Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Two Mystery Icons: Nancy and LInda

HANK PHILLIPPI RYANQuick, tell me a character in a book who changed your life as a kid.  Meg in Wrinkle in Time, you say? Anne of Green Gables? Laura in Little House?   Beth or Meg or Jo or Amy?
For many of us, there’s one character who still resonates. Say her name in a room of readers, and there’s always a rumble of admiration and agreement.
I know you can guess. But you don’t need to. Because we share the iconic young woman with a woman who’s become an icon herself.  Look who's here!  The amazing Linda Fairstein                      
 Nancy’s Legacy
I would imagine that every one of my friends among the Jungle Red Writers had some childhood fictional characters with whom they identified, who drew them into the wonderful world of storytelling that keeps each of us at the keyboard today.

My earliest memories of books were the ones my mother read to me every night before I went to sleep, and then a bit later, those I found on our weekly trip to the public library each Saturday to pick out three new adventures.

One of my strongest attachments was to a smart young teenager – how sophisticated and mature she seemed to me as a kid! – named Nancy Drew.  She had a keen sense of justice, devoted loyalty to her friends, and an ability to right all the wrongs in the town of River Heights.  The Nancy Drew Mysteries were a series of books, and represented the first time I became hooked on a continuing character, whose return I anticipated with great delight and enthusiasm.  I collected those novels religiously – they were sure-fire presents for my birthday, Christmas, and the difficult days when I was homebound with measles or mumps.

Each mystery filled me with the same desire.  I’d look at the jacket art, hold the book in my hands, dream about actually crawling into the story somehow and becoming one of Nancy’s posse of crime-solvers.  If she and Bess and George were going to learn what the secret in the old clock was, I wanted to be there with them.  If there was room beside Ned Nickerson in the blue roadster, then that was the ride that I wanted to take.

I was very close to my mother, who died at the age of 88, eight years ago.  Among her papers, we found that she had saved something I had written in the 5th grade – my very first crime story, The Secret of Apple Gate Farm.  When I reread that paper, which had been dedicated to my favorite librarian, it re-ignited my desire to create something for kids of the same age.

 Nancy Drew was my inspiration for writing a series of crime novels for adults, featuring a strong protagonist in a non-traditional role for a woman.  When I started my Alexandra Cooper books in 1996, the prosecutorial leadership role was far more uncommon than it is today, which marks a really great advance in the practice of law.

But I couldn’t get the idea of writing for kids out of my head, and Nancy Drew is also the reason for this series and its first entry, INTO THE LION’S DEN.  I wanted to create stories for the young girls and boys in my life that might appeal to them just as my childhood heroine ‘spoke’ to me.  I have no desire to compete with the great women who wrote as ‘Carolyn Keene’, but I do want to bring some modern forensic advances into a series for middle-grade readers, along with old-fashioned storytelling.

I’d given a lot of thought to my 12 year old sleuth, Devlin Quick, before I set out to tell her first tale.  Like Nancy, I instilled in her a great desire to see justice done, and wanted her to have a terrific relationship with her closest friends – Booker, Liza and Katie.  She’s very much a New York City kid, with a good sense of humor, a great love of books, and just a bit of an edge.  Best of all, she is the daughter of a very strong single mother, who also happens to be the first woman police commissioner of New York City – a job I very much wanted to have in the late 1980’s.

I’ve had such a good time bringing Devlin Quick and her friends to life, and I look forward to engaging with readers of all ages who might want to run along with her, just as I wanted to do with my beloved friend, Nancy Drew.

HANK: Oh, Linda, I can completely imagine you as the first woman police commissioner! (And more I will not say.)
Will there be more Devlins? Are you coming to Boston? 
And, hurray! SO excited about this:
The amazing Linda is giving away TWO copies of Into The Lion’s Den to very lucky commenters today!
Just tell us…what did you want to be when you “grew up”?  Something traditional? Or non?
(I had a brief cowboy fling, and wore my cowboy hat EVERY day, to my mom’s chagrin. And for a while, at age 13 or so, I wanted to be a disc jockey. And then a geneticist. But before that? Yeah, Nancy Drew.)
How about you?


