Tag Archives: Aunt Gertrude

58: THE STING OF THE SCORPION

 

58

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: James D. Lawrence in 1979.  Twenty years prior to this he wrote 37: THE GHOST AT SKELETON ROCK, 38: MYSTERY AT DEVIL’S PAW and 39: THE MYSTERY OF THE CHINESE JUNK (the first two of which were revised).  Plus he revised three other books in the 1960s.  Mr. Lawrence is an old hand at writing Hardy Boys books, and boy does it show here!

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  A bit too dark, but it’s an interesting symbolic cover with so much green.  There’s the elephant, and an elephant appears several times in the story, and there’s the sign of Scorpio, but no, the Zodiac does not play a part in the story other than the name of the gang.  And for a final time, there are Frank and Joe facing danger while wearing yellow and red.  Keep on fighting, old friends, keep ever fighting.

Setting: Bayport, New York City briefly, and then gloriously back to Bayport for the entire story.  If you are going to end a series, do it at home.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: He’s around, and pops in when needed, and yes, he comes riding in at the end.  Whenever life throws you a curve, look for Fenton to show up in the final chapter to help out.  That’s sort of comforting, huh?

Which Chums Show Up?: Everybody!  Even Karen Hunt, Biff’s date.  Who?  Exactly!  This is a Bayport story, and every chum takes part.  Even Chet doesn’t hog it all this time.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Acrobatics, for a show.  But it hardly takes up a lot of the plot, so it’s simply in there because Chet needs a hobby.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Juicy wedges of apple pie!  And a chocolate cake!  Thank you Mr. Lawrence for including them both.

Plot: Someone’s trying to run off the owner of a wild animal park in Bayport.  Meanwhile dirigibles are all over the place as the next big means of transportation, and someone drops an elephant from one of the blimps and then it explodes before it hits the ground.  No really, but I promise you it gets explained in chapter one.

Review:  As we say goodbye to the Hardy Boys, I cannot believe how much of a relief it was to read this book as the final one.  Mr. Lawrence includes everything a good Hardy Boys book should have:

  • Aunt Gertrude making dessert(s)
  • Chet with a hobby
  • The action takes place in Bayport
  • The boys are not super spies working for the government, but typical teens hanging out with friends while solving a mystery.
  • Continuity!  Biff has his Great Dane, Tivoli!  The Chinese junk they used to own gets mentioned!
  • The gang gets to have fun, so it’s not just grim action all the time.  At one point they are enjoying the park with their friends, and they get to do just that, for hours.

I love this book.  It’s as if they knew this would be the last of the classics, so they wanted to create a best-of Hardy Boys book that covered all of the bases.

The mystery is simple but good.  The bad guy hides in plain sight.  And the book — and thus the series — ends with this quote from Chet and no future mystery teased:

“Speaking of which — how about a sky-high malt, fellows?”

Sounds good, Chet.

This is how I want to leave the Hardy Boys.  Forever fighting crime in Bayport, having fun with friends, being normal teens, with a buddy who just wants to get a malt.  You could hardly end it any better.

Score: 10

57: THE FIREBIRD ROCKET

57

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Vincent Buranelli in 1978.  The third of three in a row he wrote, and now we say goodbye to Mr. Buranelli.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  I like this one, with the dominant green in the Australia background, the rocket blasting off, and modern Frank and Joe (with 70s haircuts) bringing the classic red and yellow back.

Setting: Bayport, Princeton NJ and then Australia. Let’s see, they probably figured, the boys had been up and down North and South America, all over Europe, to Japan, and also Africa.  Hey, let’s send them down under!

Where’s Fenton This Time?: He sends them off to investigate, but he shows up before the end to help rescue his sons and catch the bad guys.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Biff, Tony, Phil, Iola and … whoa!  No Callie?  You finally include Iola, Mr. Buranelli, and leave Callie out?!  Anyway, it’s Chet’s show as usual.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Look at the title of this book.  Now you tell me what his hobby is.  Still didn’t figure it out?  Look at the title again.  See the words in the title?  Now what do you think Chet’s hobby is?  Right.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: No dessert for you today.

Plot: The Firebird rocket program is in trouble because its top scientist has been kidnapped.  Frank and Joe go searching for him.  All the way to Australia, mate.

Review:  Another good Buranelli.  I like this one a lot.  It has a very straightforward mystery, with the question of who is or is not a bad guy.  They go off to Australia and do the tourist thing while tracking down the scientist.  The bad guys are suitably bad.  The scenery and local color is cool.  Fenton does his suave thing at the end.

I will note this one sentence as being dated:

“This is one thing Women’s Lib did for us.”

Yes, kids, that’s how people talked in the 70s.  But hey, that’s life.

A really good book.

Score: 9

56: THE JUNGLE PYRAMID

 

56

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Vincent Buranelli in 1977.  The second of three in a row he wrote, among others.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  A beautifully detailed realistic cover representing one scene in the book.  Frank and Joe heading directly into danger.  Nice look, modern, stark.

