The First Time I Read . . . Nancy Drew

Nancy Drew and the Red Convertible
 I love stories about independent young woman, especially those who make their own way in the world. Nancy Drew arrived on the scene in the 1930s. Her creators were certainly ahead of their time. When I was young, I remember wanting to be just like Nancy: independent, self-assured, courageous, smart, and wealthy. As an adult, I can honestly say I still want to be like Nancy. Since I fell short of that achievement in some areas, I gave my protagonist, Sydney Lockhart, many of those attributes. 
I'm not the only reader who has been inspired by Nancy Drew. Read what Judy Alter has to say about this spunky teenager who is still around after more than eight decades.

When I was a young wife and mother, I knew little about books
except that I liked to read them and wanted to write one. I had been a reader all my life, alienating neighborhood children by going to the library daily for a new stash of books and spending summer days on the porch reading. I read every Nancy Drew title I could get my hands on.

One of the first things I wrote was a Nancy Drew knock-off that was so bad I’m glad no copies survive, even in my attic. The title was even gosh-awful, something like “Dark Shadows.” Knowing nothing about publishing, I expected it to be a bestseller and, probably, a screen play. I vaguely recall submitting it someplace—it must have caused hysterical laughter if anyone read it.

It was only natural that I imitated Nancy Drew. She pulled me out of my quiet world into one of adventure. She was that adventuresome girl that I, shy and cautious, would never be. She took me driving in her red convertible, swimming fearlessly, playing tennis superbly—all that and solving mysteries. It never occurred to me that Nancy Drew had no flaws and no one that perfect really existed. Nancy Drew was as real to me as my next-door neighbors.

Today I write cozy mysteries, finally fulfilling a longtime dream after a career spent writing about women in the American West (they were as amazing as Nancy in many ways). I know now that my main character needs a soft spot to be real. But I strive to make my characters (except the bad guys) likeable, so that the reader will be drawn into another world where they like all the people they find and fantasize about living their adventures.

In a way, I’m still writing Nancy Drew knock-offs. I’ve just added murder and taken away the red convertible.

Judy Alter is the author of six Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, the newest being Desperate for Death, was released on May7; two books in the Blue Plate Café Mysteries; and the The Perfect Coed, a mystery set on a university campus. For twenty years, she was director of TCU Press. The author of many books for both children and adults primarily on women of the American West, she retired in 2010 and turned her attention to writing contemporary cozy mysteries.

            She holds awards from the Western Writers of America, the National Cowboy Museum and Hall of Fame, and the Texas Institute of Letters. She was inducted into the Texas Literary Hall of Fame and recognized as an Outstanding Woman of Fort Worth and a woman who has left her mark on Texas. Western Writers of America gave her the Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement.

The single parent of four and the grandmother of seven, she lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with her Bordoodle, Sophie.

Desperate for Death

Just when Kelly's life has calmed, she faces yet another of life's puzzles. Except the pieces in this one don't fit. First the apartment behind her house is torched, then a string of bizarre "accidents" occur to set her off-balance. Who is stalking her? Where does the disappearance of a young girl and her disreputable boyfriend fit in? And why are two men using the same name? Is the surprise inheritance another part of the puzzle? At a time when she is most vulnerable, Kelly can't make the pieces fit, but she knows she must protect her daughters. Before Kelly can get the whole picture, she helps the family of a hostage, rescues a kidnap victim and attends a wild and wonderful wedding. 
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