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Wednesday, 29 May, 2002, 14:05 GMT 15:05 UK
Nancy Drew author dies
Mildred Wirt Benson
Wirt Benson was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1997
Mildred Wirt Benson, the woman who wrote the original stories about teenage detective Nancy Drew, has died aged 96.

She wrote under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene, and was behind 23 of the original 30 Nancy Drew books, which were first published in 1930.

Wirt Benson died in hospital in Toledo, Ohio, after being taken ill in the newspaper office where she still wrote a column.

Nancy Drew was a bold and adventurous role model for girls at a time when many struggled for independence.

Successful

It was a ground-breaking character at the time, inspiring readers that anything was possible and proving that not all action heroes were male.

The character has been continued and modernised, and the books have now sold more than 200 million books in 17 languages.

"I always knew the series would be successful," Wirt Benson said in December.

"I just never expected it to be the blockbuster that it has been. I'm glad that I had that much influence on people."

Career

Wirt Benson was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1997.

She had started writing stories at school and won her first writing award at 14 before getting a master's degree in journalism from the University of Iowa in 1927.

She was commissioned to bring Nancy Drew to life by publisher Edward Stratemeyer, who also created the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey Twins and the Tom Swift series.

He gave her the outlines of the plots and she wrote most of the books, with other authors also writing under the Carolyn Keene name.

'Sick'

She wrote 130 books in her career, including the Penny Parker mystery series.

When she attended the first Nancy Drew convention in 1993, she was reported to have told a friend: "I'm so sick of Nancy Drew I could vomit."

She flew aeroplanes into her 80s and also remained a keen swimmer as well as regularly going into her office to write the column, On the Go With Millie Benson and Millie Benson's Notebook.

She was in the office the day after being diagnosed with lung cancer.

She married twice, and her husbands died in 1947 and 1959. She is survived by her daughter, Peggy Wirt.

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