Setting: Bayport, Switzerland, Mexico and back to Bayport.  

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Oh, he shows up after sending them to Switzerland and then Mexico.  This is a family affair in this book.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Biff and Tony.  What’s up, Mr. Buranelli, don’t you like Callie and Iola?

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: He gets a diploma from a mail-order certifying that he is adept in gold artifacts.  Hey, lots of gold artifacts to be identified in this story, whaddya know?

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Cherry pie with homemade whipped cream.

Plot: Some gold is stolen from a mint, the assistant director of the mint hires Fenton to find it, and Fenton brings in the boys.  Where’s the gold? Hey, maybe Switzerland.  Oh, maybe Mexico.  Hmm…there’s a missing jungle pyramid too.

Review:  I like this one.  The bad guy is a surprise.  The location of the gold is a surprise.  Typical Hardy Boys behavior occurs.  It’s even typical that the boys find the missing pyramid while none of the locals or the visiting archaeologists can figure out its location.  Yessir, you need something found, Frank and Joe are your guys.

It’s a fun adventure tale with lots of typical elements.

Score: 8

40: MYSTERY OF THE DESERT GIANT

40

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: James Beuchler in 1961.  One of two originals in a row he would write, but we’ve seen Mr. Beuchler’s work before in 11: WHILE THE CLOCK TICKED and in 14: THE HIDDEN HARBOR MYSTERY, both of which he revised in the same years as he was writing his two originals.  I gave #11 a rating of 8 and #14 a rating of 6.  Hmm..do I smell a 7 coming on here?

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Couldn’t be more classic.  Frank is wearing red, Joe is wearing yellow, they are staring at a bad guy caught in the act, this scene comes right out of the book in the way the covers often give the ending away, and it’s at night.  My only quibble?  The giant depicted is far too small.  In the book it’s geographically accurate, but I guess Mr. Nappi had to compromise or else we’d have no idea what we’re looking at.

Setting: Bayport, the California desert and Mexico.  

Where’s Fenton This Time?: He shows up, and is one of the gang this time.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Infrared photography.  Yes, it gets used in the book.  No, he never knows anything about it ever again.  Chet is really all over the place in the series.  For example, at one point in this book Chet says, “You know I can’t cook worth anything.  Eating is what I’m good at.”  Ahem, in several earlier books Chet is noted as being a great cook.  In fact, he gets jobs doing that as part of their cases.    Sloppy work there, Mr.  Beuchler…

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: None.  At one point the boys revive a conked Chet by telling him Aunt Gertrude made a chocolate cake.  But she didn’t.  Now that’s just cruel!

Plot: This is a missing person’s story.  Someone goes missing, the boys go out west to find him.  There is a gang doing some criminal stuff that the missing person got caught up in.  That’s about it.

Review:  This is another Hardy Boys Go West story, but I give Mr. Beuchler credit for adding more realism to the characters.  When they finally find the missing person, he doesn’t want to be found, and he has valid psychological reasons for thinking this.

I pointed out how intense 11: WHILE THE CLOCK TICKED is, with perhaps the most dire ending situation of any Hardy Boys book.  Well, he likes writing interesting psychological personalities, and I give him credit.

I also like that the crime in this story is not the usual jewel thieves or the like, but a more realistic type of crime.  We are getting into modern behavior now.

And I have to quote the final words of this book (no major spoilers) simply because it perfectly encapsulates why these books are loved:

“Living with you for these past few days has taught me that there are still plenty of wonderful people in the world.  I promise you, if I ever get sour on life again, all I’ll need to keep up my spirits will be to remind myself of Frank and Joe Hardy and Chet Morton — three swell fellows.”

I think we can all say Amen to that.

Score: 7

39: THE MYSTERY OF THE CHINESE JUNK

39

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: James D. Lawrence in 1960.  His third of three in a row.

Was It Revised?: No.  There will be no more revisions from here on out.  When we reach 1960, we reach the final versions of these classic tales.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  A realism cover with classic red and yellow.  Frank and Joe are staring at a junk.  It’s OK, not my favorite.

Setting: Bayport, with a brief sojourn to Staten Island, New York to buy the junk.  

Where’s Fenton This Time?: California.  With the missus.  He never shows up.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Tony, Callie, Iola . . . and Biff!  Mr. Lawrence does like Biff after all!

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Spelunking.  You know, exploring caves.  No, no matter how often Chet will wind up in a cave throughout the rest of the series, rest assured his knowledge of spelunking will be ignored.  

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Wow!  We hit the jackpot here.  Angel cake on one occasion.  Then strawberry shortcake.  Then chocolate pies.  Finally on the last occasion we get ice cream.  It’s as if Mr. Lawrence tried to make up for his lack of Aunt Gertrude cooking by shoving every dessert in the world in this book.  Ol’ Gerty is cooking up a storm in this book.

