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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Girls' Series & Their Influence

How many of you were fans of girls’, or guys’, mystery series when you were teens? I’m talking about Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, Cherry Ames, Trixie Belden, Vicki Barr, Connie Blair, The Dana Girls. I read them all, including The Hardy Boys, but my hands-down favorite was one you probably never heard of, Judy Bolton.
Nancy Drew was the most popular of the girls’ series. However, I always root for the underdog and I like to be contrary. So while most other girls were reading Nancy, I didn’t much like her, mainly because she was popular, wealthy, and self-assured. I discovered Judy Bolton, and fell in love with her and her friends. Judy, the daughter of a doctor, lived in a small town in upstate New York. Like Nancy, and the others in the girls’ and guys’ series, she solved mysteries.
I related to Judy because she wasn’t rich and perfect and beautiful like Nancy and she didn’t drive a cute roadster or have an adoring boyfriend. Judy had faults and she frequently made mistakes. While Judy Bolton wasn’t as well-known as Nancy Drew, Judy now has a cult following. A while back I belonged to a Judy Bolton Fans Yahoo loop. Many of the members make annual trips to the town in New York that was the model for Judy’s hometown. They even reenact scenes from some of her stories. I love the books but I wouldn’t go that far. I have almost a complete set of Judy books that I collected in the Fifties and early Sixties. Although Amazon now sells reissued Judy books, the originals are rare. Whenever I go to flea markets, I look for them. I find copies of all the other series, even Nancy Drew, but never any Judy Bolton.
Judy grew up during the course of the books, and when she was eighteen, she married a guy she’d known her whole life, Peter Dobbs. Peter was five years older, and a personification of truth, justice and the American way. He became an FBI agent, or G-man, as they were called back then. The romance between Judy and Peter started my love of romance and happy endings. I had a crush on Peter and wanted to marry a man just like him. The heroes and heroines in my books all have a little of Peter and Judy in them.

At the same time I was reading Judy Bolton, I devoured the YA historical romances of Elizabeth Howard. While her books were historicals, her heroines all had something in common with Judy: they were spirited and independent, and while not the most beautiful or the richest women, they weren’t afraid to go after what they wanted. I’m in the process now of buying my favorite Elizabeth Howard books from used online booksellers. The few I have so far are in honored places on my bookshelves.
Judy Bolton and Howard’s heroines greatly influenced the type books I write. My heroines may not be so astoundingly beautiful that they literally stop traffic, but they are beautiful in eyes of the men who love them. Of course, my heroes are always drop-dead gorgeous. No matter their looks, my heroines and heroes have faults and doubts, and things haven’t always come easy for them. I love to put my characters in dangerous situations or situations merely dangerous to their hearts and watch them fight for the happy endings they deserve. Just like Judy and Peter. And in the course of fighting for what they want, they grow and learn valuable lessons and open their hearts to the love they crave.
What about you writers out there—what books did you read that influenced what you write? The same for you readers—did the books you read as teens influence what you read today?

 My latest release is Love Potion, a short paranormal romance from Boroughs Publishing Group. Only 99 cents everywhere. Just in time for Halloween. 
For uptight veterinarian Nicole Caruso, a fortuneteller's prediction, a vial of gold liquid, a handsome man with secrets and some very strange happenings prove there's no escaping the magic of love.
Twitter: @caramarsi


Tina Donahue said...

I read most of these series - loved them all. Spent most of my youth in libraries. :)

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Tina. I too spent most of my youth in libraries. I can still remember the wonderful book smell each time I walked into my city's library.

Cindy Spencer Pape said...

I was a huge reader of these books--including my brothers' Hardy Boys collection (which I ended up with, LOL.) My favorite was, hands-down, Trixie Belden, the tomboy. I didn't like Nancy Drew much for the same reasons you mentioned--plus she wore dresses all the time, LOL. I also read Donna Parker, Kim Aldrich (There were only a few of those) and the Bobbsey Twins. Plus I started reading Sherlock Holmes, Mrs. Pollifax and other cozies in about junior high. :)

Susan Macatee said...

For me it was Nancy Drew. I had a whole stack of those books. I also read a career series about a nurse named Cherry Ames and followed her adventures through nursing school and even into the military as she became an army nurse.

But by my teen years, I'd grown addicted to science fiction, then moved on to gothic romances.

Rose Anderson said...

Cute post. I loved Nancy Drew. I recently came upon 3/4 of a full set in a thrift store and bought them. :)

Sandy said...