LINDA FAIRSTEIN was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney's office in Manhattan for more than two decades and is America's foremost legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. Her Alexandra Cooper novels are international bestsellers and have been translated into more than a dozen languages. She lives in Manhattan and on Martha's Vineyard.


  1. Linda, I’m so excited to hear about your middle-grade book . . . I can’t wait to share it with my granddaughter.
    Nancy Drew was one of my favorite books, too; today I have a literary print of Nancy with her magnifying glass hanging above my bookshelf. The words from the story of the old clock make the picture . . . .

    What did I dream of being when I grew up? I wanted to be an astronaut.

  2. Congratulations! I can't wait to get this book for my dear friend, Miss B, who is almost eleven and loves mysteries. I also read and collected Nancy Drew books, of course, as well as Cherry Ames, Student Nurse.

    I remember very strongly wanting to be a teenager, which isn't much of a career path. But I think a girl reporter was also in my dreams. A reporter with a horse. ;^)

  3. A reporter with a horse, even with! That is perfect him.

    And Joan, an astronaut . One of those jobs that seems much cooler… When you don't have to actually do it.

    I once decided I would be NASA's first journalist in space. Then I had to write an essay about why I should do it. I thought and thought and thought and thought and thought about it… And the more I thought about it, the more I thought heck no, not a chance. That blank application is still in my files somewhere…

  4. Either a detective or a fashion designer. Because ...lots of overlapping skill sets there, right? 😉

  5. I wanted to be a veterinarian. I too loved Nancy Drew. I am looking forward to reading this book even though I am no longer in the age group.

  6. This sounds like so much fun, and what a great name: Devlin Quick. Growing up in Hollywood I wanted to be Elizabeth Taylor (remember, National Velvet? Giant?), and barring that, Natalie Wood (Miracle on 34th Street; Splendor in the Grass). Fortunately I did not get either of those wishes.

  7. Sounds like a fun read, Linda. Although my early fictional female heroes were Nancy Drew and Laura Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie, my dad loved the James Bond movies and always took me to watch them when each year. So I wanted to be a female super spy! I think it wasn't so much the spying that attracted me, but rather the globetrotting lifestyle to visit exotic locales and experience great sights and food...and to use Q-like gadgetry!!

  8. Love the idea of the New York setting and the mom and Devlin, of course! I never imagined being a writer though I read like mad, all the Nancy Drews, the Hardy boys, Cherry Ames, the Little House books...

    I wanted to play catch with my dad, as my brother did, instead of taking ballet:). These days I'd like to be the point guard on the UCONN huskies women's basketball team LOL

  9. Hallie, I think you would be the perfect Elizabeth Taylor, and it's not to late to start. How many more husbands do you need? How's your diamond supply?

    I can't remember a time when I didn't want to be a nurse. Specifically a "nursery" nurse, because I wanted to take care of all those tiny babies. However the only nurse I read about was Cherry Ames, and I can't say she was all that inspirational, let alone a life-changing heroine. Maybe I recognized sexism even way back when. And I never did work in newborn nursery. Only in the past year have I read Florence Nightingale's "Notes on Nursing."

    Now "The Frog Prince" is another story altogether. I wanted to be a princess long before the Disney craziness. Kissing frogs was not an issue. How I envy today's little girls with their racks of princess costumes. Do you think I could get one in my size?

    My favorite books were everything by Lewis Carroll and Louisa May Alcott, read and reread until the backs fell off. I know I am dating myself here, but many of my childhood books had uncut. My father would cut them for me, very carefully, with his pocket knife.

    What was that all about anyway?

  10. Linda,

    Welcome to JRW! a bit off the topic here - do you live at Martha's Vineyard? I am intrigued because there was a big deaf community living on MV in the 1800s. Many hearing people knew sign language because almost every family had at least two deaf people, due to a deaf gene. There is a book by Nora Groce about this. I wonder if you ever see people on MV communicating in Sign Language. Perhaps not now.

