I first discovered Nancy Drew in our basement, where my mother had stored her childhood copies. After my sister and I devoured these musty volumes, we moved on to the then current versions. Many elements had been updated, including Nancy’s car and her (possibly related) predilection for “warm woolen car coats.” But somehow it was the older books that made a lasting impression on us. In fact, certain themes—including a hard-to-miss tendency for the villains to be “foreign” in some way—ran through these older editions so indelibly that my sister and I took to writing parodies of them. Mine tended to be snarky, spilling over into mean. But my sister’s were spot-on, as the following excerpt (presented verbatim, with her permission and apologies to “Carolyn Keene”) will attest.
“Nancy,” George Fayne was saying, “you really must come to the house and solve Aunt Ruth’s mystery.”
“Of course I’ll come, George. I’ll take the first plane to Rancid Oaks I can get!”
“You’re a lifesaver,” George gushed. “See you soon.”
Nancy raced upstairs to pack for the trip to Rancid Oaks. The trip promised to be a fun one, and she had longed for another after solving the Mystery of the Missing Warm Woolen Car Coat. She raced to the airport and found, to her delight, that a flight was just leaving for Rancid Oaks.
As the plane took off, Nancy, who was in perfect health, found herself feeling a bit queasy. “It must have been the salami,” she said to herself. “I never could stomach foreign food. I never could stomach anything foreign.”
As the plane soared over the countryside, Nancy could not help noticing the unusual amount of shifty-eyed foreigners that seemed to be watching her. “Oh, well,” she said to herself, “perhaps they are just admiring my smart wool dress and matching pumps.”
The plane landed at Rancid Oaks Airport, and Nancy took a cab to Rancid Oaks Estate. As soon as she had gotten out of the taxi, she knew something was amiss. George ran hurriedly toward her and dragged her into the house. Nancy surveyed her surroundings quickly. The house was tattered and worn, like Aunt Ruth.
Aunt Ruth was wan and disheveled, and told Nancy of her problems. “There is a ghost living here,” she told Nancy, “and I don’t dare leave the house for fear of being kidnapped or something equally sinister.”
“Don’t worry, Aunt Ruth,” Nancy told the homely, frumpy old maid. “No one in his right mind would kidnap you.”