I shouldn’t be startled by this, but I am. Maybe the only reason I’m surprised is that no one is doing it right now.
I stumbled on this weird bit of publishing history because I watched a Bonita Granville NANCY DREW last night (NANCY DREW — REPORTER. Verdict: terrific. It rang the bell for my expectations of a Nancy Drew movie, which aren’t necessarily sky high, but still). After the movie, I did what I usually did after seeing a good performance by someone I hadn’t heard of before: I looked them up online.
Bonita Granville’s wikipedia entry directed me to the Whitman Authorized Editions above. For those who didn’t click the link (and who have bothered to read this far) the WAEfG were suspense/adventure novels that starred actual movie stars of the time. For instance, Bonita Granville gets to star in her own Nancy Drew-like adventure, Bonita Granville and the Mystery of Star Island. There’s also Judy Garland and the Hoodoo Costume, Dorothy Lamour and the Haunted Lighthouse, Deanna Durbin and the Feather of Flame, and so on.
Some of the novels portray the actresses as themselves. Some (like the Betty Grable’s) portray the actresses as themselves if they’d never become famous movie stars.
Now, I’m sure there’s a fan fiction term for this: famous real people breaking up Nazi spy rings or solving decades-old murders in the swamps, or whatever. They even sound like they’re full of id-driven weirdness.
But why doesn’t someone try to revive this? It sounds like it could be odd, fun and successful, if it was handled correctly. Jennifer Love Hewitt and the Spectral Lighthouse, or Michelle Obama and the Mystery of Chesapeake Bay, or Anne Hathaway and the Poisoner’s Letter, or what the hell, even Susan Boyle and the Music Hall Gunman.
These people are all public figures, too, so I’m not sure what sort of rights issues would be involved.