Mildred Wirt Benson ("Carolyn Keene")

Died May 28th, 2002

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) - Mildred Wirt Benson, the author who created Nancy Drew, girl sleuth, and inspired generations of young women with the teen-age heroine's spunk, independence and resourcefulness, has died at 96.

Benson fell ill Tuesday at The Blade newspaper, where she wrote a weekly column about daily life and the elderly. She died later at a hospital.

Using the pen name Carolyn Keene, Benson wrote 23 of the 30 original Nancy Drew mysteries about the stylishly dressed, golden-haired rich girl who tooled around in her own roadster and solved crimes.

Dozens of ghost writers followed Benson, and the Nancy Drew series is still in print. It has sold over 200 million books in 17 languages.

Benson was paid $125 per book and never collected royalties from the books, movies and board games. She was bound by an agreement with the publisher not to reveal her identity as the series author, but it became known in 1980 when she testified in a court case involving Nancy Drew's publisher.

"I always knew the series would be successful," Benson said in a December interview with The Associated Press. "I just never expected it to be the blockbuster that it has been. I'm glad that I had that much influence on people."

Benson was a journalist for 58 years and wrote more than 130 books, including the Penny Parker mystery series, and countless short stories. But she is best known for creating Drew, a 16-year-old with golden blond hair who was as smart as she was beautiful.

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