Julie Tatham: Reinventing Cherry
"I wrote it myself. It's what happens to the heroine before I rescue her. Don't you think it's mel-melodramatic?"
--From Cherry Ames, Clinic Nurse, p. 86
Julie Tatham took over the writing of the Cherry Ames series after World War II and repositioned Cherry as the heroine of a peacetime mystery series.
Life and Career
Julie Campbell was born on June 1, 1908, in Flushing, New York. She was the seventh of ten children, and both her father and paternal grandfather were army generals.
After high school, she had planned to attend Columbia School of Journalism but instead took a job as the assistant society editor of the New York Evening Post in 1926. After she left the Post, she married Charles Tatham, but she later returned to the newspaper.
Subsequently, she worked as a secretary, a hotel hostess, and the head of her own literary agency. She wrote both the Trixie Belden and Ginny Gordon series, under the name Julie Campbell, eventually becoming a full-time writer.
Both those series were for younger readers; Trixie was especially successful, and was continued by ghostwriters long after Tatham left the series. Trixie is still popular today; the books are being reissued.
When Helen Wells decided to stop writing the Cherry Ames and Vicki Barr series, Tatham took over both of them, then later returned them to Wells--Vicki in 1953, and Cherry in 1955.
Trixie's hometown is Sleepyside-on-Hudson--which is where Julie Tatham set the last Cherry Ames
book she ever wrote, Country Doctor's Nurse
Influence on Cherry Ames
Tatham helped transition the Cherry Ames series from wartime to peacetime. The series had been born during World War II, which was its major focus for the first six books. Wells had returned Cherry stateside and made her a Visiting Nurse--interestingly, a progression that most of the other wartime nurse series also followed. But the Cherry Ames series was the only such nurse series to have a life significantly beyond the end of the war, for which Tatham must receive at least some credit.
Though Tatham's writing sometimes seems pedestrian and her plots repetitive, still, she was able to successfully refocus the series during her tenure as Cherry's author, turning Cherry more definitely into a traditional sleuth. She also eliminated any steady boyfriend for Cherry, instead giving her a new romantic interest in every book.
In a 1988 interview, Julie Tatham commented, "I had friends who tried to dissuade me from writing them [juvenile series books]. ... But I didn't agree with them. I put my heart and soul into those books. I didn't write any less better than I did with other books. I knew those books were going to sell for a long time and nothing was going to stop them."
Tatham also wrote for adults, especially on Christian Science. A widow, she lived in Alexandria, Virginia, until her death on July 7, 1999.
The biographical information about Julie Tatham comes from Something About the Author, vol. 80, pp. 229-32.
The quote is from "Meet the Author: Julie Campbell Tatham," a 1988 interview by Ernie Kelly reprinted in Whispered Watchword (September 1996), p. 27.
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