The Hardy Boys were so popular among young boys that in the 1930s a similar series was created for girls featuring a sixteen-year-old detective named Nancy Drew. The cover of each volume of The Hardy Boys states that the author of the series is Frank Dixon. The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories for girls are supposedly written by Carol Keen. Over the years, though, many fans of both series have been surprised to find out that Frank Dixon and Carol Keen were only pen names. Nobody knew who was hiding behind those names or who actually wrote The Hardy Boys and The Nancy Drew Stories.
The Hardy Boys and The Nancy Drew Stories were written through a process called ghostwriting. A ghost-writer creates a book according to a specific formula. Ghost-writers are paid for writing books, but their names do not appear on the covers when the works are published. Ghost-writers can create books for children or adults, and most often they work on book series.
The initial idea for both The Hardy Boys and The Nancy Drew Stories was developed by a man named Edward Stratemeyer, who owned a publishing company that specialised in children’s books. Edward Stratemeyer noticed the increasing popularity of mysteries among adults and decided that children would enjoy reading mysteries about younger detectives.
Edward Stratemeyer first described the plot, the setting, and the characters himself. Then he hired a ghost-writer to develop his ideas into a book of over 200 pages. After the ghost-writer had written the book, he or she sent it back to Stratemeyer, who made a list of corrections and mailed it back. Once Stratemeyer had approved the book, it was ready for publication.
As each series was published for so many years, The Nancy Drew Stories and The Hardy Boys both had a number of different ghost-writers. However, the first ghost-writer for each series turned out to be the most influential.
Although The Hardy Boys and The Nancy Drew Stories were very popular with children, not everyone approved of them. Critics thought their plots were very far from the real life of teenagers – most of them could not experience adventures such as the young detectives from the books had.
The way the books were written also attracted criticism. Many teachers and librarians disliked the ghostwriting process. They said it was designed to produce books quickly rather than create quality literature. Some libraries, including the New York Public Library, even refused to include the books in their children’s collections.
Ironically, this decision helped the sales of the books because children simply bought them when they couldn’t find them in local libraries. Despite the debates about the literary value of these books, they have had a great influence on American and even global culture. Most Americans have never heard of Edward Stratemeyer and his ghost-writers, but people throughout the world are familiar with Nancy Drew and Frank and Joe Hardy.