Monday, October 29, 2012
The Wythe County Public Library recently celebrated the 150th birthday, complete with cake, of Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930), an author you may well have read without knowing it.
Stratemeyer pioneered the book series concept for young readers, with characters like The Rover Boys, The Bobbsey Twins, Tom Swift, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and others - about 80 altogether.
He assembled teams of writers to keep all of these series going through his Stratemeyer Syndicate, started in 1906 and still generating an occasional new book.
So there was really no such person as "Carolyn Keene" writing the Nancy Drew detective series, "Victor Appleton" writing about young inventor Tom Swift, or "Franklin W. Dixon" penning the Hardy Boys - the longest-running series of them all.
Some members of the Wytheville library's various book clubs were shocked, not to say saddened, to learn that some of their favorite authors from their youth never really existed.
These pen names were owned by the company and hid the identities of many freelance writers, including Stratemeyer's older daughter, Harriet, who took over the Nancy Drew books after her father's death up through 1982. She also oversaw the updating of stories from the syndicate's four longest-running series for contemporary readers.
The Stratemeyer book factory's various characters have inspired a number of movies and TV series, in addition to thousands of volumes of young adult entertainment. Harry Potter, eat your heart out.
- Paul Dellinger, a retired Roanoke Times reporter, now a reader in Wytheville