My thanks to NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for a review copy of this book.
Inmiddle school at one point my entire (almost, anyway) reading comprised ofNancy Drew. The library that I went to back then had all the different series–theoriginal books, the files, even the Dana Girls books, and I would issue acouple (or more) each time I went. As a child I had also read the BobbseyTwins. And later I also was hooked onto the Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Supermysteriesthat featured both. So of course, when I saw this book on NetGalley, I knew Isimply had to read it. This book isbasically a fictionalised account of the Stratemeyer Syndicate which created anumber of series of juvenile (children’s and teen) fiction from the early 1900sonwards, and whose titles continue to be published to this day. The book beginswith the founder and brains behind the syndicate, Edward Stratemeyer, whoseendless ideas gave birth to many many stories, and moves on to his daughters,Harriet Adams and Edna, essentially Harriet who took on the reins of thecompany after Stratemeyer’s sudden death and carried on the business. It alsotells the stories of some of the numerous ghostwriters who wrote these stories,based off of the outlines that Stratemeyer and later Harriet provided them, butthe focus amongst these is Mildred Wirt Benson who wrote many of the initialNancy Drew stories besides other books for the syndicate, as well as manyothers under her own name. We enter into their lives, get a glimpse of theirpersonalities, of course their work, and the question of which of them couldclaim to be the real Carolyn Keene. The story is anchored around litigationthat took place in the 1980s between Harriet Adams and Grosset and Dunlap, thepublishers over their contract to publish the syndicate’s titles.
Assomeone who enjoyed not only Nancy Drew but some of the other series that the Syndicate brought out, I really enjoyed reading this book. Edward Stratemeyer was a real genius and a fascinating person to read about. One can only be in awe at the sheer amount of ideas that his mind generated. It is also intriguing to see how he was so forward thinking in some ways and yet conservative in others, but overall I found him to be very likeable. Admiration and awe combined with some liking and sympathy are feelings that come into mind over Mildred Wirt Benson as well, who was a pioneer in many ways, intrepid, ready to take on challenges, and one who wrote articles for the paper where she worked and could fly a plane till her dying day (when she was all of 96!!!). Harriet Adams was also worthy of admiration (this word is coming in a lot in this review, isn’t it?) for the way she took charge of and ran the company, facing various challenges, including from her own family, even though she wasn’t in the same mould as her father. But while I did admire her, even feel a little sympathy for her at places, I didn’t really take to her or her sister (as adults). I enjoyed reading how all their stories played out, and in them how some of our favourite stories came into being. While I had a general idea about the Syndicate and that they used ghostwriters including Benson to write their various titles, I had no idea before reading the book just how many books and series they were responsible for. This was a really interesting read, which led me to discover a couple of really fascinating personalities as well!