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“The girls were ripe for a change in literature. They were way overdue for a good entertaining story that broke away from the old style of writing. I think Nancy was the character the girls were waiting for.”
The late Mildred Wirt Benson, quoted in a 1999 interview with the online magazine, Salon.
Mildred Wirt Benson came along just when girls were fed up with the stereotyped heroines who had dominated juvenile fiction for so long. Hired in 1930 to ghostwrite a new series about a female teen detective, Benson defined a character that was a striking contrast to the dull, demure heroines of the early 1900s. The feisty, sportscar-driving Nancy Drew paved the way for a new genre of series books featuring independent girls with brains and wholesomeness. Benson went on to write 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew mysteries. She was paid $125 a book, having signed away rights to royalties and personal recognition.
Historically, popular fiction has a fairly brief shelf life. But literary experts have singled out Benson as one of the few ghost writers whose work has stood the test of time, appealing to multiple generations of readers.
Music on the Show
CD Title: North by Northwest Motion Picture Soundtrack
Composer: Bernard Herrmann
Label and Year: Turner, 1995
Excerpt read by: Beth Josephsen, Department of Theatre, The Ohio State University
Listen to the NPR 820 radio feature. (MP3 - 2.7M)