So Nancy Drew is back. And it’s a great PG film to take the kids to, with no foul language, a jaunty convertible and plenty of penny loafers. In this Jerry Weintraub version, Nancy (Emma Roberts) heads to Hollywood, where she solves the mystery of an actress killed in the 1980s.
Whatever the box office, it will be a natural for DVD, where the early teen audience will eat it up.But Nancy Drew isn’t the only great youth mystery book franchise with new energy this year. There is one almost completely forgotten book series that is in the process of revival. It is the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series first published by Random House.
The Investigators were boys who solved mysteries in Rocky Beach, California. The Three Investigators were the creation of College of William & Mary graduate Robert Arthur. While Alfred Hitchcock appeared in some of the stories to add to some branding, the mysteries were really solved by three boys who lived in Hollywood and solved mysteries inside a trailer hidden inside a junkyard. There was Jupiter Jones, who Hitchcock said was “stocky, almost fat” and friends Pete Crenshaw (“tall and muscular”) and Bob Andrews (“slighter and more studious”).
A German Three Investigators movie has just been made with Studio Hamburg Productions and is being released by Buena Vista. Apparently, the series of books has phenomenal appeal in Germany and Europe. In addition, ten of the book mysteries have been reissued. Working diligently on the issue is Robert Arthur’s daughter, Elizabeth. If you are curious about the series, her website ThreeInvestigators.net has links to all the Investigators-related sites, as well as a history of her father. It was put up by Robert Arthur’s daughter Elizabeth Arthur.
The revival of the books and a new movie is not the only development. Robert Arthur developed the magazine Mysterious Traveler, which was itself “based on Mutual Radio’s famous radio program”. While the magazine did not last long, it had a long list of top contributors. In the revival of that dead brand, Arthur fan Mark Zahn has created new editions with new writers.
By the way, check out the Mildred Wirt Benson Collection at University of Iowa. It’s a collection of history on one of the original Nancy Drew writers, Mildred Wirt Benson. She wrote her own series of mysteries under the brands Mildred A. Wirt Mystery Stories and Penny Parker. Apparently, she chafed having to write for the Edward Stratemeyer Syndicate, which controlled Grosset & Dunlap book series Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins.
So what’s next in the Hollywood revival?
How about Tom Swift, that intrepid character written by “Victor Appleton II”, a pen name for various ghost writers of the Stratemeyer Syndicate of Grosset & Dunlap. Or how about Grosset & Dunlap itself?