The Clue of the Comical Covers

Growing up, I loved Nancy Drew books. Heck, I still love Nancy Drew books. And have you tried the Nancy Drew computer games? Those things are stellar.

When I was little, I once wrote a letter to Carolyn Keene telling her how much I loved her books. My mom went on the Internet to find an address to send it to but didn’t have any luck. Instead, she scanned my letter and sent it to the publisher via an email. Imagine my shock a couple of years later when I found out that Carolyn Keene never actually existed; the name is a pen name for a number of male and female ghostwriters. That said, Mildred Wirt Benson wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books, so at least there was some consistency. But, consistency or not, we need to address the most important question here: who did my letter get sent to?!

While we’re on the topic of pen names, did you know that Franklin W. Dixon – the author of the Hardy Boys – never existed either? Some guy named Leslie McFarlane wrote the first 15ish Hardy Boys books, but since then many male and female ghostwriters have continued the franchise. Did I just ruin your image of your childhood idol? I’m sorry. At least there’s one upside: McFarlane was a Canadian. O Canada!

Now, onto the meat. A couple of weeks ago, I posted some pictures of some of my favourite pulp fiction book covers; this week I’m doing something similar, but with earlier Nancy covers. (I spend more time than I would like to admit surfing Google Images for cover art.) Unlike the pulp covers, the Nancy covers aren’t usually explicitly funny. If you stare at them long enough, though, you’re almost certain to find something just slightly off.

The Clue in the Jewel Box (1943 Edition?)
Why is this lady’s head coming out of an…. over-sized pink oyster shell?
That is a lady, right?

The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes (1964)
Since when does Nancy play the bagpipes? She must not be very good – two of the sheep in the background are staring at her in horror, probably contemplating their best method of escape.One sheep didn’t even stop to think – it’s just running away.

The Clue of the Tapping Heels (1969 Edition)
I didn’t know that Chewbacca made an appearance in a Nancy Drew novel. Maybe he was attracted to Nancy’s fierce bell-bottom pants. Or maybe he liked Nancy’s white suit, which kind of makes her look like David Bowie.

The Crooked Banister (1971)
You know, I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks “robot” when someone says “banister.”

As funny as some of these old covers might look, at least the books were good. And “Carolyn Keene” keeps releasing new Nancy novels, although there are different series: Nancy Drew and the Clue Crewthe Nancy Drew Diariesthe Nancy Drew Files… None of them are as good as the originals, but I think it’s great that the Nancy franchise is branching out. I mean, pretty soon there’ll be Nancy Drew: Vampire Slayer!
Oh wait…

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