, but wish I had.

    And Enid Blyton I hadn't heard of until I began reading a lot of crime fiction lovers' blogs online. I've never read a book, was never an Anglophile, although I read Sherlock Holmes' stories as a teen-ager, but I stopped once I hit my twenties.

    And I read Hercule Poirot books until I was 19 and decided they weren't for me or Agatha Christie wasn't for me for reasons of world outlook, although I like watching the Belgian detectives' TV episodes.

  13. Elisabeth, would that we all had kept our collections...I regret every book, every piece of my childhood that disappeared over the years. :)

    I do remember that as much as I liked Nancy, I liked the Dana Girls' adventures even more.

  14. Lyn, I've never seen the book you mention. I'll have to look around. Thanks for the tip.

    I really do believe that early reading of series books set us all on our various lifetime courses. How could it be otherwise?

  15. Eve, I'll bet we appreciate the gorgeous covers even more now - looking back. As the books changed over the years, their covers got more and more insipid and badly designed.

  16. Les I can never remember when I first read Sherlock Holmes. Whether it was in between Nancy and Agatha or whether it was during my Agatha phase...

  17. Neer, I must admit I don't think I ever read a Penny Parker book. Did you enjoy reading it after all this time?

    I'm going to download a bunch of Enid Blytons just to see what's what. So many people loved those books.

  18. Kathy I became an Anglophile early on and then there was no reasoning with me. Ha!

    I blame Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes.

    Oh I used to read late into the night too. In fact, I still do. Sometimes much too late...

  19. Yvette, I read your post Tuesday morning and all the attractive covers made my day! I read a lot of Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Enid Blyton in my childhood and teen years and it's rather strange that I'm not familiar with any of these early covers. I used to read the latter-day hardback editions with more yellow in Nancy Drew and more blue in the Hardy Boys. I'll also have to check out the other YA titles you have displayed, such as, Beverly Gray, Judy Bolton, Melody Lane, and Jimmy Drury. They are absolutely new to me. I'm really curious to read THE MYSTERY OF FLIGHT 908 by Helen Wells — I like the sound of it. Many thanks for the links too.

  20. Thanks, Prashant. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. It was a great deal of fun to put together. I love those old covers.

    I'm going to be downloading some Enid Blyton to read for the first time. :)

  21. Thanks, Bob! Glad you enjoyed it.

  22. Wow, what a great gathering of jackets! My (male) Nancy Drew experience was all about The Hidden Staircase. I'm going to getting around to writing about it this month!


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