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Millie Benson tribute on tap at main library

When Rick Sayers turned up at the Main Toledo-Lucas County Public Library this summer to scan the branch's Nancy Drew collection, Nancy Eames, children's library manager, had no clue the visit would spur a tribute to late Nancy Drew author Millie Benson.

But when Ms. Eames found out Mr. Sayers owned 135 of the 137 books that Mrs. Benson wrote, an idea was hatched.

That idea will come to fruition on Saturday with the Nancy Drew Sleuth Program from 12 to 2 p.m. at the main branch's children's library at Madison Avenue and Michigan Street.

About a dozen members of the online Nancy Drew Sleuths club will be present, including Mr. Sayers and club president, Jennifer Fisher.

Mr. Sayers, 50, of Oregon will speak about the relationship he developed with Mrs. Benson during a series of visits with the author, and Ms. Fisher will talk about the Nancy Drew series. Mrs. Benson was the author of the first 23 stories in the series. The program also will feature tips on how to collect children's series books, Ms. Eames said.

On display at the library through Oct. 9 in a trio of refurbished card catalogue cabinets are 38 books authored by Mrs. Benson from the Sayers collection.

They include some of the more obscure titles, such as Dangerous Deadline, one of only two books with Mrs. Benson named as the author, and Dan Carter and the Cub Honor.

Mrs. Benson wrote under numerous pseudonyms, including Carolyn Keene for Nancy Drew, Helen Louise Thorndyke, Alice Emerson, and Don Palmer.

The collection also includes Mrs. Benson's first published work at age 13, a story titled “The Courtesy” in St. Nicholas Magazine in 1919. Mrs. Benson was paid $2.50 for the piece, Mr. Sayers said.

He said he began collecting Mrs. Benson's books three years ago not knowing the author lived in Toledo and worked at The Blade. “After meeting Mildred, I became addicted,” he said.

The two books he is missing to complete his collection - Phantom Trailer and Quarry Ghosts - are going for about $300, a price he is unwilling to pay at the moment.

Though the library has all the Nancy Drew books, it does not have many of the other books authored by Mrs. Benson.

Up until the mid-1980s, the library rarely carried any children's mystery series collections.

“It was not considered quality children's literature,” said Ms. Eames, a Nancy Drew fan herself.

Mrs. Benson died in Toledo at age 96 on May 28. She worked as a newspaper reporter and columnist 58 years, first at the former Toledo Times and then at The Blade.

For years, she wrote books in obscurity and was not identified as Carolyn Keene, the most popular of the Nancy Drew authors, until 1980.

Mrs. Benson's personal favorite series involved a news reporter-sleuth in the Penny Parker series.

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