Lisa Q. Mathews

Bess Marvin Lives!

I’m no expert on Nancy Drew—but in the early 90s, it was (literally) my job to plan, direct and approve the girl detective’s every move. Yes, I was the lucky editor of two Nancy Drew book series.

Dream job? Well, sure. But I have a confession to make. I was Team Bess.

I mean, who didn’t love Nancy? She was intelligent, brave, clever, popular, stylish, sporty and attractive (she, of course, preferred the word “interesting”). She also had a wealthy, doting father who valued her opinions, a cool car, a handsome, oh-so-boring boyfriend, and a housekeeper who never quirked an eyebrow when Nancy disappeared on her sleuthing adventures.

A lot of people tell me George was their favorite Nancy Drew sidekick, because she was a gutsy tomboy who “did things.” But when I pipe up about my fondness for Bess, I usually get crickets, “You’re kidding!” or the eye roll.

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via GIPHY

Bess and her cousin George Fayne first appeared in 1931’s The Secret at Shadow Ranch. Bess was the loyal, “pleasantly plump” blonde chum, the “fraidy cat” who loved clothes, shopping, food, and boys. Maybe she wasn’t big on self-discipline, or running straight into the jaws of danger, but she was just as smart Nancy (well, almost).

I don’t even want to talk about George. Not because I was jealous or anything that she was an amazing athlete and generally fearless. I simply didn’t appreciate those occasional, snide remarks about her cousin’s penchant for ice cream.

Bess had different, but equally key, strengths. She could talk a suspect to death, or at least long enough to gather key intel—and charm the most reticent of witnesses.  She brought welcome humor to the books (you have to admit, Nancy wasn’t really a bag of laughs), boomeranged her cousin George’s put downs and—most importantly—she always, always had Nancy’s back.

Ask me how I got started writing mysteries and—like many authors—I’ll credit Nancy. I loved the way she followed clues, confronted the bad guys, escaped their evil clutches, and restored Justice to the World (or at least a necklace to its owner). But sometimes, as even Mildred Wirt Benson, who wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy books, once told a journalist, I was “so sick of Nancy Drew I could vomit.”

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via GIPHY

 

Bess would be horrified that I just said that. But I have to be honest, just like she is. And maybe there are a few more ways we’re alike, too (the diet-tomorrow and scaredy-cat parts, anyway). That’s probably why I put a little Bess Marvin in my co-sleuth, Summer Smythe. And while Bess didn’t make the cut in the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries TV series in the late 70s (she did show up in a two-part episode), today she’s a star in computer games, fan fiction, and social media, with zillions of her own loyal fans.

Hey, Bess—you go, girl! You deserve that ice cream.

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So are you Team Nancy, George or Bess? Cast your vote in the Comments section–and help Bess kick George’s butt!

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17 thoughts on “Bess Marvin Lives!

  1. I have to say, I was Team Nancy. Mostly because I was obsessed with the words “titian” and “roadster.” I never connect did connect with George. And Bess? Well, this blog has put her in a whole new light for me!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I was always a George fan…smart as Nancy, but without the trophy boyfriend and car. Bess would occasionally get on my nerves because she reminded me of my ten year old self…a tendency to fret, hand wring and when all else fails…ice cream. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha, I so agree on Ned. We used to amuse ourselves at meetings plotting ways to get rid of him (not allowed by the publisher, of course!). So cool that you’re a Bess, too!

      Like

  3. Team Bess all the way…even though I am a Nancy!! Bess was me, chubby, hesitant and I am able to talk to anyone, anytime for far too long! I still adore a great side kick character, the quirky one whose name isn’t always remembered but always draws a chuckle and even a ?me, too!”

    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane!

    Nancy

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I was more of a tomboy growing up, so George was my favorite back then. But now I’d totally be a Bess girl because dessert!! Great article and fun walk down memory lane. I’m green with envy that you got to edit some of the books!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Mystery Writer Fangirls–OMG! | Chicks on the Case

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