Tag Archives: Andrew E. Svenson

54: THE MYSTERIOUS CARAVAN

 

54

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1975.  The third of three in a row he wrote, among others.  And with that we say goodbye to Mr. Svenson.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  A symbolic cover, for no such scene occurs in the book.  In fact, this cover refers to an historical event, not something Frank and Joe are looking at in the present.  A very yellow cover, appropriate for the setting, but hardly my favorite look.  And what are Frank and Joe reacting to in a pose that indicates danger?  Camels?

Setting: Bayport, Jamaica, Morocco in Africa.  The boys really travel in this one!

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Back in the States working on another angle.  Until he shows up in Chapter XX.

Which Chums Show Up?: It’s a Svenson, so we get the whole gang:  Chet, Biff, Tony, Phil, Callie, Iola.  Tony and Phil and Biff and Chet go to Jamaica, but only Chet goes to Africa (along with their new Jamaican friend William).

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: None.  Even Svenson is giving up now.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: An unnamed pie was baked for Chet, but the poor reader never learns what type it was.  C’mon, Chet, spill it!

Plot: The boys find an African mask washed up on the shores of Jamaica where they are on holiday.  Bad guys immediately try to get the mask from them.  Or kill them, if possible.  Meanwhile Fenton is investigating some stolen airplane tickets that are being resold illegally.  Meanwhile the mask seems to hold the key to an ancient African treasure.  You know, a typical Hardy Boys plot.

Review:  Nothing wrong with this one.  Mr. Svenson tries to educate his readers about other parts of the Earth, and it would be fun to discover a bit of Africa and of Jamaica as a ten-year-old.  The actual plot about masks, maps and gold is classic Hardy Boys.

On the other hand, it felt a bit disjointed, as if he was trying to put all the elements of a Hardy Boys story in a big bowl, but just didn’t mix them enough.  It has a bit of by-the-numbers feel to it.

Not my favorite Svenson, but he remains an excellent writer for the series.

Score: 7

53: THE CLUE OF THE HISSING SERPENT

53

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1974.  The second of three in a row he wrote, among others.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Another symbolic cover, this time without the usual red and yellow, but a beautiful blue and green motif.  The elements are all there, the dragon, balloons, chess pieces.  Very nice cover.

Setting: Bayport, nearby, Hong Kong.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Back in the States.  It’s up to the Hong Kong police to show up in Chapter XX this time.

Which Chums Show Up?: All of them.  Svenson likes to bring them all in.  So we have Chet, Biff, Tony, Phil, Callie, Iola in one scene or another.  But it’s Chet who does the heavy lifting, and no, that was not a weight reference, why do you ask?

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Ballooning.  Of course.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Lovely wedges of apple pie after some roast-beef sandwiches.  Now we’re cookin’!

Plot: It’s 1974, chess was quite the rage since the Bobby Fischer world championships a couple of years before.  So a valuable chess piece is in danger of being stolen, and the boys are hired to help.  Who can they trust?  What are the crooks after?

Review:  This one felt odd to me.  It’s a Svenson, and he has written some great ones.  But this one felt disjointed.  If you told me a new writer was assigned this one, I’d believe it.

I kept losing track of the plot.  And pieces of the plot seemed to be brought in almost randomly.  A dragon-shaped balloon?  OK, we got one of those, but now what?  It doesn’t really have much to do with anything.

We get some 70s dialog:

“We flush out vagrants now and then.  Mostly junkies.”

The travel to Hong Kong at the end is nice.  On the whole though, not a great one.

Score: 6

52: THE SHATTERED HELMET

 

52

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1973.  One of many he wrote, including my favorite.  This is the first of three in a row he will write.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Beautiful purple symbolic cover.  There’s the helmet, plus film, with Frank and Joe not nearly in as much danger as usual.  A striking cover for its bold colors.

Setting: Bayport, nearby, the American West, California, Greece. Readers from Greece, this is your book!

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Always by the phone when they call (well, almost always there), and ready to buy plane tickets.  Otherwise he’s off camera in this one (camera cuz it’s about film, ok?).

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet.  Well, Iola sort of makes an appearance when Chet makes a film starring her and she appears that way. It’s also the occasion for a nice bit of dry humor:

“Evan was spellbound [watching the film].  “Who is that beautiful girl?”

“My sister,” Chet said proudly.

“Really?”

“I know it’s hard to believe,” Frank commented.

Whoa, nice burn there, Frank.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Three guesses, and you can skip the first two if you guess filmmaker. 

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: No shape mentioned, but some lovely apple pie is served and appreciated.

Plot: It’s 1973, Hollywood is going through a new Golden Age of independent film, and Frank, Joe, Chet, and their Greek pen-pal Evan (who is visiting for the occasion) enroll in a summer film college course.  Evan has a family mystery involving a missing helmet.  Shenanigans ensue.