    Back to your books, I added your books to my TBR list. I loved Nancy Drew books. My attorney grandfather gave me a subscription to the Nancy Drew Book Club for my birthday one year. His law firm hired a woman attorney, who later married his brother in law. Although he treated women with respect, he expected them to work hard too. Very unusual for a man in these days, but then his mother was a suffragist.

    I admired Nancy Drew because she was so smart and she was good at everything. I cannot help but wonder if there were any backlash against Nancy Drew in the 1950s from the anti-feminist groups.

    I read Anne of Green Gables in college. I did not know about her books until then. Anne of Green Gables will be on PBS this week. Check your local listings.

    What did I want to be when I grew up? I wanted to be an actress so that I could play roles like the Wonder Woman :-) I also wanted to be Wonder Woman or the Bionic Woman.

    In a way I did become the Bionic Woman when I received two bionic ears, also known as cochlear implants.


  11. I wanted to be magical, to be able to fly like Superman. Then I wanted to be President, until Mike Tarver told me I couldn't because I was a girl. I loved Heinlein's heroines, and Glinda the Good. I wanted to be Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

    Linda, thank you for creating Alex Cooper, and now this new young sleuth. Will she grow older if there is a series? My grand daughter, who is a devout reader will find this book under the tree. I also appreciate the dedication of your first book to a librarian. When many children were struggling with paragraphs, you were writing dedications!

    ..... and I still want to be magical....

  12. You all are marvelous… At an appointment, back in an hour!

  13. Linda, Devlin Quick sounds like a great character. Too bad my girl isn't much of a mystery fan. =(

    I also read Nancy Drew. All that I could get my hands on. My girl has them now - more of a decoration than books to read (she tried, but couldn't get past the dated references).

    What did I want to be? You're going to laugh - a fighter pilot. I watched Top Gun a million times, each time imagining me in one of those F14 Tomcats. A job that was totally closed off to women in the 80s. Then I moved on to being a lawyer. I dreamed of arguing in front of the Supreme Court.

    Yeah, neither of those happened.

  14. I most definitely wanted to be Nancy Drew. Then a huge age leap forward and I wanted to be Miss Marple. Finally I settled on wanting to be Agatha Christie. I think I still do.

  15. How utterly marvelous!
    Thank you on behalf of all young people, now and in the past.
    I was quite enamored with Nancy Drew books. So much so, I thought I'd write a mystery of my own (age about 10). I remember being at the public pool with a pad of paper. I may have managed an opening line, but that was it at the end of the day.
    I realized I had no idea where it should go.
    Now I rely on people with the talent to write my books for me.
    And I thank you all!

  16. I just put it on hold at my library.

  17. Oh, I wanted to be Velvet Brown, too!

    Melanie, being Agatha Christie is SUCH a great idea.

    Top Gun huh, Mary? So cool. ANd yet, I wanted to be a flight attendant. Times change..

  18. I wanted to be a lawyer when I was in junior high, which was nontraditional in 1974!

    Linda, it's so great to have you here, and I'm so excited about your Devlin Quick series! It's an amazing time for YA and middle-grade literature, but there seems to be a dearth of mysteries for those age groups, especially series (which kids LOVE even more than adults do.) I'm emailing my daughter, who's a children's librarian, right away!

  19. Ann--SO funny. I read Cherry Ames, too, with much delight. But those books made me NOT want to be a nurse!

    Libby--that's so sweet! Do you remember the line?

  20. Edith, ah....I just re-read my dictated comment, which says:
    A reporter with a horse, even with! That is perfect him.

    It was supposed to say:
    A reporter with a horse, Edith! That is perfect!

    So much for dictation...

  21. Grace, super spy! I admit I had to sneak all the James Bond books --I thought my parents would not let me read them. Turns out--they didn't care.

    And because it is just us, I have never read Anne of Green Gables.

  22. I can just see a couple of my tween grandkids reading this book and really enjoying it. Of course they'd also have to learn the lesson of "sharing". LOL

    Thank you for putting a new YA Mystery into the world.

  23. I cannot say how excited I am to hear this news. My grand daughter Lucy will be getting this book for Christmas!! I am a huge Linda Fairstein fan!! I especially love the stories of New York City which thread through the books.

