Edward Stratemeyer Analysis


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Edward Stratemeyer began his writing career as an author of dime novels. He wrote many novels under many different names. His imagination was so vast that he had no time to write every book his mind could conceive. When he left dime novels to write juvenile mystery fiction, he had real success with the Rover Boys series. From his experience with dime novels, Stratemeyer knew that it was important to include a bit of mystery in most books. He also created a template for his juvenile leading characters. The youngsters are usually orphans, semi-orphans, or else the children of extremely hands-off parents. The result is that the boys and girls are independent, responsible, resourceful, and self-possessed, the kind of young person Stratemeyer described as “wide awake.” These young people are propelled into the discovery and the solving of mysteries by a series of extraordinary coincidences. Stratemeyer ensured reader involvement by creating fast-paced action and ending nearly every chapter with a cliffhanger.

When Stratemeyer realized that he would never be able to write all the books that he wanted to write, he created his syndicate sometime around 1910. The syndicate was much like the fiction factory of nineteenth century French novelist Alexandre Dumas, père. Stratemeyer would generate an idea for a book or a series, work up relatively detailed outlines, and pay authors to write the books using house names (Carolyn Keene, Franklin W. Dixon, Victor Appleton). The authors were paid a lump sum for each book, signed over the rights, and promised never to reveal that they had written a book as one of the house names.

Stratemeyer also conceived the idea of the breeder set of books. The first three volumes of a new series appeared at the same time. That way the series momentum was established, and readers did not have to wait a year to buy a new volume in a series that they had enjoyed. His sales ideas were based on selling books for fifty cents per book and making his profit on volume rather than price.


(Masterpieces of Fiction, Detective and Mystery Edition)

Billman, Carol. The Secret of the Stratemeyer Syndicate: Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and the Million Dollar Fiction Factory. New York: Ungar, 1986. A comprehensive analysis of the phenomenon of the Stratemeyer syndicate reviews the origins and impacts of its products.

Caprio, Betsy. Girl Sleuth on a Couch: The Mystery of Nancy Drew. Trabuco Canyon, Calif.: Source Books, 1992. A Jungian analysis of the character presented along with a summary of her life, adventures, and character traits.

Dizer, John. Tom Swift, The Bobbsey Twins, and Other Heroes of American Juvenile Literature. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellon Press, 1997. Everything about juvenile mystery heroes is here.

Dyer, Carolyn Stewart, and Nancy Tillman Romalov, eds. Rediscovering Nancy Drew. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995. The book deals with all things Benson, Adams, Stratemeyer, and Drew.

Neuberg, Victor. The Popular Press Companion to Popular Literature. Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1983. This handy encyclopedic volume defines and exemplifies most aspects of popular literature. Sheds light on the Stratemeyer syndicate’s place in society.

Rehak, Melanie. Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her. Orlando: Harcourt, 2005. Tells the story of how Stratemeyer’s daughter Harriet and Mildred Wirt Benson developed the character Nancy Drew.