Tina Jordan
September 09, 2005 AT 04:00 AM EDT

America’s favorite titian-haired teen sleuth was pretty and perky, with a snappy roadster, a blond boyfriend, and two stalwart chums. In Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, critic Melanie Rehak cracks the case of the series’ origins.

? Nancy was the brainchild of a middle-aged man: Edward Stratemeyer, head of a successful children’s publisher, outlined the first five books in 1929.

? Before settling on the name Nancy Drew, Stratemeyer considered Nell Cody, Stella Strong, Nan Nelson, and Diana Dare.

? Edward’s daughter Harriet Stratemeyer Adams dictated most details of Nancy’s personality (”Enjoys all types of games, especially golf”; ”wears the color blue a great deal”; ”very much dislikes to eat squash”).

? Author Carolyn Keene didn’t exist: The books were penned by ghostwriters, primarily Iowa-born journalist Mildred Benson. By 1993, she said, ”I’m so sick of Nancy Drew I could vomit.”

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