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Jennifer Fisher, a Nancy Drew expert, author, collector, and historian, sheds light on the life and work of Mildred Wirt Benson, the original ghostwriter of the Nancy Drew series. Fisher reveals how and why the original 34 Nancy Drew books, which were published beginning in the 1930s, were revised decades later—sometimes significantly. She compares the original and revised versions of The Hidden Staircase; discusses the Jennifer Fisher Collection & Portfolio at the Toledo Lucas County Public Library; considers how Mildred Wirt Benson might be considered a real-life Nancy Drew; describes the 1980 court case surrounding the rights to the Nancy Drew series; and offers tips surrounding the art of biography writing.
Laura Maylene Walter (00:00): The number of times Nancy was nearly boiled alive. Jennifer Fisher (00:04): Oh, once <laugh>. Yeah, that was an interesting book. That's one of the revisions where they changed the story completely when they revised it. Laura Maylene Walter (00:15): Welcome to Page Count, presented by the Ohio Center for the Book at Cleveland Public Library. This podcast celebrates authors, illustrators, librarians, booksellers, literary advocates and readers in and from the state of Ohio. I'm your host, Laura Maylene Walter, the Ohio Center for the Book Fellow and author of the Novel BODY OF STARS. Today we're joined by Jennifer Fisher a pre-eminent Nancy Drew, expert, author, collector, and historian who's here to discuss all things Nancy Drew. Jennifer, welcome to the podcast. Jennifer Fisher (00:50): Thanks for having me. Laura Maylene Walter (00:51): Well, we have a lot to cover, so we need to get right to it. But I usually start this podcast by asking my guest about their Ohio connection. But in this case, I would love to talk about Nancy Drew's Ohio connection. And to do that we need to start with a question that might seem simple on surface, but I know it's a little more complicated, which is who wrote all of those Nancy Drew books and how is there an Ohio connection? Jennifer Fisher (01:17): Well, there were several ghost writers for the classic Nancy Drew series, but the original ghost writer who began the series was Mildred Wirt Benson. She was from Iowa, but in her twenties she moved to Ohio with her husband. They first lived in Cleveland, so she wrote some of the early Nancy Drew books there. And then they ended up in Toledo. He worked for the Associated Press and so he kind of got transferred to Toledo. So she wrote quite a few books there in Toledo and her other books in series and went on to have a career there and lived in Toledo, Ohio for many decades. Laura Maylene Walter (01:51): That's so fascinating that she wrote early books right here in Cleveland where I'm based and where the Ohio Center for the Book is based. So a little bit later we'll be discussing one of the early books, THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE. So it sounds as though that may have been written in Cleveland. Is that right? Jennifer Fisher (02:06): Yes, yes. Laura Maylene Walter (02:06): Oh, I did not know that. That's that's great. Jennifer Fisher (02:08): Yes <laugh>. Laura Maylene Walter (02:10): Well, you are a collector of all things Nancy Drew. You are an expert. Can you tell us a bit about your personal origin story with Nancy Drew? How did this interest, how and when did it first start and what draws you to the Nancy Drew books? Jennifer Fisher (02:27): So I started reading them as a kid, like most everybody, I think I was exposed to my school library and I had a friend that read the books. And so that's where I sort of got my start. I was probably around seven or eight years old. And I think what it inspired me so much about Nancy Drew was Nancy Drew such a bold, independent kind of character. And I was kind of an independent kid. I was an only child. So I kind of resonated with that with her, I think. And you know, she had all these great adventures and she had the freedom to have all these great adventures and most kids could never dream of doing anything like that as a child. But it gave you something to aspire to and inspired you. And I think that's kind of what hooked me. Plus I loved mysteries and sort of getting, you know, to the bottom of a mystery was always fun for me. Jennifer Fisher (03:12): I was very curious child. So that's kind of how I got my start. And you know, like most readers of Nancy Drew, you know, I would get the books at the library or my mom would take me to the bookstore and you know, I just loved reading all the new books as they came out. And then I was kind of at that age where not only did I have the classic series, but in the very early, very like late 1979 and the 1980s on, we had a new publisher for Nancy Drew. They went from the hardcover style to these paperbacks with Simon and Schuster. And so the, the new paperbacks were coming out in the series, that continued on. But then there were also spinoff series that Simon and Schuster released in the mid eighties, like the Nancy Drew Files. So I had all these sort of Nancy Drew influences coming my way at the time, you know, sort of vintage yet modern. Jennifer Fisher (04:00): And so I was reading those books and then basically what started my journey into what I do now is I was off at college and I kind of left my childhood books at home. You know, I was in growing up adulting phase I suppose, you know, but I didn't get rid of my books. I went off to college, I went to law school and I went to an antique mall and discovered the 1930s Nancy Drews, which I never knew about. Cause what I had were the, you know, books in the seventies and eighties, on into the early nineties. So I had no clue that Nancy Drew went back that far. And it, so it was like a mystery in and of itself figuring out what is this book? Cause it's not like the one I read as a kid, you know, it was the original version of, I think it was THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE and it was the original version. And I had read the revised version growing up. So they're kind of a little different in places. So that just kind of got me going, wanting to get my childhood books back from my parents, bring them to where I was at and collect what I didn't have. Cause I did read a lot through the library, so I didn't have a complete set of all the hard covers. So that's just kind of what got me going into collecting. And then it just led to all of these other things. Well, Laura Maylene Walter (05:05): I definitely want to talk about the revised versions a bit later because that was really fascinating for me comparing two books. Jennifer Fisher (05:11): Yeah. Laura Maylene Walter (05:12): So, we'll, we'll get into that. But I think there's so much, I mean, even with Mildred Wirt Benson, so she was, as you said, the original ghost writer of Nancy Drew. So she really instilled in the character of Nancy Drew a lot of her personality traits, a really kind of plucky heroine. She's really bold and especially for the time that seems that it was maybe not the typical kind of female character that would be in books at the time. Can you talk a bit about that and what Mildred Wirt Benson who never really had ownership over the Nancy Drew character or books. She was hired, it was like an intellectual property kind of situation, right, where she was hired and paid a flat fee. But can you talk about her influence and how she was the one to really shape Nancy Drew? Jennifer Fisher (05:55): Yeah, so she had been working for Edward Stratemeyer for a little while writing another one of his series. He had hired her on to write the Ruth Fielding's. So when he kind of came up with the concept for Nancy Drew, you know, he had other ghost writers that wrote for him. But he had Mildred in mind for Nancy Drew because he liked the way that she wrote in particular, like for young girls and for the way she wrote. She had a lot of short stories that she had written where there was college age girls or teenagers. And he liked the way she wrote in that particular style. So he had her in mind for Nancy Drew. He wrote up an outline like he did with all his ghost writers, which he would send out to the ghostwriter. It was about two and a half typewritten pages with just the kind of the scenario of the book and the chapter outline and stuff like that. Jennifer Fisher (06:39): So she kind of got to take that concept and just breathe life into this character. And at the time, you know, girls, there