    I just told one of my daughters the other day that what I really wanted to be was a librarian. I went to a traditional Catholic women's liberal arts college where I was an English major. I was aware of library science programs, especially the one at Simmons College in Boston, but I could not figure out how to pay for it. I took a fellowship at Colgate University, and became a teacher.

    I loved classroom teaching, but I have always been drawn to libraries. Funny you should ask today because yesterday I began a new volunteer gig, shelving books at our parish day school!!

    I loved the children's biographies when I was a kid -- and I loved all the Louisa May Alcott (my favorite was not that well known -- "Jack and Jill." I didn't read Nancy Drew until after my younger sister got into them, but does anyone else remember Cherry Ames?

    I can picture the children's sections of both libraries I used as a kid (Poughkeepsie, NY & New Palz, NY), and - BTW -- I started volunteering in the local library when I was in 8th grade.

    Love you all!!

  24. Linda, I can't wait to read Devlin Quick's adventures! What a great idea, and a great name. How did you come up with it?

    Yes, I loved Nancy, but my absolute passion was the Black Stallion books by Walter Farley. I Still have some of them. I wanted to be Alec Ramsey and ride the Black and have adventures. I suppose most of these books are actually mysteries, although I didn't realize it at the time.

    I think it was Meg in A Wrinkle in Time that was life changing for me. Unlike Nancy, she wasn't perfect, or popular, and she faced things even when she was afraid.

    Hank, I didn't read Anne of Green Gables until I was in my twenties and I absolutely adored those books. Has anyone reread them recently? I wonder how they've held up.

  25. Oh, love to hear, Debs. ANd did you read the horse books featuring Connemara McGuire? Golden Sovereign, and Silver Birch? Lots of them. I wanted to be here, definitely.

    Denise Ann--what I'd love about being a librarian is, seriously, how organized it is. Everything in its place. SO great. What a lovely volunteer gig!

  26. Hank: I did not start reading the Ian Fleming Bond books until I was @14, but I went to see the Bond films with my dad from age 7 or 8! I you know I never learn to drive a car, so those dreams of driving a tricked out Aston Martin never came true. But I do enjoying travelling and exploring new cultures, sights and food!

  27. Hi, Linda,

    First I have to gush - OMG, I love your work! - okay, I'm good. Then I have to admit that I'm a Nancy girl, too.
    I found her when I was nine and read all 100 books that summer outside in my yard under a dogwood tree.
    One of the best summers of my life to date. The librarian in me is tickled that you dedicated your first effort
    to a librarian, and I am excited that your new series has the iconic library lion on the cover and a sassy heroine
    and her squad. The young ones need new role models and now I know what to send my niece for the holidays. She
    and I use FaceTime to work on her stories together so I know she'll love Devlin.

    Oh, my occupation of choice was to be the first female jockey to win the Triple Crown (thank you, Walter Farley and The Black Stallion) but I was already six feet tall by high school. Good thing i found writing.

  28. Either a detective or a fashion designer. Because ...lots of overlapping skill sets there, right? 😉

  29. Linda, you have been a favorite author of mine for some time now. I started with Entombed, Alex Cooper #7, because of its Poe connection. Then I went back and read the previous six, and I've looked forward to a new Alex Cooper every year since. And, now you have touched upon an area of reading I'm a big fan of, young adult books, especially mysteries. I have seen a slight increase this year of young adult mysteries, which readers sorely needed. There are plenty of coming of age stories out there for YA, but the mystery genre has been a bit neglected. Of course, there are some standouts, such as author Blue Balliett, and my old-time favorite of The Westing Game by Ellen Raskins. And there are a couple of new ones out this year that I'm going to read in a binge, along with your Into the Lion's Den. I was excited when I learned that you were publishing a YA this year, and I pre-ordered it so I would receive it on publication day. I plan on reading it before the year is out as a major treat to myself. And, how great that you found the story you wrote as a child.

