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Slick new image for good old Nancy Drew. Old-fashioned girl sleuth gets a trendy makeover

By Catherine FosterStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / September 11, 1986


``The attraction between them crackled like electricity.'' Attraction? Electricity? Between Nancy Drew and a guy she meets on a case? It took 30 years for Nancy to kiss her longtime beau, Ned Nickerson. Now, she daydreams about Ned's ``gently curving mouth,'' and (gasp!) falls for this new guy.

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What is this?

It's Nancy Drew circa 1986.

The new Nancy Drew uses credit cards, goes to rock concerts, and says things like, ``Let's go pig out,'' and ``Be cool.'' Her frock has been replaced by a short, ``electric'' blue skirt and ankle boots; her trusty roadster by a snazzy Mustang GT convertable. Instead of seeing what's behind hidden staircases, she's now getting blackmail messages on videotape and tackling record piracy in Manhattan.

Once America's favorite girl sleuth, Nancy Drew starred in the juvenile book series that enthralled girl readers from the 1930s through at least the 1950s with her independence, forthrightness, clear thinking under pressure, and ability to serve justice in a multitude of wild plots.

She has, however, been found a little tame and out of date for modern teen readers more accustomed to ``Sweet Valley High,'' according to publisher Simon & Schuster's juvenile division. So she's being refitted for the '80s.

This is a new Nancy Drew. Not just a revision, it's a whole new series, aimed at 11- to 14-year-olds. It's called the Nancy Drew Files, to avoid confusion with the original series for 8- to 11-year-olds which the company will also continue to publish in paperback. So far, the company has issued Nancy Drew Files Cases 1 and 2, and will continue to crank out one a month.

More romance, more action, more emphasis on the characters, contemporary settings, and up-to-date language is what Simon & Schuster is going for, says senior editor Ann Greenberg.

The basics are still there: Nancy still lives in tony River Heights, with her widowed father, ``the noted lawyer,'' Carson Drew, and faithful housekeeper Hannah Gruen. She still pals around with her friends George and Bess, and dates stalwart Ned Nickerson. But much else has been changed to reflect '80s concerns. Formerly ``tomboyish'' George is now ``into fitness.'' Perenially weight-conscious Bess eats frozen yogurt. Nancy's father, who used to have a cane, now jogs and dates.

The changes are more than cosmetic updating. This Nancy is more sexually aware, as the aforementioned ``electric'' attraction indicates. Which leads one to ask a question that never would have shadowed the reputuation of the earlier Miss Drew: How far will Nancy go?

``Not very far,'' says Ms. Greenberg. ``Nancy was created moral, honest, trustworthy, and law-abiding. I don't think we've changed that.''

``She's still pure as gold,'' says Ron Buehl, publisher of Simon & Schuster's juvenile division. ``She's still a good role model. But now the reader is far more sophisticated, and romance plays a bigger role.''

Nancy also has some other new feelings: anger, jealousy, and insecurity. In Case 1 of the new series, ``Secrets Can Kill,'' for example, ``Nancy felt like throwing the last slice of pizza at her and watching the tomato sauce ooze down Brenda's black suede boots, but she held herself back.'' In ``Deadly Intent'' (Case 2), Nancy accuses Bess's rocker boyfriend of lying before she ever hears his side of the story. And in that one she pleads for her life, something new for the usually confident detective.