were a lot of girls series books, but they didn't have a character quite like Nancy Drew. They tended to be in school or have mothers sometimes, not always, but some things would kind of tie them down to other things or domestic pursuits or other, you know, things that where they couldn't quite have the freedom like Nancy Drew had. And Millie grew up as an only child herself. Well she had an older brother, but she basically grew up having a lot of freedom. She was kind of a tomboy and she would ride around with her dad when he would go on country doctor visits. He was a doctor and they lived kind of in a rural area near Iowa City called Ladora. And so she grew up kind of having her own adventures, making her own way and not really getting opposed on it. Jennifer Fisher (07:26): You know, got to do what she wanted and loved to write. And so I think a lot of her essence of her character and herself kind of went into the character of Nancy Drew. Cause in some ways you would say that Nancy Drew's kind of like a real life, you know, Mildred Wirt Benson, was she Nancy Drew or Nancy Drew, Millie? People talk about. But you know, she kind of had that independence and boldness and zest for getting to the bottom of things. And Millie was very much the same way throughout her life. So she sort of got that chance to kInd of breathe that life into Nancy Drew, kind of make her a different kind of character, more up to date. You know, that all-American teenage slew who didn't have a mom to tie her down. And she did have a housekeeper. And eventually the housekeeper kind of came to worry wart over Nancy's adventures. But in the beginning, you know, her dad treated her like an equal kind of like Millie's father was with her. And so, you know, Nancy had all this freedom to just do things that women didn't typically do back then. And that was kind of like a breakout character for kids at the time. Laura Maylene Walter (08:27): Yeah, absolutely. I hadn't read one of the Nancy Drew books since I was a kid, but returning to it now, which was really fun by the way, I really enjoyed it. It struck me the combination of the book is so wholesome and kind of safe, even though there are some scary tense things that happen. Jennifer Fisher (08:43): Mm-hmm. Yeah. Laura Maylene Walter (08:45): It still feels very, very safe to read. And yet she is an independent girl or young woman out there solving mysteries and putting yourself in dangerous situations. So it, it does feel very progressive in that way, especially considering when the books were written. So I thought that was really fascinating. Well, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the Toledo Lucas County Public Library where your collection now resides. And I would love for you to tell our listeners a bit about your Nancy Drew collection. What have you collected over the years? Give us a sense of the breadth of this collection. Jennifer Fisher (09:26): Okay. So what I started with were just a hodgepodge set of my childhood books, which included the yellow spine picture covers that so many people are familiar with some of the paperbacks and spinoff series. And so when I discovered a vintage one in antique mall, that kind of got me to want to collect all the vintage ones. So basically in a nutshell, I kind of found this message board online of Nancy Drew fans and collectors. And I'd missed out on a lot of this collecting circle that got really popular in the eighties where they were trading books and buying through these little fanzines, like yellow back library and other similar ones. But eBay had started up in the nineties and so a lot of them were getting onto eBay. And one of the collectors told me about eBay. So that kind of opened up a lot to me because locally I could only find certain things, you know, I might use bookstores or my antique malls. Jennifer Fisher (10:18): So I was able to see all these different books and formats going back to the 1930s and forties and fifties and onward. Not to mention all the collectibles out there, collectibles based on the movies, the books, the television shows. And I had no idea so many of those existed. So it was just like a...I kind of became what you would call an anything Nancy through collector. You know, if anything that was related to Nancy Drew, I was going to collect it. But then I kind changed tack like a lot of collectors don't. In that I was so interested in history behind the series and the people that created her and the process of, you know, creating, the marketing, the advertising, the distribution, all of those aspects that lead to the finished product. So I began collecting historical things. Sometimes they would be fan letters, people would write to the Stratemeyer Syndicate or the replies from the syndicate to fans. Jennifer Fisher (11:10): I started collecting advertising like, you know, magazine catalogs or magazine advertisements, fan club memorabilia when they would send out mailers to people to join one of the different Nancy Drew fan clubs. I would collect the mailers and all the little advertisement pieces. So you had, you know, behind the scenes historical documents to, you know, the advertising and all the ways they got that to the consumer. And then the actual finished product, maybe it's a book club edition or, or some particular object that you could collect. So I could kind of tell the story basically, you know, I could see it as a lot of puzzle pieces that go into the whole history of that is Nancy Drew. So I became very interested in collecting all the pieces to tell the story. So my collection involves thousands of books in different formats. Some, it's one book, but it's different formats over the years showing how the book was changed as they printed it and published it and advertised it to modern versions of that book, you know, reprints of the book. Jennifer Fisher (12:07): So like I could have, you know, 20 or 30 copies of OLD CLOCK, for instance, the first book in the series, but in just different formats, foreign editions of that book. So I was collecting everything. So there's a huge gamut of that type of stuff with all the different books. And then there's the collectibles. So I have like games and lunchbox, lobby cards from the thirties movies, posters from the thirties movies, stills from the thirties movies. For the seventies show there was a lunchbox, there was a puzzle, there was little puzzle books. You know, there was all kinds of fun things like that. Collectibles related to the books. There was a mystery game in the fifties. There was a doll in the sixties from Mme. Alexander. So there's just so many different things. So there's hundreds of collectibles and paper ephemera, you know, advertising, fan letters, historical documents, anytime she's been discussed in a book. Jennifer Fisher (12:55): You know, there's a lot of academic books that discuss her. I have those 'gifty' style books that talk about the books and you know, nostalgic books, magazine articles over the years that have covered Nancy Drew. So it's this huge range of stuff. A lot of it tells a story. I'm still adding to it today cause there's, you know, I donated it to Toledo several years ago, donated earlier than I might normally have done that because of the timing that just came up with the situation working out well for that. So I'm still collecting for that collection in Toledo cause there's still a few things that I haven't, you know, some scarce or rare items that I'm still looking for. Laura Maylene Walter (13:33): I know you had told me that the collection that's on display in the library really represents just a piece of it and there's a lot more. But it was, I recommend to anyone in the Toledo area or passing through, go to the Toledo Lucas County Public Library. The children's section in that library is really gorgeous and your collection is in this cozy feeling room with armchairs and the wood paneling on the wall is original. There's a fireplace with this custom fireplace grate on it. There's artwork related to Nancy Drew on the walls. Some of the things, the items besides the books that I enjoyed browsing were the mystery game that you mentioned. There's small things like a spy pen, a lipstick pen, a clue ball, like a magic eight ball. But Nancy Drew branded, there's a Nancy Drew cookbook, I think it was a Norwegian board game of Nancy Drew. Is that right? Jennifer Fisher (14:27): Yes. Laura Maylene Walter (14:27): I mean it just really fun to look through and you really get the sense