Review:  On the one hand, this feels like a write-by-numbers Hardy Boys mystery.  ‘Hmm…I need to have the bad guys try to stop Frank and Joe from the moment they get the case, for that’s in the Hardy Boys writer’s bible.’  So we have the ridiculous matter of Evan just happening to mention a long-ago family mystery, and the very day he does this the crooks are breaking into their house to cause trouble.  That means the crooks were onto the missing helmet before the Hardys ever heard of it.  So why are the crooks trying to stop them from taking the case?  Why not just stay a step ahead of the boys and get the helmet?

In fact, they spend the whole book following Frank and Joe, waiting for the boys to solve the mystery so that they can then grab the helmet.  So why are they trying to stop them from taking the case if they need them to take the case to find the helmet for them?!  Makes no sense.  I think Mr. Svenson realized that (he is a good writer), so he makes up an absurd sub-plot involving Fenton working on a documentary about the mob, and thus all these attacks get attributed to the mob trying to pressure Fenton to stop the documentary.  Uh huh.  Riiight.  Not buying it.

Yet when I turn my logical brain off, I have to admit this is a well-written, nicely plotted story that has much to offer.  Nice Hollywood sub-plot.  Nice introduction to Greece.  Nice way to figure out how to find a helmet that’s been missing for a half-century.  I could do without the weird motorcycle gang chapter, but hey, 1973, how are ya?

That aside, I enjoyed reading this story.  Svenson is good.

Score: 7

50: DANGER ON VAMPIRE TRAIL

50

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1971.  One of many he wrote, including my favorite.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Green green green!  Plus vampire bats.  Frank and Joe look older than in the early days, so this is clearly the new house style for the boys.  This is a striking symbolic cover, very distinctive for all you lovers of the color green.

Setting: Bayport and heading West.  Seriously, this is basically one long road trip.  The Hardy Boys Go Camping.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: He shows up in the first chapter, hands them this case, and then disappears other than to get occasional phone reports from the boys.  No Chapter XX entrance for him this time.  

Which Chums Show Up?: Biff, Tony, Phil, Chet, Callie and Iola.  Biff and Chet actually go camping with the boys.  Just like the last Svenson Hardy Boys book, he likes Biff and Chet but no one else.  The others get mentioned as if on contract to be part of each book, then get dropped.  If I ever wrote a classic Hardy Boys book I’d have Phil Cohen, Callie and Iola go around the world with Frank and Joe, with each of them doing something brave and smart.  Biff, Chet and Tony can cool their heels back home for a change.  Naaaah, who am I kidding?  Chet has to come too.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Not much of anything, really.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: No direct scene, but a reference is made to her “fluffy meringue on top of her famous lemon pies.”  I wonder how far her fame went?

Plot: In 1971 credit cards were not all that common, and so this plot is about crooks using bad credit cards.  Oh, there’s a side plot about sapphires, but it’s not that important.  In fact, the credit card stuff is what merely gets the story going, but the book itself is about Frank and Joe camping and the trouble that happens along the way.  What about vampires?  Forget it, kid.  Not happening.

Review:  Considering it’s a Svenson Hardy Boys, it’s surprising how atypical this one is.  It’s a camping tale.  Not particularly interesting or memorable.

Score: 6

48: THE ARCTIC PATROL MYSTERY

 

48

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1969.  One of many he wrote, including my favorite.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Yellow with the plane, red with the gloves and hats, white for the snow and bear; it’s a good-looking cover.  Not purely literal, and polar bears (who don’t live in Iceland, but it’s explained) don’t grow that big, so there’s symbolism there.  But Frank and Joe really do have a scene like this.

Setting: Bayport and Iceland.  Mostly Iceland.  As I write this post in mid-2014, people from 43 different countries have read this site, but Iceland is not among those 43 countries.  Let’s see if we can fix this with this review!

Where’s Fenton This Time?: On the big part of the case.  This being 1969, the space program was on everyone’s minds, so Fenton is working for the U.S. government to stop saboteurs from wrecking the space program.  Meanwhile Frank and Joe work on finding a guy in Iceland who is due to inherit some money.  Will both cases collide?  Heh, see you in Chapter XIX, dude.

Which Chums Show Up?: Biff, Tony, Chet, Callie and Iola.  Biff and Chet actually go to Iceland with the boys.  It pays to be friends with Frank and Joe for you get all-expense-paid trips all over the world.  Unless you are Callie and Iola, of course, who are almost always left behind pining for their boyfriends.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Kiai!  He’s learning karate.  Yes, it gets used.  Once.  Now in other books he knows judo.  And football scrimmage moves.  But here’s it’s a chop with his hands.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: A “large wedge” of rhubarb pie.  Couldn’t you just go for that right about now?

Plot: As mentioned, off to Iceland to find someone they just know by name.  If it weren’t for those pesky bad guys continually trying to harm the boys, the plot would consist of them sightseeing around Iceland looking for a guy who could be anywhere.

Review:  You know, this is a great one.  It was amazingly topical in 1969 with the moon landing that year, but it holds up.  In fact, this feels like a wholly modern spy mystery that involves spies trying to stop a space program.  Astronauts are part of the story, the bad guys have realistic motives, and they play for keeps.