    Both of my granddaughters are readers, and the younger, seven-years-old, one is quite the investigator of all things. I know that Into the Lion's Den is written for a bit older audience, but she just finished the first Harry Potter (read it herself and a few chapters out-loud to me), so I think she would enjoy this mystery. I don't think I'll be able to give up my copy to her, because I want her to have one she can keep, so I'd appreciate being included in your drawing (even though I have one copy already). Oh, and the name Devlin Quick is such a great name.

    In elementary school, I wanted to be an archeologist. I was so interested in ancient Egypt and the Pyramids and mummies and such. I even wrote a play, a mystery, centered on the subject matter of an archeologist in a tomb, and my classmates put it on. So, I kind of had visions of being a writer, too. Neither of those dreams came true, but there's still time for the writer part.

  30. The Devlin Quick book sounds fantastic, I'm eager to read it, er, share it with my niece.

    For me, being a boy at the time (some say I still am), it was the Hardy Boys. I wanted to live in Bay City, have a famous detective for a dad, and have adventures. I loved those books, and was always hoping my parents would buy me another in the series. The local library didn't have them, regarding them as "trash", so it was purchase or nothing.

    I wanted to be a nature photographer. As a boy I got one of those Brownie box cameras - am I dating myself? - and tried so hard to take pictures of birds and any wildlife I found on our small avocado ranch. I also wanted to be a wildlife illustrator/artist, and used to draw little animals and cut them out and paste them onto backgrounds from magazines. Of course those kinds of plans rarely work out, but I still have a love for nature, and gardening.

  31. Devlin Quick is a fantastic character name, Linda!

    I loved Nancy Drew books and often cite the character as a major influence on my writing. All time favorite aspect of the series: after a midnight break-in at the Drew household, housekeeper Hannah Gruen would serve up angel food cake and hot cocoa. Who wouldn't welcome a break-in if that were the outcome?!

    At Bouchercon in New Orleans I purchased Nancy Drew Fold and Mail stationery and promptly send a note to my mom, also a Nancy Drew fan. "Nancy Drew's Guide to Life" by Jennifer Worick has a place of pride in my office, and I consult it often for bits of wisdom like: "No complimentary makeup application ever looks good, especially when applied by a gypsy woman with an outdoor cart." - The Mystery of the Tolling Bell or "Humor the older generation and do a few activities every once in a while that they'll enjoy." - The Clue of the Leaning Chimney

    When I was very little I wanted to be a hand doctor. My father was an eye surgeon, so perhaps that's where the medical piece came from, but my parents were puzzled about the hand part. Family legend is that for a couple of years, I checked out the same (and only) book about the anatomy of the hand from our town library every week. Too bad if anyone else in Marblehead, MA wanted to learn about the hand in those days! They were out of luck!

  32. Ingrid, a hand doctor? I have never heard anyone say that..

    Richard, how were your photos? I do remember when we had to wait weeks to see the results of our photography, right? And nature photography is especially difficult--it seems like it would be so easy, but then...how do you snap a butterfly? Or the changing light?

    And Karen, yes, indeedy! Somehow they seem connected, really they do.

  33. I can only assume that someone who writes such captivating novels for adults will be a great addition to the world of YA!

    I liked Nancy Drew, but we were a lower middle class family and the Nancy Drew books were never discounted, almost never available at used book stores, and I feel like they weren't available at the local library, so obtaining them was generally a problem. Instead I read sort of everything from the library, and my mom got me Cherry Ames, Nurse books, and Vicky Barr, Flight Attendant. I couldn't say they changed my life, but I do often think of the motto Cherry Ames used to repeat: "A nurse never stands when she can sit, and never sits when she can lie down."

    It was Jo in Little Women who affected me profoundly. I admired her, I identified with her, I wanted to be her.

  34. I was a big Tom Swift fan, so I wanted to be a Scientist. I went to college for a while but couldn't figure out how i could be that precise, measuring to thousands of a gram. So I went into the trades where I only had to measure to 1/16 of an inch. That I could handle.