of, oh there have been so many spinoffs and translations and this character has just kind of taken over in every corner of the world in every way that you can imagine through the decades. So it was a great experience to go there and see it and to know that Mildred Wirt Benson, her early work is being celebrated this way in Toledo. So I think that's fantastic. Jennifer Fisher (14:52): Thank you. Laura Maylene Walter (14:53): Let's pause here so I can give you a little pop quiz on your own website. So I pulled this information from your website. It's okay if you don't have the numbers memorized. Jennifer Fisher (15:03): Okay. <laugh>. Laura Maylene Walter (15:04): But I thought it would be fun as we were thinking about Nancy Drew and all her adventures. So let's just see how you do. Can you tell me the number of times, I'm not sure if this is throughout the original run of the series, but the number of times Nancy had been kidnapped. Jennifer Fisher (15:19): Oh gosh, I know I created that list. I'm going to say... Laura Maylene Walter (15:23): You could just take a guess. Jennifer Fisher (15:24): Like ten, I can't remember. Laura Maylene Walter (15:25): Sixteen. Sixteen. Jennifer Fisher (15:26): Okay. I was six away. Laura Maylene Walter (15:26): You were in the right range. Jennifer Fisher (15:29): Yeah. Laura Maylene Walter (15:30): The number of times she was either poisoned or there was an attempted attempted poisoning on Nancy Drew. Jennifer Fisher (15:37): I was going to say two or three. Laura Maylene Walter (15:39): It was three. It was three. Very good. Jennifer Fisher (15:41): Three. Okay, there we go. Laura Maylene Walter (15:42): The number of times she was locked in a castle tower. Jennifer Fisher (15:47): Well, I can think of two offhand. I think that that come to mind. Two particular books that had castles. Laura Maylene Walter (15:53): I had one unless I got it wrong. Jennifer Fisher (15:55): Okay. Laura Maylene Walter (15:55): Just one. But she was also locked in an elevator at some point too, so maybe that's... Jennifer Fisher (16:00): Oh yeah. Blackwood Hall. Yeah. And Blackwood Hall. She was in a creepy elevator. Laura Maylene Walter (16:05): Just a few more. The number of times Nancy had been knocked unconscious. Jennifer Fisher (16:10): That's got to be a lot because that happened all the darn time. I'm going to say like 24, I don't remember my numbers on that. Laura Maylene Walter (16:16): You're close, it was nineteen. <laugh> And looking at this, it makes me worried for her health. She just keeps getting knocked unconscious. But she's tough. She's tough. Jennifer Fisher (16:23): I know. Yes she is. Laura Maylene Walter (16:26): And then finally, I just love this one. The number of times Nancy was nearly boiled alive. Jennifer Fisher (16:32): Oh, once <laugh>. Laura Maylene Walter (16:33): Yep. Jennifer Fisher (16:34): That was an interesting book. That's one of the revisions where they changed the story completely when they revised it. Laura Maylene Walter (16:40): Which book was that from Jennifer Fisher (16:42): Moss Mansion. THE MYSTERY OF THE MOSS COVERED MANSION. Yes. Laura Maylene Walter (16:45): If anyone wants to read about Nancy Drew almost getting boiled alive. Not to spoil it. Sounds like she makes it Jennifer Fisher (16:49): I know how scary. Laura Maylene Walter (16:50): Yeah. Horrifying. Jennifer Fisher (16:51): Yeah. Laura Maylene Walter (16:52): Horrifying. Well she's definitely had a lot of adventures. So let's get into this original text versus the revised text. So I learned from from your website, which I'm going to link to in the show notes, it has so much Nancy Drew information for anyone who just wants to get started on a Nancy Drew education. So in Mildred Wirt Benson's era in the thirties, the original books were, how many original books were there at the time? Jennifer Fisher (17:18): The first 34 books. Laura Maylene Walter (17:18): 34. 34. And Mildred wrote how many of those? Jennifer Fisher (17:22): So she wrote 23 of the first 30. So yeah, 23 of those. Laura Maylene Walter (17:27): So she wrote the bulk of them. Jennifer Fisher (17:28): Yeah. Laura Maylene Walter (17:29): So they were published in thirties, beginning in 1930 and then later in the fifties through the seventies they were revised. And your website pointed out very helpfully that you could tell it's the original text if it has 25 chapters. Later, they were shortened to 20 chapters. Can you tell us why all of them were revised and shortened? What was the thinking behind that? Jennifer Fisher (17:53): So there's a lot of different theories about that, but the business records that are now at the New York Public Library in the Manuscripts and Archives Division where they have the Stratemeyer Syndicate files, kind of revealed what was going on back then. And what happened was the publisher decided...well there was a couple of factors. One, it's cheaper to produce a 20 chapter book text than 25 chapters. So it was a cost factor and then also it was a printing plate issue. The old printing plates and the process of printing were changing, but the old plates were kind of wearing out and it was easier while they were transitioning to the new style to just shorten and make the changes. And so it became a printing plate issue and then of course an economic issue. And then as a consequence of that, they were able to update the books and you know, like in the original of BROKEN LOCKET, it dealt with these children, but adoption issues had changed and you know, child issues had changed since that book was written. Jennifer Fisher (18:52): So they just kind of made it up a different story in the revised version. For some issues, they made inconsequential changes, like they would change a character's name and to the reader, why does it matter? Why didn't you change it to this name? But there were little, little things like that that don't seem to be much of consequence. But they also were able to remove like ethnic and racial stereotypes, change outdated language. Like you know, in the early books they would talk about electric lights. Like that was a great novelty. Well by the fifties through the seventies that wasn't any big deal anymore. You know, most people had that. So slang and outdated language got updated, stuff like that. Some of the books became all new stories. So the original version is a completely different story than the revised that was only a few. Jennifer Fisher (19:35): Most of them was the same story just cut down. Also children's attention spans were changing. So that was another factor kind of to throw in there so they could make a more rapid pace by shortening the length of them. So it kind of made them less descriptive and flowy and more fast paced and action oriented in some places. So basically they went to the Syndicate and kind of told them this is what we're going to do. We're going to revise these books. So it became this big project and took them nearly 20 years to do the first 34. And at first they started kind of right at the beginning of the series and changed and then it just became haphazard after that kind of depended on the printing plates and the quality that the originals were in. And as they were wearing out they would get that book and and revise that book. Laura Maylene Walter (20:18): Well for this podcast you and I decided that we would read or I would read THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE, which is the second book that Mildred Wirt Benson wrote for the series. I checked in here at Cleveland Public Library in our Special Collections department. We had a few Nancy Drew books with the copyright of 1930, including THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE. So I went to special collections, shout out to Special Collections <laugh>, and I read THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE with the copyright of 1930. It had the 25 chapters, it was the original text, it was, I believe the actual edition that we have here was published later than 1930. The first thing that tipped me off was the dust jacket was advertising later Nancy Drew books, which wouldn't be possible if it was an original edition. And I learned that from your website as well, that if you have a Nancy Drew book on your shelf that says 1930, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the original, that they didn't change the copyright unless the text changed. Is that correct? Jennifer Fisher (21:13): Yes. Laura Maylene Walter (21:14): So