This week's guest Girl Detective is Lauren Baratz-Logsted,
and talented author of the chick lit classic THE THIN PINK LINE
and the literary and erotic suspense novel VERTIGO (among others). In September, Lauren's HOW NANCY DREW SAVED MY LIFE will
be hitting bookshelves everywhere. As you can imagine, I've already
pre-ordered a copy.
A few years ago, an editorial by Maureen Dowd appeared in the New York Times.
It had to do with Osama bin Laden and a particular PDB (Presidential Daily Briefing). Ms. Dowd said we needed someone brash and intrepid like Nancy
Drew involved and wondered: Where had all the brash and intrepid people gone?
In my novel, How Nancy Drew Saved My Life, my heroine comes across
the same editorial. Charlotte Bell is twenty-three years old and heartbroken. A former TV commercial child star who turned to nannying as an adult, she’s spent
the last few years working in the home of U.S. Ambassador Buster Keating,
dealing with his awful wife and loving his two small children. Buster, over
time, convinced Charlotte that his wife didn’t really love him and that
he really loved her, meaning Charlotte. But a brief pregnancy scare put
the lie to that fantasy. In the aftermath, Charlotte moves back in with
her aunt. When she reads Ms. Dowd’s editorial, she becomes obsessed
with Nancy Drew.
Charlotte, growing up, was, like me, more of a Trixie Belden girl.
But, inspired by the editorial, she goes to the local bookstore and on
an impulse buys all 56 volumes of the original Nancy Drew series. She reads
them all and realizes that Nancy, 18 when the series starts, is still 18 when
the series ends. Doing the math, she further realizes that Nancy Drew solved mysteries at the rate of one every 6.5178571 days – a pretty intimidating
It’s easy to poke fun at Nancy Drew and Charlotte certainly does.
To say Nancy had an overactive imagination is an understatement. Seeing
a truck driving a little too fast, Nancy would be quick to assume, “I
wonder if those men are furniture thieves?” Finding an injured carrier
pigeon, she knows all about how carrier pigeons work and what it all has
to do with Mexico. And don’t get me started on the food! Nancy Drew consumes
such huge meals, with references like “Hannah put a tray of steaming meats
on the table,” that the reader has to wonder, with Nancy’s waist, if
perhaps the girl detective wasn’t just a lit-tle bit bulimic?
But, of course, we only make fun of that which we adore. There’s a
good reason why Nancy Drew – in the original books and in all the myriad incarnations since – has survived in the public consciousness for
decades upon decades. Nancy was brash and intrepid; a girl,
almost a woman, who was never intimidated by danger, who lived by her
wits and would willingly subject herself to dire circumstances where
not just angels but many men would fear to tread, all in the service
of a just cause.
Does Nancy Drew still have cultural relevance? In a world that
has changed so much since her zippy little roadster first hit the
streets of River Heights, does she still have something to teach us?
I think she does. And heroine Charlotte Bell thinks she does too.
Despite occasionally poking fun at Nancy, as Charlotte’s story
progresses, a story that takes her to Iceland and into danger,
the story itself being a sort of comic-gothic, Charlotte adopts as
her mantra WWNDD: What Would Nancy Drew Do? In the end, that mantra
really does save her life.
As stated, the novel is a comedy and, obviously, it is a novel. And
yet, maybe that mantra thing isn’t such a bad idea. Maybe when faced
with dilemmas – Should I help that stranger in need? Can I do
something to stop that crime from being committed? Is there some way
I can make the world a better place? – perhaps we should all
be asking ourselves: What Would Nancy Drew Do?