Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Stratemeyer Syndicate

Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Dana Girls, Tom Swift. I spent Sunday at the meeting of the Los Angeles chapter of Sisters in Crime where I listened to a presentation by James Keeline on the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the entity responsible for developing all of the above mentioned children’s series and more. (I also acquired a 1936 copy of “The Mystery of the Ivory Charm,” pictured here.)

I’ve talked before on Type M about how I loved reading the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and the Happy Hollisters when I was growing up. When I was a kid happily curled up in a corner reading these books, I never knew they were developed by the same syndicate. I just knew I loved the stories.

Sunday’s presentation was interesting so I thought I’d share a few tidbits. The syndicate was started in 1905 by Edward Stratemeyer and, from its inception to when it was sold to Simon & Schuster in 1984, was responsible for developing 1385 books and 102 series using 74 pen names and employing 99 ghostwriters. That’s a heck of a lot of books! One thing I never realized was that it was a book packager, not a publisher.

The most common day job for one of their ghostwriters was newspaper reporter. A writer would get a two-page outline of a story and, 4 weeks later, the writer would turn in a 60,000 word story to Stratemeyer who would then comment on it. That’s a pretty fast turnaround even if you were given the story outline. Not sure I could do that!

New stories are still being published. Nowadays, writers come up with their outlines that then have to be approved. Keeline wrote an interesting article on writing one of these books in the post-syndicate era. There are loads of other interesting articles on

I’ve read one or two of the newer Nancy Drews and, have to say, I don’t really like them. Even though I’m most familiar with the 1960s versions, the ones published in the ’30s and ’40s are my favorites.

What Stratemeyer Syndicate books did you read as a kid? Have you read them again as an adult? If so, what did you think of them?


Anonymous said...

Love love love this. Read all of the Nancy Drews (multiple times) and some of The Bobbsey Twins and Hardy Boys. I wish I'd known about the Dana Girls!

Thanks for sharing the interesting details. Can't imagine writing at that pace regularly! (Have you read Melanie Rehak's book called GIRL SLEUTH: NANCY DREW AND THE WOMEN WHO CREATED HER? More fascinating stuff there...I read the whole book in one day because I couldn't put it down.)

Great post, Sybil!

Sybil Johnson said...

Hi Cynthia! Thanks for stopping by. No, haven't read Girl Sleuth but have heard of it. Will add to my list of things to read. Also heard bout a book called GHOST OF THE HARDY BOYS by McFarlane. It's about his experience writing the Hardy Boys mysteries.

There was another "series" (I think there were only 2 books) called Christopher Cool, Teen Agent. That's one I want to read!

Anonymous said...

Oh, GHOST sounds super interesting. Thanks for the rec. (And that teen agent name is great, too!)