I read the original version first. Had a great time and I did think, well the revised version has five fewer chapters. It's probably, you know, not very different. I could see where they would trim some things and maybe move some chapters together and trim and it's probably not that different. So I almost didn't read it until thankfully I compared at first just the chapter names of both books and I was shocked they were completely different. I read the revised version and it is so different. It has the basic skeleton of the plot and most of the characters, but even the characters are a bit changed. So I was really, really surprised that the book was so changed. So tell me what your thoughts are on this. Do die hard Nancy Drew fans, do you prefer one to the other or how do you feel about the revised editions? Jennifer Fisher (22:04): Our fan group has such a mix of people of all different ages and and types of people. But I think a lot of people when they read both versions, if they have the ability to do that, they have both of them. They realize the writing quality is way better in the original version. It's just hands down better quality the way there's the length of the space to get it descriptive and flowy and really get into the suspense and the characters brings out a better mystery. I think the original version has more of that old time kind of gothic suspense and melodrama that you don't quite get out of the revised version cause it's choppier. And you know, there's places where they copy whole sentences and whole paragraphs in part. Some are shortened, you know, so a lot of the original gets into the revised in pieces in the revised. They add Willie Wharton who's not in the original. They change up that aspect of the plot a little bit. So there definitely are differences. They've changed names, you know, Nathan Gombet and Gomber, I mean they changed his last name. So you know, there's all those little changes. I prefer to read the original version but I still love the revised cause that's what I grew up reading. So it's just nostalgic to me. I like them both. I think the original flows better overall. Laura Maylene Walter (23:16): Can you for our listeners give a quick synopsis of THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE and it could be either version or kind of an amalgam of both. Jennifer Fisher (23:23): Maybe it'll be an amalgam. Laura Maylene Walter (23:25): <laugh> Jennifer Fisher (23:25): Yeah, so basically you have the Turnbull sisters who are living in this mansion as property on the outskirts of River Heights. And suddenly their place seems to be haunted as often happened in these stories back then. And sort of Nancy gets brought in to kind of figure out who's haunting the house. You know, she's a skeptic, she doesn't really believe in ghosts throughout the series with minor exceptions. So she's there trying to figure out what's going on and at the same time there's this man, Gombet/Gomber, who's kind of threatening the Drew house about what's going on with the railroad and property development and that's kind of the background. So then you start to see as the reader that there's something going on that's tied into the house and the land. There's also a house nearby that is connected with this home, goes back to a family and people that lived and there's like a passageway that connects them where you kind of find the hidden staircase that she stumbles upon throughout the mystery. Jennifer Fisher (24:19): And the revised version. We have Willie Wharton in this character that's sort of like the henchman for Gomber. Her father Carson gets kidnapped at one point in the mystery and Nancy not only has to find out what's going on with this house and who's haunting it, also what's happened to her father. And that kind of becomes the crux for kind of solving, you know, this mystery. And what's so neat about this mystery is the house. It's one of those mysteries, it's always been one of my favorites because of the spooky old house, the haunting, the secret passageways, the hidden staircase, all those trappings of a good gothic suspenseful mystery, which I always love. I get drawn to the spookier mysteries or the ones that have like those detective trappings, like the secret passageways and you know, her kind of sleuthing around with her flashlight and the cover art was always fun for me as a kid. I always enjoyed seeing her on the staircase with her flashlight. Laura Maylene Walter (25:08): Yeah, the original version especially I love the descriptions of the house, it's this giant crumbling kind of gothic feeling house and definitely has a haunted feel even if you're like Nancy and don't believe in ghosts, <laugh>. It was really fun. And when I thought about the two different versions, I realized the original was actually a lot scarier in the sense that from the beginning, Nathan Gomber Gombet, he is much more threatening and terrifying really. He basically breaks into her house. Jennifer Fisher (25:36): Yeah. Laura Maylene Walter (25:36): And threatens to steal things kind of alludes to the fact that he'll hurt her. That is all gone in the revised version. And importantly in the revised version, Nancy is staying in the house and exploring it along with her friend Helen, where in the original Nancy is just on her own. I mean she ends up exploring these passageways on her own, which sounded really terrifying to me. So I thought that was interesting that the revised version almost makes it a little safer for her. It didn't feel as scary. Jennifer Fisher (26:04): It does. When they revised the books, they almost made her world a little safer than it was in these originals. They kind of tightened all that down to where it was a little more safe and saying, you know. Laura Maylene Walter (26:16): Yeah, the cover art of the version of the original that I read was a different cover. So it wasn't Nancy with the flashlight on the staircase. It's Nancy looking into a passageway with the two older women, the sisters. Jennifer Fisher (26:28): Oh, yes. Laura Maylene Walter (26:28): And I really laughed at one point in the original, one of the signifiers, I think of a change of times, which is the women are sisters in the original and they're described as, they seem like very older women, you know, pretty old. And the cover art shows them with like short gray, curly hair. They look to me at least in their seventies at least. And it was so funny at one point in the original, it's pointed out that these sisters are nearly thirty years older than Nancy who's like sixteen. So they're only in their forties <laugh>. Which just makes me laugh. I know there's a lot of things that go on with cover art, not matching, but it was really funny to me because to me they were described as being so elderly and they're only in their forties, but in the revised version they are older. Rosemary is the great aunt of Nancy's friend and the other character's name changes slightly and is actually Rosemary's mother, so she actually is elderly. So I thought that was maybe they kind of matched up my expectations by making them older. So. Jennifer Fisher (27:28): I think so it is funny when you read the original and they sound so spinsterly, but they're not old. And I don't know if it has to do with, you know, in our modern day right now, lifespans have changed. Laura Maylene Walter (27:40): Oh yeah. Jennifer Fisher (27:40): People living a lot longer, but even back then, it's hard to believe that someone in their forties would look like that. You know, it's just, yeah, it's the juxtaposition of that is weird. Laura Maylene Walter (27:50): I think definitely in their forties, if they had never married they would be, you know, kind of culturally considered older spinsters. Right. Jennifer Fisher (27:59): Yes. Laura Maylene Walter (28:00): So I felt very grateful to be in our time now where you can pretend you're a kid as you're aging the whole time. Aa some of us might be doing. Jennifer Fisher (28:09): Mm-hmm. Laura Maylene Walter (28:09): A few other fun. I think signifiers of the time were in the original version, you know, telegrams are really the way that you can communicate quickly with someone. And at one point Nancy goes to the town and she goes to this corner drug store, the corner drug store, and then she like goes down a few doors to the telegram office or the telegraph office. It was so striking to think that that is how the times would be that you would have these cornered drug stores. So I found that really