That's what Psychic Friends are for
MABEL MANEY AND THE NANCY CLUE SERIES
A DIVINE INSPIRATION
"Golly! Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames should fall in love! Someone should write a book!"
Mabel Maney, her cheeks flushed, lay back like a contented
kitten on her comfy bed. A recent back injury had left her bedridden, but her hair was neatly combed, her nightclothes were fetching, and she had just finished eating a warm, nutritious meal.
"Hey! I'll have the time to write a book while my back heals!"
In 1993, San Francisco visual artist Mabel Maney published the first of her Nancy Clue series, The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse (Cleis Press), starring wide-eyed heroines Nurse Cherry Aimless and famous girl detective Nancy Clue. It was the book that dared to answer that long-standing question about Nancy Drew and the lesser-known Cherry Ames: "Was she or wasn't she?"1
A SURPRISING SUBTEXT
Mabel Maney2 became entranced by nurse heroine Cherry Amesas she lay rereading the series of books in her sickbed. "She's so nice, she's annoying!" Mabel declared. Yet, there was, she thought, something so warm and kind and appealing about Cherry, a character created in the early 1940s, that she encouraged young women to become nurses and go to work during World War II.
Mabel soon noticed that all the women in the books were extremely friendly to each other, and she marveled at the "homoerotic subtext."
"I read between the lines," says Mabel with a knowing wink.
WHAT A MYSTERY!
Intrigued, Mabel studied the language of every Cherry Ames book she could find, and then moved onto the Nancy Drew series. She then set out to simultaneously parody the white suburban world of the girl detective books and the clichés of
lesbian romance fiction.
Along with the books' homoerotic elements, other characteristics of the fiction formula soon became apparent to Mabel Maney. A good girl-detective book must include:
- The bad guy always confesses in full
- Careful descriptions of clothing3
- Highly nutritious food4
To Mabel's excitement, her publishing debut, The Case of the Not-So-Nice Nurse, was a success.
"It happened really quickly!" Mabel says. Suddenly, she was a
published authorwith fans! At a book reading in Los Angeles, a lot of gay male fans were surprised to find that she was a lesbianall the loving descriptions of clothing led them to expect a gay male author. "I was really flattered," Mabel says of their error.
To what does she attribute the book's success? "I think the lesbian world was ready for camp." She also cites the diverse yet woman-centered culture she has created in the books as a factor. It is a world that proclaims: "This world includes you! You are not the fringe!"
HAVING SOME FUN
Having a whole lot of fun, Mabel proceeded to write two more Nancy Clue books, The Case of the Good-for-Nothing Girlfriend (1994) and, A Ghost in the Closet (1995) a Nancy Clue mystery that also introduced the world to the Hardly Boys.5
THE CALL TO DUTY
With the eager support of legions of fans,6 Mabel Maney is currently writing her fourth Nancy Clue book, a Cherry Aimless story. Although she personally prefers to write dialogue and describe fashions, she wants to improve the mystery plots in her future books, as some of Mabel's most loyal fans are die-hard mystery readers. But ultimately, Mabel, who says she is "bitter about love," considers the Nancy Clue series a parody of romance fiction.
Mabel prefers to leave explicit sex out of her books. "They are more about desire, anticipation, and flirting," she says. "I'm a blusher!"
And what does the future have in store for our heroine? Cherry Aimless' character will grow ever more wise and earn her pal Jackie's love.
A HAPPY ENDING
Mabel Maney said she will write Nancy Clue books as long as she doesn't bore her fans or herself. Meanwhile, Mabel gets to hang out with her best chumsseries characters Cherry, Nancy, Velma, Midge, Jackie, and the rest of the gang. And that's just how she likes it.
"It's like going to grade school again!" she declared.
While writing this article, the author, Katy Lain, sported a pair of brown flared trousers, a short-sleeved V-neck canary-yellow sweater with powder-blue and navy stripes, black nylon socks, and black-rubber slip-ons; she prepared a warm and nutritious lunch of a tuna-salad sandwich and lentil soup and iced water. For a snack, she had a refreshing cup of McGrath's tea with milk.