The Icelandic scenes are terrific.  This is a great introduction to Iceland for kids.  Guarantee they will want to visit someday.  Having been to that beautiful and fascinating island myself, I can say it is well worth a visit.  I look forward to returning.

So, good writing (I like my Svenson Hardy Boys), good plot, good local characters, good suspense, very modern feel, but classic Hardy Boys cast of characters and ways of acting, all combine to make this a fun book to read.

Score: 9

30: THE WAILING SIREN MYSTERY

 

30

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1951.  The third of three-in-a-row that he did in the late 40s/early 50s.  And the last one he did until he writes what, for me, is one of the highlights of the entire series (you’ll see).

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1968 by Pricilla Baker-Carr, and it’s Ms. Baker-Carr the rest of the way until we hit 1960 and the original stories stand alone at last.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Not much red or yellow, it’s all shades of green and blue.  But what a great cover this is!  Unlike the recent abstract covers, this one is almost a photograph.  I think I like the night covers in the rain a lot (see my raving over What Happened at Midnight).  And unlike other covers that spoil the endings, this one is basically chapter one.  That’s the actual scene from the book, and it’s portrayed exactly as written.  If you don’t want to know why that helicopter is flying in the rain to meet that yacht, you don’t deserve to read Hardy Boys books.  I mean, Frank and Joe would see that scene and leap to figure it out…

Setting: Bayport and the woods north of there.   

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Back and forth to Washington, showing up at times to help, and then making one of the most dashing Chapter XX Deus Ex Helicopter entrances ever.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Biff, Tony, Callie, Iola.  It’s more or less a camping trip for the boys.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: None.  

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: None.  I’m hungry.

Plot: See the cover?  What’s that all about?  Well, that’s the plot, trying to figure out what’s going on.  Oh, OK, I’ll tell you it involves crooks doing some gunrunning, thefts, wolves in the woods ready to rip people’s throats out (what?  That’s what the book says, so don’t yell at me if your 10-year-old just complained I got too graphic).

Review:  This one is OK, not great.  You know, that cover is funny because of course Frank and Joe would just happen to be there while this event is going on.  If they don’t take the Sleuth out for a spin, they don’t see that scene.  If they don’t see that scene, they have no idea anything is happening.  Well, Fenton is working the D.C. angle, so he would eventually figure it out, but man, the crooks pick Bayport as their base of operations again?!  Have they not read books 1-29?

And Frank and Joe stumble into so many mysteries by being in the right place at the right time I’m surprised there isn’t a series of historical Hardy Boys books: The Mystery of Ford’s Theater, for instance, when Frank and Joe happen to have tickets to see a show in 1865 when … well, you know.

And what’s with the wailing siren of the title?  It keeps going off, and the only ones who seem to care are Frank and Joe.  Huh?  If you hear a massive siren going off from the woods, don’t you think someone would figure out what’s going on?  The police would, if no one else, simply to stop all the citizens calling in to complain about that noise going off again.  Seriously, if this is the method chosen by the crooks to signal their moves, they are genuine idiots.

Score: 7

29: THE SECRET OF THE LOST TUNNEL

29

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1950.  The second of three-in-a-row that he did in the late 40s/early 50s.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1968 by David Grambs, the last of his four revisions after 6: The Shore Road Mystery, 12: Footprints Under the Window and very recently 27: The Secret of Skull Mountain.  That represents two 9 ratings and one 6.  Which will his fourth revision get, the 9 end or the 6 end?

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  There’s yellow, there’s red, got some blue, and a lot of brown.  Instead of the boys peering at danger, they are investigating the secret of the lost tunnel.  Yes, a massive spoiler is placed right on the cover…

Setting: Bayport and then Virginia.  This is another Frank and Joe Down South story.  

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Testifying in Washington.  Until Chapter XX, of course.  Saves the boys’ life. Of course. 

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet.  Appearing to send them off down south are Callie, Iola and Helen Osborne (who?).

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Photography.  Yup, gets used.  But I have an official complaint: In 22: The Flickering Torch Mystery, Chet’s hobby is building airplanes from parts.  Yet in this story, Chet says at one point, “I’d sure like to learn to fly these things.”  Are you kidding me?  Seven books ago he’s building an airplane, yet he can’t even fly the things?!

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Apple pie, the basic staple of pies.  Then it’s off down south for the rest of the tale.

Plot: Military general wants to hire Fenton to find some gold his ancestor was said to have buried, but reluctantly hires Frank and Joe when Fenton is called away to Washington.  Frank and Joe go down south, start sniffing around, and go figure, a gang of crooks is looking for the same gold.  Threats and knocks on the head ensue.

Review:  Not my favorite.  It’s almost a by the numbers attempt to get in the elements of a Hardy Boys book, but it doesn’t fly.  It’s a simple treasure hunt, if said hunt was accompanied by homicidal maniacs willing to kill you to get to the treasure first.  So actually, yeah, a simple treasure hunt.  It just doesn’t work as well as it should.  Goodbye Mr. Grambs, thank you for the two 9s you gave us, sorry about the two 6s.

Score: 6