charming actually. And her father travels by train in the original and I think in the revised he goes to an airport. So that was just kind of fun to think about. It's like a time capsule I guess. Jennifer Fisher (28:46): It is, it is. And I think that's the fun of reading those original versions. It's just getting a sense of what life was like back then. Laura Maylene Walter (28:53): Yeah. Jennifer Fisher (28:53): You know, to a degree. I mean they didn't try to date their books but, Laura Maylene Walter (28:56): Yeah. Jennifer Fisher (28:56): But the trains, the Telegraph offices, all of those little things, it's fun to see kind of how people lived at that time. Laura Maylene Walter (29:03): It made me laugh for Nancy in the original, she goes to stay at this house with these two sisters in the original cause she's, you know, trying to solve the mystery and their evenings are described. It's so charming but kind of awkward that they have no evening paper, they have no radio. So in the evenings they just kind of sit around in the parlor, like staring at each other I guess <laugh>. Jennifer Fisher (29:25): Entertaining themselves. Yes. Laura Maylene Walter (29:27): Yeah. It's a very different time. Mm-hmm. Jennifer Fisher (29:30): Yeah. I mean, and then I think it was the revised version where they kind of dress up in the costumes. Laura Maylene Walter (29:36): Yes! Jennifer Fisher (29:37): Yeah. And kind of put on this little show. Laura Maylene Walter (29:39): Yeah. Jennifer Fisher (29:39): You know, to entertain everybody. That was sort of funny. Laura Maylene Walter (29:41): It was funny. And that was a moment when I was reading the revised version when I just thought, okay, I am not in Kansas anymore. This book is a totally different book. Nancy's crawling out on the roof in the revised version. Totally different. Laura Maylene Walter (29:53): Is there a record of who wrote the revised versions? Jennifer Fisher (29:56): There is, I'm trying to think, I think I have that on my website in the format section. Laura Maylene Walter (30:01): Okay. Jennifer Fisher (30:01): I think I have some of that in there. But you know, the syndicate, some of them did, like Harriet did some of that, some of it, the staff kind of all worked on them and they hired different people to help with the cut downs cause that was a lot. They were doing it at the same time they were writing the regular books that were being published at the time. So yeah, it came this huge sort of project for her and the staff trying to deal with this. I think in some ways she didn't really welcome having to do all this, all this extra work. But at the same time, you know, Grosset was trying to kind of bring Nancy into the modern era to save a little money and deal with the printing plate issues. Laura Maylene Walter (30:35): But Mildred Wirt Benson wasn't involved in rewriting this book. I didn't think so. Jennifer Fisher (30:39): No, no. Laura Maylene Walter (30:39): I didn't get the sense that she was, yeah, Jennifer Fisher (30:42): No. In fact, when she testified in the trial that comes later in Nancy's history in 1980, she said, you know, when they revised them they took the spice out of them. Laura Maylene Walter (30:51): Yeah. Yeah. Jennifer Fisher (30:51): That's how she felt. And they really did. They just, they're not the same. Laura Maylene Walter (30:55): Well we'll get to that trial in a second cause I definitely want to ask about that. Jennifer Fisher (30:58): Okay. Laura Maylene Walter (30:58): But I will say I agree the revised version is just not the same. I will say though, there was a character in the original version, you know, a book of its time that was very uncomfortable and it was Nathan's maid, who is a Black woman, and she is really described in every unflattering term you can. That she's vicious, that she's mean, that she's cruel, she's slovenly. At one point, Nancy, I think it's the first time Nancy sees her through a window and she only sees the woman's back while the woman's washing dishes. And Nancy is thinking like that's the most vicious creature I've ever seen. And I'm thinking, Nancy, how do you know that, Nancy? Like how do you know? And she's just an employee of this villain. Right. So I was really curious when I started reading the revised, because I knew that sometimes maybe racial stereotypes were removed from the revisions and I was hoping that character would either not be there... Jennifer Fisher (31:51): They just kind of wrote her out. Yeah. Laura Maylene Walter (31:52): Yeah. She was written out and I think I saw that coming when I realized, oh this is actually a very different book in general. Jennifer Fisher (31:58): Yeah. She was kind of caught up with Nathan Gomber kind of, I wouldn't call her his henchman. New Speaker (32:02): Yeah. Jennifer Fisher (32:03): But she was kind of helping him do what he was doing to a degree and keeping people from coming in the house. And I don't want to spoil that part of the book, but something that was in the house, you know? Laura Maylene Walter (32:13): Yeah. Jennifer Fisher (32:13): Helping him do what he was doing in that house. But at the same time, those kind of depictions are so uncomfortable for people today cause we're thinking with our current mentality. But back then, you know, all unfortunately a lot of the series books and books for adults kind of had those sorts of stereotypes in them. I know that Mildred wasn't the most comfortable with some of that stuff and the dialect, she wasn't comfortable with that. Her husband helped her write the dialect. Laura Maylene Walter (32:38): Oh really? Jennifer Fisher (32:39): Parts of those early books. Yeah. You know, Stratemeyer was only around for the first three books that came out and then he helped outline and worked on the fourth book and then he passed away, when he had pneumonia. So his particular books tend to have the worst instances of those kind of stereotypes. And some of that was in the outline and we've seen the first three outlines, we've not seen the fourth, but the first three are sort of circulating out there a little bit and the dialect is in the outline. And so she kind of had to struggle with that a bit. Laura Maylene Walter (33:09): So yeah, it wasn't always her choice. Jennifer Fisher (33:10): It's hard to say totally. But I know she talked about that at one point and her husband kind of had to help her with the dialect part cause that wasn't really her thing. So, yeah, Laura Maylene Walter (33:21): Yeah. No, that's interesting. Another moment in a similar scene that it was hard not to read through today's, modern, 2023 lens, the police in the first book, they come, won't try to spoil too much, but basically they come to help Nancy and at first one reveals that he's a friend of Nathan who was the villain. Right. And he seems unwilling to help Nancy the moment she reveals that her father is a lawyer, the police officer just says, oh well you're the daughter of a lawyer that changes everything. We'll help you now <laugh>. And then, so it's like, okay, that sounds about right. And then there was a scene that it may be so uncomfortable, but the police see the, the maid, the Black woman, and there's a discussion of if they should raise their guns toward her. And one of the police officers says, no we can't risk shooting her, you know, at all. And the other cop is like, yes, that's great. Yeah we can't risk that. And I thought, oh okay. It was sort of like the tension that was holding in my body kind of deflated. Jennifer Fisher (34:16): Oh, I know, I know. Cause this is a children's book, right? I mean that's yeah, I know. Laura Maylene Walter (34:20): Right, right. But yeah, reading about the police was, was interesting. And they take on, I would say a different role in the revised version, as we said. Jennifer Fisher (34:26): Yes. Laura Maylene Walter (34:26): Everything seems a bit safer in the revised version and the police are generally much friendlier and more helpful in the revised. Jennifer Fisher (34:35): Well and Nancy's more kind of on board with police and respectful to them in the revised or the later books that are published. In the thirties Nancy sometimes is more distrustful of the police or thinks they're bumbling and they can't Laura Maylene Walter (34:48): They are, yeah. Jennifer Fisher (34:48): And sometimes they are as depicted in the stories. She's out there busting the police and doing what they can't seem to do. But yeah, so she can be kind of brash and blunt and maybe