Nancy Drew and the Mystery of Carolyn Keene

Since my admission that I didn’t always know the difference between “Lord of the Flies” and “The Lord of the Rings,” a question has arisen: What did you read as a youngster?

That’s easy.

During my class’ weekly visits to our school library, you could either find me  perusing the burnt sienna-colored biographies that featured true-life stories of famous folk, deciding among Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books, or examining the “Nancy Drew” volumes for one I hadn’t read.

Nancy appealed to my inherent nosiness and I appreciated her fearlessness and sense of adventure. She followed the clues even if they took her behind a spiral staircase or inside a moss-covered mansion.

As far as I was concerned, Carolyn Keene wove mysteries more intricate and satisfying than anything on “Murder, She Wrote.” As I beheld the brightly-colored evidence of her prolific literary career that stood before me on the library shelves, I knew one thing: I wanted to be the next Carolyn Keene.

So, imagine my disappointment some two decades later upon learning she wasn’t a real person. The awakening occurred while reading a newspaper columnist’s tribute to the Nancy Drew series. In the column, the writer nonchalantly mentioned that Keene was a pseudonym of several ghost writers as if the detail was widely-known.

It wasn’t known by me.

Recently, a colleague and I lapsed into a conversation about our childhood reading lists. When I learned she also spent much time with Nancy, her boyfriend, Ned, and her best friend, Bess, I shared my devastation upon learning the truth about Keene.

“How could you not know?” she all but shouted. “The series began in the ’30s. How old was this Carolyn Keene person supposed to be?”

“I never thought about that,” I admitted.

And although the resolution of the mystery of Carolyn Keene’s identity once clouded my memories of the books, I now embrace the positive.

Maybe I will be the next Carolyn Keene.

“Someone She Always Has Known” is available here

and here

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