Monday, May 9, 2016

Comparing the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Wanderer Books

One of the main reasons I decided to read all of the Hardy Boys Digest books is because I am interested in the treatment of the Hardy Boys as compared to Nancy Drew.  I am also interested in how both series changed alongside each other as compared to the earlier books in each series.

I had originally thought that because I do not like many of the Nancy Drew Wanderer books that I would not like the Hardy Boys Wanderer books.  Before I made my decision to compare the development of the two series, I had no intention of reading the Hardy Boys Wanderer books.  I decided to read a few just in case, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed them.  I was intrigued.

Why did I like the Hardy Boys Wanderer books when I did not like many of the Nancy Drew Wanderer books?  Nancy Drew is my favorite series.  While I am very much enjoying my journey through the Hardy Boys series, I wouldn't place it as a favorite series.  Why do I like the Hardy Boys Wanderer books more than the corresponding books from my very favorite series?  What is different?

Before I get to that, we must journey back to 1930.  The Hardy Boys series had been in print for three years and a total of nine books.  The Nancy Drew series had just launched with the release of the first three books.  And then Edward Stratemeyer died.  Both series changed after Stratemeyer died.

The Hardy Boys series is more uneven than Nancy Drew in the years after Stratemeyer died.  My conjecture is that Harriet Adams took a greater interest in the Syndicate's girls' series offerings.  In fact, two new girls' series, Dana Girls and Kay Tracey, were created soon after Adams took over running the Syndicate.  We do know that years later that Harriet Adams was very protective of Nancy Drew and had taken sole responsibility of the series.  Not only that, Harriet Adams fancied herself as Nancy Drew.

For that reason, I feel that more effort was made to keep the Nancy Drew series even and that the Hardy Boys series floundered a bit in the years after Stratemeyer died.  Nancy Drew seems more consistent.

Let's go to the Wanderer years where the reverse is true.  Harriet Adams had total control over Nancy Drew through the second Wanderer book, #58 The Flying Saucer Mystery.  She wrote the third Wanderer book, but the manuscript was so awful that it was rewritten by Nancy Axelrad.  After that, various authors other than Harriet were responsible for the series, and Harriet soon passed away.  This left Nancy Drew without the one person who had been watching after her for over 50 years.

The Nancy Drew series was the one that floundered in the years after Harriet Adams died.  The Hardy Boys series kept going strong with pretty good consistency in quality and tone.  The Nancy Drew books are uneven and at times bizarre.

I believe that the Stratemeyer Syndicate had to scramble to try to keep up with the Nancy Drew series after Harriet's death.  Some Nancy Drew Wanderer books were apparently rewritten from what would have been Hardy Boys books.  Nancy Drew #64 Captive Witness reads like a Hardy Boys book, and Nancy actually acts like a boy and not like herself.

Nancy Drew #67 The Sinister Omen also reads like a Hardy Boys book, and Nancy even rescues her father from imprisonment just like the Hardys would have done with Fenton.  Not only that, but in the first Wanderer printing of The Sinister Omen, Carson is actually called "Fenton" on page 79 and "Mr. Hardy" on page 84.  Last, Nancy Drew #75 The Emerald-Eyed Cat Mystery mentions Bayport!  It looks like three Hardy Boys books were changed into Nancy Drew books during the Wanderer era!

For #62 and up in the Nancy Drew Wanderer series, the books were written by authors who had nothing to do with the original 56 titles.  Six Wanderer books were written by James Lawrence, who wrote Hardy Boys books.  What gets me is that he purposely wrote the Nancy Drew books differently than the Hardy Boys books, which is not surprising, but what he wrote is not as good as his Hardy Boys output.  I do not like Lawrence's Nancy Drew books as much as I like his Hardy Boys books. 

For the Hardy Boys series, Andrew Svenson's involvement ended with #54 Mysterious Caravan.  Vincent Buranelli and James Lawrence wrote the last four books of the original 58.  For the Wanderer Hardy Boys books, James Lawrence and Vincent Buranelli wrote all titles up through #65.  Altogether Lawrence and Buranelli wrote 12 of the Hardy Boys Wanderer books, which made those books just like the higher-numbered of the original 58.  Even though the remaining Hardy Boys Wanderer books were written by other authors, the books were written in a style that closely matches the original premise and are equally good as the higher-numbered titles in the original set.

The reason I enjoy the Hardy Boys Wanderer books much more than the Nancy Drew Wanderer books is because the Hardy Boys Wanderer books are consistent with each other and mesh well with the original set.  In contrast, the Nancy Drew Wanderer books were written in an inconsistent fashion and frequently have extremely convoluted plots.  Nancy Drew's characterization is also inconsistent, and the Nancy Drew Wanderer books do not mesh with the original set. 

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