less respectful with them as she is in later stories and revised versions. Laura Maylene Walter (35:03): Well I think one last thing I want to say about the difference between the revision and the original is in the original, the two women in the house are sisters and one is named Floretta, which I think is such a beautiful name. And then it's changed to Miss Flora in the revised. So I don't know why they had to, why did they do that? Why did they have to do that? Jennifer Fisher (35:21): I know there's so many little name changes. I don't know if Floretta would just, they thought it was too old fashioned. Maybe. Maybe. Or, I mean there's even like if you just talk about THE OLD CLOCK, the first book, they changed the name of a bank. I mean one was like Merchants Trust and I can't remember the other name. They just changed the name of the bank and you're like, why would anybody care about the bank's name? But whoever was revising just changed it. There's a lot of little things that don't always make sense when you compare the two versions. Laura Maylene Walter (35:49): Yeah, it's interesting. Jennifer Fisher (35:49): Maybe just the one cutting it down didn't like that name and have decided to change it a little bit. Laura Maylene Walter (35:55): Well, I will say it was very enjoyable to read both of these books. And now that I know about the originals, I might try to seek out more of the originals and read them cause it is such a different experience I would say. But you mentioned the trial in 1980. Can you talk about that? What was that about? I don't know too much about this. And how was Mildred Wirt Benson involved? Jennifer Fisher (36:16): So the trial is kind of, this melodrama sort of turns up. Basically, you know, Nancy Drew had been published by Grossett & Dunlap since the beginning. And so we're talking 1930 to 1979 and the first 56 books. And they had always, you know, worked with the syndicate. They'd had a contract with them. Over time, Harriet at the syndicate wasn't as happy with royalty payments and other little factors like for instance, Grossett and Dunlap wasn't planning to do anything big for Nancy's big 50th anniversary in 1980. But Simon & Schuster kind of had been courting the syndicate and trying to sort of publish the books and offered to have this big grand party for the 50th anniversary. And there were little, you know, carrot sticks dangling there and kind of enticing Harriet to switch publishers. So it was a factor of things like that. Royalties that hadn't risen over time, like they should have. Jennifer Fisher (37:11): As you know, time changed, money became different than it was in 1930 and there were things that just hadn't changed that should have. She tried to sort of stick with Grossett cause she was pretty loyal. That was the company her father started with. So at any rate, Simon & Schuster, they switched publishers and I don't know that they really informed Grossett effectively or they didn't really think it was going to happen. But in 1979, book number 57 was published, not by Grossett but by Simon & Schuster. And so Grossett finds out and they're like, wait a minute, you know, we're the publisher here. So they decide to sue Simon & Schuster, their parent company Gulf+Western and the Stratemeyer Syndicate. So they filed suit, trying to establish copyright on the books basically kind of cause you know, as the publisher, they had provided the artwork for the books and they were kind of trying to get in the door on that angle and some other legal angles, and prove that they kind of were the copyright owner and so they could continue publishing all these new books instead of Simon & Schuster. Jennifer Fisher (38:10): So it went to federal district court and Millie at the time had been talking with Grossett & Dunlap about her Penny Parker series. You know, she wrote some books for the syndicate, the Nancy Drew series, some other books. But she also had her own books in series and she had had a series called Penny Parker, which was really her favorite. Even over Nancy Drew, she called Penny a better Nancy Drew than Nancy Drew was. Penny was like this sleuth whose father had owned a newspaper and she was kind of a journalist. It ran from the late 1930s into the 40s and a short series of books. But anyhow, through different changes of publishers that originally published those books, it ended up being absorbed by Grossett & Dunlap. They had acquired the properties cause it started out as a totally different publisher and then ended up being purchased through different routes into Grossett & Dunlap. Jennifer Fisher (38:59): So they're looking at Penny Parker as a possible replacement for Nancy Drew if they lose this lawsuit cause they need something to compete and they want to revise the Penny Parker series. So they've been talking to Millie about revising the first four books, kind of bringing them up to date with modern times. And so Millie's working on that with them. And then she goes, well you know, I wrote the original Nancy Drew books and then oh, light bulbs go off at Grossett. Said, wait a minute, we can use her in the lawsuit to help establish our copyright and ownership of this series. So anyhow, they bring Millie to New York to testify for them and she gets on the witness stand and the whole story of what she did all those years kind of comes out. It doesn't get widely publicized though. There was a lot of fans behind the scenes over the years that worked, get her recognition for being the original Carolyn Keene. Jennifer Fisher (39:49): And she did in effect through this trial because it was on the record, but again, not widely publicized anywhere around the country. So that's kind of what happened with the trial. She came in to testify and the man who kind of discovered her, Geoffrey Lapin in the 60s was there and Harriet Adams sort of came right in front of Millie and was like, oh, I thought you were dead <laugh>. You know, it was this big drama. But anyhow, on the stand they basically proved that she had written all those books and showed the releases she signed and you know, proving that she wrote them. But it didn't really make any difference at the end of the trial. The outcome of this, just to make in a nutshell was that Grossett didn't get copyright over the books. It didn't work out for them, but they got the right to continue publishing all the books they had already published so they could keep reprinting the first 56. Simon & Schuster got to do anything new and whatever they wanted to do in the future. So that's sort of how it worked out. Laura Maylene Walter (40:46): You know so much about Mildred Wirt Benson and you're working on a biography about her, is that right? Jennifer Fisher (40:52): Yes. Laura Maylene Walter (40:53): Is there anything you would like to share with us about just the process of working on this biography? What has your process been? Where are you in the process? What have you found the most challenging and the most rewarding so far? Jennifer Fisher (41:05): Oh goodness. This could be quite a story <laugh>. So I started being interested in writing about her when I first met her. I was able to meet her the year before she passed away in 2001 few members of our Nancy Drew Sleuths Fan Group went to Toledo and got to meet her at the Blade. She kind of had us in the conference room. We talked to her, she signed people's books. It was about twelve of us. So I got to meet her in person, which, you know, who would think she's still alive and 95 and working still for a living at the Blade writing, you know, her column. That's amazing in and of itself. And I think that was so inspiring seeing this woman on the go who's still sharp as a tack and who's still, you know, loving what she's doing and getting to write still, which was always her great love. Jennifer Fisher (41:50): So that was inspiring, you know, and I just kind of percolated in my mind that there was more to her and she kind of indicated, you know, her legacy will always be Nancy Drew, but that was a small part of her life in the grand scheme of things. In some ways she had a lot more things she did in her life and she kind of became even more of a real life Nancy Drew after she quit writing the books with all these adventures she had. And so, so much of that was so fascinating to me that I thought it would be great to be able to tell the complete story. Not just her involvement with Nancy Drew, but her whole life kind of as a real life Nancy Drew. Here and there I would