I read this in college and it opened my eyes, on finding a copy on our first venture out this past weekend in a second hand shop I figured it was time to give it another go since I've read a few of the original Nancy Drews now.
'Girl Sleuth' traces the history of the 'Nancy Drew' series from its genesis in a memo from the Stratemeyer Syndicate to the cultural momentum Nancy Drew had achieved by the end of the 20th century. The focus is on the original author of the series, Mildred Wirt Benson, and editor Harriet Adams Stratemeyer who shepherded the series and, infamously, revised the original books and claimed sole authorship for decades.
The story is a fascinating one. It is very hard to feel sympathy for Adams, but Rehak does a fine job on Adams' background and restrictions and the hardships she faced as a woman in a man's industry. Benson, on the other hand, was an amazing woman who would be noteworthy even without her having ghost-written Nancy. A journalist, pilot and - though she refused the title - feminist who paved the way for many after her.
I would have liked there to have been more discussion of the racism and classism inherent in the books written in the '30s and '40s. How much was present in the Stratemeyer outlines that Benson couldn't deviate from, written by Harriet and her sister for the most part, and how much did Benson add? Rehak goes straight into the era when the books needed to be revised. Those images, stereotypes and ideas were a part of the times, but they were not mandatory. Did Benson ever make a statement of regret? Did Adams?
Still a good read for those of us who can't get enough.