  35. I loved Nancy Drew! Our city library would not stock them;they were not good literature. Our county library did stock them, so guess where I went a lot. For a while in elementary school I wanted to be a detective in outer space. I'm sure that involves very specialized cases. In junior high I was dying to go to Egypt and explore the tombs. Oh well. Also in junior high I would have loved to be a national park ranger but those jobs were not open to women. I read some Cherry Ames, courtesy of the county library. Did not inspire me to be a nurse. I also read some Vicky Barr, airline stewardess. Didn't she have to be a nurse to qualify for that job? I wonder how she would do with our current flight situations. Oh, the joy and luxury of flight!

  36. OH, yes, Vicki Barr! Loved those. I'd love to read one again--I think I actually have one at home..hmmm. And wasn't it all about the cool uniform?

    And yes, William, I wonder how many scientists the Hardy Boys inspired? (She asked, calculatedly.)


  37. Cherry Ames' motto! VERY realistic! (were those written by a consortium/committee/series of authors as well?)

  38. Sorry to say, but I never read any Nancy Drew books. Or the Cherry Ames. Growing up in very small towns meant waiting for the Library truck and picking from there. I did read The Black Stallion, and desperately wanted to learn to ride. But with living in the desert... I did manage that in high school, so infrequently that it always left me so sore I could barely crawl out of bed.

    I don't particularly remember finding anything memorable in the school libraries until I picked up sci-fi novel, The Day the Earth Stood Still (nothing at all like the movies). I was hooked! Wanted to be a space explorer. I also became fascinated with WWII when I had to write an essay on the Bataan Death March, but high school history bored me to tears.

    Anne of Green Gables I found after watching the PBS series. Wonderful books!

    I'm so happy to see more fascinating series for mid-grades. I wish I'd had more of those when I was that age. Congrats on the new series!

  39. I don't think I wanted to be a scientist or a spy, but some of the favorite people I remember reading about were Marie Curie and Harriet the Spy. I ended up being a telecom technician so there was a bit of science involved, as well as some spying listening in on phone calls HAHA

    I love all the comments pouring into JUNGLE RED WRITERS -
    and love all the ladies ‘living there’ in the red jungle…..
    Hank - thanks always for being the most generous friend in the book world -
    and Hallie - you’d be a great Liz T!
    I stole Devln’s name from Hitchcock’s NOTORIOUS - my favorite movie
    ever - Cary Grant was Devlin -
    keep all the kind words coming - it means the world to me
    Linda Fairstein

  41. Okay, you all are convincing me about Anne of Green Gables!

    ANd Pauline--if Harriet had been around when I was the right age, I might have kept my name!
    So funny how the world works..

  42. Oh, Linda, so fabulous to see you! And oh, I love Notorious. The wine cellar, right?

  43. Can't wait to get these books for Stephanie, who just turned 10. She's a voracious reader. I've been reading Linda's books since the beginning with 'Final Jeopardy'...I've read all of yours, too, Hank.

    Nancy Drew was absolutely my favorite female character in my early years. My grandmother and an aunt both loved to read, so I was in heaven when I visited them. My grandmother had all the classics, while my aunt had all the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew books.

    When I was a child in the 70's, I wanted to be a teacher or a nurse, and I've been blessed to be both. I even combined the two and was a nursing instructor. Linda inspired me to be there for victims of sexual assault and I love what she has done for themover the years, along with Mariska and her Joyful Heart Foundation.

  44. Amazing - I can think of several young ladies who are going to find Into the Lion's Den under the tree this year!

    I wanted to write, forever it seems. Jo March was my earliest influence. And of course, Nancy set me on the path to mystery. I couldn't wait to get old enough to drive so I could solve mysteries too.

  45. CIndy! That is wonderful..thank you! and I think of Linda every time I think of jeopardy! xooxo And yes, her work has been life-changing.

    ANd Kait! Aw, that's terrific. xoxo

  46. And the winners are: Coralee Hicks and Pauline Dudley!

    Hurray! Email me at hryan at whdh dot com and we will arrange for your books!

    YAY!!! xooxoxoxox

  47. Jo March for sure. I met her when I was 7. I was too young for Little Women, but someone had brought it to my house so I picked it up...and could read it. Very, very slowly. So Jo was there at a very impressionable age,and no other character was ever quite as compelling. Since I kept rereading it ( along with all other Alcott books) she never really left.