start to research, there's so much research in different areas of the country, but I couldn't just afford to go start writing this, you know? Jennifer Fisher (42:31): So as we would have a convention here or travel here, I would get to New York for some reason, like being on the Today Show or something. Then I would go to the New York Public Library and I would do as much research as I could. Cause there's 300 and some odd boxes there of stuff, very info dense material. And so I would just over time start gathering research. You know, I knew I wanted to write it, but I wasn't in a rush. She died the next year and then her daughter wasn't exactly interested in talking to people a lot. She was very different. I think she was proud of her mom, but she wasn't that into all of this stuff in the history and she just was more private. So trying to get at the personal side of Millie was kind of hard because Millie was very businesslike and you know, she didn't like to talk about her personal life a lot. Jennifer Fisher (43:17): And so trying to access that aspect of it has been interesting. There have been people in the collecting world who have things that they hoard, let's say, vintage documents, vintage letters and things that would be a great consequence for this to be able to be brought out and researched and talked about. But they hoard it or they don't tell people they have it and they don't admit that they have it. There's research out there that I need that I can't really get to, which is frustrating. There have been, at one point there was a rumor that Millie wrote an autobiography about herself. She never did complete it as it turns out, but there was a eccentric person who drew me a map of where I might could find it in her house. Laura Maylene Walter (43:59): Oh, like a mystery <laugh>. Jennifer Fisher (44:00): In a upstairs hidden closet at the back in a paper bag, you know, and her daughter could never find it. The family didn't find it after she passed and the daughter passed. Jennifer Fisher (44:07): So it was all likely a rumor. Anyhow, there was all these letters that came to me in the recent few years from her and her daughter that have really opened up the personal side to Millie and kind of giving me a great aspect of what a wonderful woman she was, but what a tenacious woman she was and what an independent woman she was even more so. And just finding more about her adventures, you know, in her later years, you know, starting in the sixties, she was taking all these trips down to Central America to check out Mayan sites that were just being opened up by archeologists that weren't really touristy at the time. And she was going down rivers with Indians and dugout canoes and scrambling through the brush, you know, making her way to these sites and hung her hammock in a Mayan temple one night and just spent the night in this temple. Jennifer Fisher (44:57): I mean, these are the kinds of adventures you think of. Oh, Nancy Drew, you know, solving a mystery. But no, she got herself kidnapped down there. Laura Maylene Walter (45:04): Really? Jennifer Fisher (45:05): And managed to kind of think, what would Nancy Drew do? I wrote this character! Got herself out of the situation and escaped and I'm just still piecing together what happened then. And that incident, there was a, I think, you know, she kind of ran scared from that over the years for a while. But she allowed this myth of it to be that oh, she was mistaken for an Indian princess in Canada. Laura Maylene Walter (45:27): Oh my goodness. No. Jennifer Fisher (45:28): Which never, never made any sense to me. But you know, that she just kind of let this legend take over and then kind of cover up what really happened. But apparently there might have been some corruption going on down there. And she stumbled into it. Nancy Drew style, she was a journalist too. So I think people knowing she was a journalist, sort of concerned about her and maybe were keeping her somewhere to figure out what she was there for. And what she was really there for was just for the like experience, the archeology aspect of it and just learning more about the Mayans. It had nothing to do with being a journalist or you know, but at any rate there's a lot to that. But it was really fascinating to kind of come up with her notebook that she talks about what happened. But this kind of spurred her going back on many more trips to kind of figure out what happened to her and what was going on. And nobody knew about that, you know? So that was sort of this Nancy Drew side, and then she decided to become a pilot. Jennifer Fisher (46:22): She didn't ever fly herself down to these sites. She usually took a charter plane of some sort, but all over the United States, she flew her plane. She would go to fly-ins, she tangled with tornadoes, she would get herself into scrapes up in the air. One time she crashed her plane when it landed just slightly, but then dragged it off the runway before anybody could know. She didn't want the FAA involved <laugh> she just, you know, she was just an amazing woman in what she did. She flew into her, I guess her eighties, she was still flying till her eyesight became bad. And it kind of grounded her. But yeah, so she had all these adventures and so that's what's been so fascinating to me. There's all these characters in the Nancy Drew world, some that knew her, some that act like they know her, they have little stories and little legends, you know, to tell. Jennifer Fisher (47:12): And some of it doesn't pan out. I mean, you actually look at the facts and the research and her personal letters and things like that, but there's people that hoard information that you need as a writer to help kind of open things up. Because what the New York Public Library has, there are things missing there. There are gaps in some of the early letters and somebody has that. It's likely that it just didn't all make it to Simon & Schuster when they sold the business after the trial to Simon & Schuster. They sold the Syndicate in the mid-80s. So somebody has some of that stuff and I think Millie had some copies of some of that stuff and now somebody has that. It's just, it's frustrating not to be able to get at that, cause it would sort of help explain some of thhe stuff going on when she was writing those first few books. Laura Maylene Walter (47:56): That is so fascinating. I would read this so quickly <laugh>. So in the future when it's out, I am absolutely going to be one of your first readers. That sounds amazing. Jennifer Fisher (48:06): Thank you. Laura Maylene Walter (48:07): I would also watch a documentary about Nancy Drew fans. A hundred percent. That doesn't exist, does it? I would watch that <laugh>. Jennifer Fisher (48:14): No, no. There have been people wanting to do documentaries and kind of working on the process. I don't know how that'll all work out, but I'm hoping that eventually somebody does get one made cause I think that would be so neat just to hear perspective from all the fans, all the different generations and learn more about Nancy Drew and bring out her history for fans to learn about. Because you know, there's so many people that were involved in the production of these books from Edward Stratemeyer to his assistant at the Syndicate, Harriet Otis Smith to his daughters, Edna, especially early on, and Harriet that took over when he died. They were in the middle of the Great Depression and had this company and didn't know what to do with it. At first they tried to sell it but couldn't find a buyer cause it was the depression. Jennifer Fisher (48:54): They just kind of dug in and decided, you know, we're going to run our father's company. And two women in a male-dominated publishing industry at the time was kind of unheard of. And they managed to keep the Syndicate running from 1930 to 1984 when Harriet had already passed away. But the partners that were remaining in the family sold it to Simon & Schuster. But for many decades she kept her father's legacy going. And then illustrators, the publishers, all the people involved in kind of bringing Nancy Drew to life. I kind of call them the Drew team. So dream team, but so many interesting aspects to her history. Laura Maylene Walter (49:27): Absolutely. Well we should start to wrap up, but I have a few quick final questions. First, we have a lot of writers who listen to this podcast, so I'm wondering, you're a writer yourself, you're working on this biography. Do you have any advice that you have