“Nancy Drew and the Case of the Guilty Pleasure”
By Chris "Doc" WyattApril 20, 2023
Doc's latest project is a Kickstarter to help fund a line of Nancy Drew Retro-Style Action Figures and an All-New Nancy Drew Novella. Read on to learn more!
I grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta, where my mom, a single mother, was both a teacher and a volunteer at the local public library. As a first grader, after school I’d spend hours in the stacks, while mom was off shelving books or doing other bibliophilic tasks.
After finishing my homework, I had the run of the library and usually wound up laying across a pile of blue bean bag chairs in the “kid’s reading nook” with a stack of small, blue-spined hardcovers. Why blue? Because that’s the color always used on the spine of Hardy Boys books. The Hardy Boys were brothers and boy detectives, and they made me fall in love with solving puzzles, hunting for clues, and saving the day.
Admittedly, Hardy Boy mysteries were a little inconsistent in quality. Sometimes it seemed author Frank W. Dixon was really on point, and other times he was a little off his game (I had no idea, at the time, that Franklin W. Dixon was a shared pen name used by a series of anonymous authors). The books in the series were numbered, but I’d usually read them wildly out of order because so many from the collection were always checked out.
One day, however, tragedy struck… There were no more blue-spined books to read. After a heavy week of checkouts, the only Hardy Boys books left on the shelf were ones I’d already read. And I’ve always hated re-reading mysteries—you already know the ending!
This meant having to do something I never expected to do, the unthinkable… I’d have to read a book with a yellow spine.
Why was that a bad thing? Because the yellow spined books were not Hardy Boys books, they were NANCY DREW books. And Nancy Drew was a GIRL detective. As in: FOR GIRLS. What if one of my friends came into the library and saw me reading it? Would all credibility I’d built up at scouts and on the little league field be gone in a flash?
Still… What was I going to do? Not read a mystery?
Having clearly no choice in the matter, I did what the circumstances clearly demanded, and I chose a Nancy Drew book to read… And by chapter 1, I was HOOKED. Nancy and her friend, Helen, had already nearly drowned, only to be rescued by a mysterious orphan. Seriously, one chapter in and we’ve already got a mysterious orphan? Nancy rolled HARD.
As I read through the book, called The Bungalow Mystery (which I picked because I assumed that a “bungalow” was a kind of mythical monster… spoiler: it’s NOT) I went on a journey involving attempted murder, identity theft, kidnapping, elder abuse, and abject villainy. By the time my mom was done for the day, and coming to pick me up, I was at least halfway through the book… but still, I worried about what people would think. Weren’t these books supposed to be for girls?
But soon that didn’t matter. I couldn’t put them down. To be honest, Nancy left the Hardy Boys in the dust. I mean, no offense to the brothers, I still liked them… but Nancy was smarter, faster, and while the Hardy Boys seemed to always be grabbing guns, Nancy never needed them. She would explore any hidden passage and enter any villain’s lair with nothing but her keen intelligence and her sheer bravery. She was that capable.
Also, the quality of her mysteries was way more consistent in quality. What was up with that? I figured that (unlike Franklin W. Dixon) Nancy’s author, Carolyn Keene, was always on point. (Little did I know that Carolyn Keene was ALSO a shared pen name used by a series of anonymous authors—in some cases the SAME authors that passed themselves off as Franklin W. Dixon!)
Day after day at the library, I read Drew after Drew. At first, I was reading the books clandestinely, hiding the cover out of sight of any passersby, hoping to avoid their judgment. But in the weeks that followed I read so many yellow-spined books that Nancy went from a guilty pleasure to an open obsession. I soon lost any inhibitions. I had become a Nancy boy and wasn’t afraid to admit it.
Then one day, the thing I’d been so worried about finally happened. A boy I knew from school was in the library and saw me with the yellow spine in my hand. “Whatcha reading?” he asked. “Nancy Drew,” I said, holding it out for him to see. I was no longer ashamed of the yellow spine, but I did worry… What if he didn’t get it? What if he didn’t understand why Nancy was cool? But he looked at the cover, shrugged, and said: “Oh yeah, I’ve read some of those.” I had been worried for no reason.
FAST FORWARD FORTY YEARS: I’m now long-since an adult, but still kind of childish. Recently a friend of mine and I, both toy collectors, decided to partner on creating an indie toy company working out of his garage. We call it “Wandering Planet Toys.” We decided to focus on retro-style toys at first, like the kinds we collected as kids. When we were brainstorming potential toy lines, it suddenly occurred to me that those old Nancy Drew covers would be perfect for retro figures. But before I pitched it to my partner, I felt that same old fear from first grade: What if he didn’t get it? What if he didn’t understand why Nancy was cool?
But, once again, I had no reason to worry. I got two sentences into my pitch before he said: “I love those books. Let’s do it!” So, we got the license from Simon & Schuster and developed a line of retro-style action figures based on classic Nancy Drew cover art. We’re crowdfunding the figures now. Nancy had nine movie shows and three TV shows, but never an official line of action figures—these will be the first!
If my first-grade self could see me now, he’d be even prouder to be a Nancy boy.
Learn more & SUPPORT the Kickstarter Campaign
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