I read Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, and I loved them. I'm afraid some of the others I've never heard of. I spent most of my time in libraries checking out a load of books. Smile! We didn't have a lot of money to buys books, but I got an occasional book at Christmas.

I remember the Cherry Ames series, Susan.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane, Cara.

vicki batman said...

I began with the Happy Holisters, Nancy Drew, and loved Trixie Belden. I wanted brothers instead of pesky sisters. So I lived vicariously through Trixie. I also read the Hardy boys.

Is this where I confess I read my Christmas gift for my sister before giving it to her? lol

jean hart stewart said...

Dabbled in those series but they never captivated me. I adored anything about King Arthur and his knights though, or anything based on mythology. Kinda strange, I guess.

Aileen Fish said...

I read the Nancy Drew books in my pre-teens, and by the time I hit high school I was reading Stephen King and Tolkien. Today I read sweet romances, something I abhorred as a teen. I live gives enough horror, so now I want something gentle to escape into.

Cara Marsi said...

Cindy, hold onto those Hardy Boys books. They may be worth something. I have a few Trixie Belden books on my shelf. I never heard of Donna Parker or Kim Aldrich.

Susan, I mention Cherry Ames in the post. I have a few of her books on my shelf too. The only ones I no longer have are my Hardy Boys. Don't know what happened to them.

Rose, good for you to buy the Nancy Drew books you found in the thrift store. Hold onto them.

Sandy, I got most of my books at the library too. I bought all my Judy Bolton books at a local department store. They were $1.00 each.

Vicki, you are so bad to read your sister's Christmas gift before you gave it to her. I would have done the same thing.

Jean, King Arthur and his knights are very cool. Always have been, still are.

Cara Marsi said...

Aileen, I liked the sweet romances of Elizabeth Howard that I talk about in the post. I couldn't read the old Harlequin romances. The heroines were always so squishy. Of course, I love all romances now, and the heroines have certainly changed. Thanks for posting.

Cara Marsi said...

Aileen, I liked the sweet romances of Elizabeth Howard that I talk about in the post. I couldn't read the old Harlequin romances. The heroines were always so squishy. Of course, I love all romances now, and the heroines have certainly changed. Thanks for posting.

Margaret Carter said...

So great to encounter someone else who knows Judy Bolton! Those books are so much better than the better-known series. The Judy Bolton mysteries were written by a real author rather than a corporate pseudonym, who based the locations on the area where she grew up. It's especially good that Judy and her friends grow and change over the course of the series, as you mentioned. My sisters and I had the entire set. I still have a number of them and ordered some of the earlier novels to fill in gaps near the beginning of the sequence. What an innocent time that was -- the family scandals were always that the girl ran away with an unsuitable man, not that she got pregnant out of wedlock.

Cara Marsi said...

Margaret! So good to meet another Judy Bolton fan! Judy was the best and I agree with everything you've said. I forgot to mention that several of my short stories, including Love Potion, are set in upstate New York as a tribute to Judy.

Sue Palmer Fineman said...

Nice post, Cara. I'd never heard of Judy Bolton, but I had read a few of the Nancy Drew mysteries when I was a girl. And I LOVE your story Love Potion. You always create such great characters.

Gemma Juliana said...

What a wonderful post! I read Nancy Drew and loved her, but never heard of the others I'm sorry to say. I grew up on an island where reading material was hard to find. I'll look out for Judy Bolton and some of the others mentioned now - never too late!

I intend to buy Love Potion as soon as I finish my Halloween story. Didn't want to read others while writing one. I love your stories.

A very successful romance author lived around the corner from me when I was a teen and I was enamored with her life style! That's what started me reading Mills & Boon novels.

Thanks for sharing!

Melissa Keir said...

I hadn't heard of Judy Bolton. I loved the true stories like those of Nancy Hanks and other books like Little House on the Prairie.

Thanks for bringing back those memories. :)

Cara Marsi said...

Sue, thank you so much. I'm glad you enjoyed Love Potion. And I also love your stories.

Gemma, thanks. I love your Sheikh stories! How cool that M&B author lived near you.

Melissa, thank you for posting. I never read Little House, but I enjoyed other stories set on the prairie.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of Judy Bolton...I didn't read much as a kid, but I will look them up...I'm glad to know a bit of history of your wonderful characters...because I like them so much!

Cara Marsi said...

Tess, thank you so much for posting and for your kind words about my characters.

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