either gleaned from your work on this biography or from all the Nancy Drew books that you have read, anything you'd like to pass along to writers? Any tips or things they can do in their craft? Jennifer Fisher (49:52): Well I think first and foremost and something that I struggled to do at first because I was just overwhelmed by so much of the research, it's definitely a good working outline but also a timeline. That's the biggest help for me was starting to create a timeline of everything. She did so many different things and there was so many overlapping periods with different things. Creating a really solid timeline over the time period that she lived and all the things she did really helped put some things in perspective. So if that applies to what someone's doing, that really, really helps just to be able to refer to also making it interesting. I mean, what I'm trying to do in writing this is sort of make it suspenseful like a Nancy Drew mystery because most of the people that are going to read this biography are probably going to be Nancy Drew fans. Jennifer Fisher (50:35): You know, then you'll just have in general other fans that come on board for different reasons. But making it suspenseful, having cliffhangers, drawing the reader into the story. I kind of start out at the beginning of this book, where she's been kidnapped and what would Nancy Drew do and then it Laura Maylene Walter (50:51): Yeah. Jennifer Fisher (50:51): Rushes back to the beginning of her life and then builds forward again. It's kind of my direction and that just seemed the logical way to do it. And when I found, and that's another funny story, when I found notes that she had put together kind of an outline of sorts to do an autobiography though she never actually wrote it. She started out her autobiography the same way with her action being in the middle of that scene and I couldn't believe it. I was like, I can't believe that. Cause that's what I thought was perfect just to start out with that and go back and then come forward. So she had done the same thing in her outline. So that told me I was kind of on the right track I think. But yeah, I think that it's a good way to also bring in sort of, you know, it's not historical fiction, it's a biography, but to bring in sort of some of the Nancy Drew into the book a little bit. So those are some fun ways to make it more interesting for the reader I think and draw them in. Laura Maylene Walter (51:40): That is very good advice instead of just starting with the day she was born and moving forward. Jennifer Fisher (51:44): Yes. Yes. Laura Maylene Walter (51:44): Yeah, making it more active. Definitely. Well if someone is new to Nancy Drew, either they have never read Nancy Drew or maybe not since they were a child. Do you have a recommendation of where they might want to start? Is there a certain book you would recommend or even a TV or film adaptation that you particularly like? What would you recommend? Jennifer Fisher (52:04): So what I would recommend, I mean the modern books are all fine. They're not as suspenseful or mysterious as these older books, the vintage books. So I kind of recommend starting with the vintage books and just seeing how it goes. You don't have to read them in order, although I still like to read things in order, but you can mess around with the Nancy Drew series cause they don't necessarily continue. So I would pick some of the Nancy Drew books based on the child's interests. So if they like kind of spooky things or spooky mysteries like THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE or THE SECRET IN THE OLD ATTIC is another really spooky one. Start with a spooky one cause that kind of hooks them. If they're really into certain types of themes, like horses, you know, SHADOW RANCH and, and she's on a ranch and riding horses if you know they like circuses Jennifer Fisher (52:46): There's THE RINGMASTER'S SECRET that's sort of set partly at a circus. If they like to travel and go to other countries, some of the Nancy Drew books were travel logs where she went to other countries and he'd get a little bit of sprinklings of tidbits of history and culture where she's traveling little factoids throughout the mystery, kind of giving the kids some information on the country she's in. So you know, you could start with something like that. There's all kinds of fun things. Or one last thing if you like to travel and want to kind of follow in Nancy's footsteps like we do at our conventions, you can pick a book where it's set in a real life place like so THE HAUNTED SHOWBOAT is set in the New Orleans area, so if you wanted to travel to New Orleans you could follow in Nancy's footsteps and do stuff she did in the book. Cause I do add in touristy things and little stuff that Nancy Drew does. So those are kind of fun. You can make them interactive that way. Laura Maylene Walter (53:34): How easy or difficult is it in general to get your hands on the original versions? Like if you go into a bookstore, it's going to be the revised versions. Jennifer Fisher (53:44): Correct. Laura Maylene Walter (53:44): So is it just searching online or are they easily labeled? Do you have any tips for how people can find the originals? Jennifer Fisher (53:50): Yeah, so for finding one of the originals of the first 34 books, if it's 25 chapters, you have the original. If it's 20, you have the revised. Going to your local bookstore it's definitely going to be hit and miss probably. Mostly it'll be the revised versions or the little flashlight style picture covers that are modern reprints. My best bet is to go on a site like eBay because you can find everything there. We just need to check with the seller and make sure it is the original version. Some of us, cause we've collected these books and we know the formats we can tell by the book if that's going to be the original or the revised version based on a cover art or one of the formats the book is in. Not everybody knows how to do that though, so my best bet is to make sure that the copyright dates are between 1930 and 1956. If the seller lists or shows that for the first 34 and then the 25 chapters versus 20, we can always contact the seller to verify how many chapters it has just to make sure if you want to get the originals and then Applewood books reprinted the first 21 books and you can find reprints. If you find an Applewood books reprint, it's going to be the original version and you can find quite a few of those on eBay too. Laura Maylene Walter (54:58): Great, that's so helpful, thank you. Well finally, can you tell our listeners where to find you online and some of your Nancy Drew information online? Jennifer Fisher (55:07): Okay, so you can find me at nancydrewsleuth.com and our fan group at nancydrewfans.com. You can also find us on Facebook; our most popular group there is Nancy Drew Book Fans. So you can just search that and find our group. We like to talk about the books there and all sorts of Nancy Drew stuff...collecting. And then we have a book club on there if you want to join in and discuss the books. It's Nancy Drew Book Club. If you search that at Facebook, we have even a book sale group called Nancy Drew Book Sale where fans can sell to each other. All these vintage books or modern books. Anything goes Nancy Drew related. So if you have books to sell or want to find books, you can also check that out. Laura Maylene Walter (55:47): Wonderful. Well Jennifer, thank you so much for your time today. This was really fun. I could probably talk to you about Nancy Drew for two more hours, but our time is up <laugh>, but thank you so much. This was fun and I will send you good writerly vibes for that biography. But thank you so much for being here today. Jennifer Fisher (56:06): Thanks so much for having me. I enjoyed it. Laura Maylene Walter (56:11): Page Count is presented by the Ohio Center for the book at Cleveland Public Library. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate, and leave a review for Page Count wherever you get your podcast. Learn more online or find a transcript of this episode at Ohiocenterforthebook.org. Follow us on Twitter @cplocfb or find us on Facebook. If you'd like to get in touch, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put "podcast" in the subject line. Finally, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @LauraMaylene. Thanks for listening and we'll be back in two weeks for another chapter of Page Count.
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