“The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys” takes the reader back to the origin of the Hardy Boys Mystery Series and the Nancy Drew books. While the two series have Franklin W Dixon and Carolyn Keene listed as the authors, neither author actually exists are a person. They are both creations of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The Stratemeyer Syndicate was the “writing factory” started by Edward Stratemeyer as a means to churn out book after book in a series that he conceived of. He would contract an author to write a book with the requirement the author sign away all rights to the book and to remain anonymous. This led to the birth of Franklin W Dixon and Carolyn Keene (as well as the Tom Swift series, among others).
This book is the history and evolution of these two iconic series for children. The reader is shown how society has influenced the content of the novels, both in the language used as well as the plots. When the Hardy Boys first began in the late 1920’s and into the 30’s, there early volumes contained numerous racial stereotypes, both among the bad guys as well as the Hardys’ friends. Later editions would edit these stereotypes out. This book follows the series through their various authors as well as the change in the focus of the Syndicate after the death of Edward Stratemeyer.
One thing that the authors of this book try to do is tie both series into the society of the time (whether it is the 1930’s of the early series, the 1950’s or the 1980’s). This attempt is what I found less successful or interesting about the book. There are numerous sidebars and pictures and captions about the America’s youth during each era and how the books impacted the youth and I felt that this information was extraneous and unnecessary.
What is most interesting about this book is the evolution of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. The characters changed over the 75 years and the books continue to sell. This coverage was the best part of the book and is what I would recommend for the reader. Nothing would be lost by just skipping the sidebars. I do feel that the authors have overstated the influence of these characters, but I cannot question the popularity of the Hardys or Nancy Drew.