Plot: The boys have a chance to buy a Chinese Junk, and they decide that this would be a great way to spend their summer by ferrying passengers around the Bay and making some bucks.  But the moment they buy the ship, everyone else suddenly needs that ship for some unknown reason.  Death threats follow.

Review:  An OK story that takes place in Bayport with the usual gang.  The bad guys do the usual rough stuff, and the goal is the usual treasure that is treated like a MacGuffin.  And there is increasing awareness of cultural sensitivity.  In the old days this first sentence would not have been followed by this second sentence:

“Welcome aboard, honored guys,” Joe said solemnly, bowing low in Oriental manner.

The Chinese-American lad chuckled.  “Boy, that’s corny enough for a Grade D movie about China!”

OK, they are trying.

Score: 6

38: MYSTERY AT DEVIL’S PAW

38

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: James D. Lawrence in 1959.  His second of three in a row.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1973 by Pricilla Baker-Carr.  And with that we bid a fond farewell to Ms. Baker-Carr for this was the last book she ever revised.  Thank you for your fine work over the years!  That means from now on we are dealing with original writing only.  No more revisions.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  A symbolic cover awash in white and tan, with only Joe’s red upholding the tradition.  I like this cover.  It has the classic Hollywood movie poster look: one character looks left, one character looks right, the totem pole looks ahead.  It’s striking and it’s unique in its subject matter.

Setting: Bayport and Alaska with a brief dip into British Columbia.  In 1959 Alaska became a state.  Mr. Lawrence immediately welcomed the newest state into the crime-ridden world of the Hardys.  

May I once again point out the absurdity of the criminal networks working all over the world, but always having a henchman stationed in Bayport so that the moment the Hardy Boys get a case the henchman can try to kill them to prevent them from traveling to where the crime is occurring.  Amazing how all these gangs can always spare someone for Bayport duty, and how that someone can be so attuned to everything that happens to the Hardy Boys that the moment someone gets a phone call or a telegram or even a conversation, that henchman is on the case!

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Bayport.  The entire stinking time.  The Boys are on their own this adventure.  Well, not exactly alone.  See my review below.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Tony, Callie, Iola.  Did Mr. Lawrence not like Biff?

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Nothing.  

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Who?  She barely shows up.  I think Mr. Lawrence was more into Boys Own Adventure Tales than cooking up goodies from Gertrude.

Plot: This is an odd one.  Not too much mystery other than ‘why are the crooks acting this way.’  This is really Frank and Joe Travel to Alaska and meet bears, salmon spawning, locals, indiginous people, totem poles (see cover) and glaciers.  The actually mystery of the totem pole is not much.  The mystery at Devil’s Paw is not much.  The crooks here are not so much crooks, and more folks engaging in foreign espionage.  I won’t give it away, but the objective of the bad guys has nothing to do with crime.  No, this is less a mystery and more a guide to the Alaskan wilderness.

Review:  This is not a typical Hardy Boys book, so I’m not as fond of it.  In all long-running books or TV series, after a while the writers think, hey, let’s put our characters in Hawaii this week, or something.  I’m not fond of these “special” episodes, and that’s what this one felt like.

A couple of amusing notes:

1. At one point the boys are enjoying a feast in an Indian village and this happens:

“The first course consisted of slabs of pink salmon,  “Good night!  It’s raw!” Joe whispered.

Welcome to sushi, Joe.  Guess that wasn’t much of a thing back in 1959.

2. Maybe Fenton doesn’t show up in Chapter XX, but check out who does:

“As if by magic, the darkness suddenly turned to daylight.  Powerful magnesium flares attached to parachutes illuminated the entire area.  This was followed by more billowing chutes — paratroops!”

Holy cow, they finally called in the infantry!  That’s some serious firepower at the Boy’s beck and call!

Oh well, it’s an OK read.  if your child is interested in Alaska or the wilderness, this is his or her book.  But as a Hardy Boy mystery, eh..

Score: 5

37: THE GHOST AT SKELETON ROCK

 

37

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: James D. Lawrence in 1957.  His first of three in a row, plus one other one he wrote years later that will conclude this series.  But Mr. Lawrence also revised three of the earlier books (16: A FIGURE IN HIDING, 17: THE SECRET WARNING, 19: THE DISAPPEARING FLOOR).  I gave those three earlier books scores of 7, 6 and 8.  But just to keep things odd, Mr. Lawrence revised those books in the mid-1960s.  Yes, he wrote his original books first, and then revised earlier entries.  Got it?  Good, quiz at the end.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1966 by Pricilla Baker-Carr.  Which was the same year Mr. Lawrence was revising Hardy Boys books.  So as he did that, she revised his. Somehow there is a metaphor for life in there.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  A classic cover.  Night scene, ocean in the background giving us our dominant blue color, the plane being shot at from crooks on the beach below.  This is a realism cover from Mr. Nappi, and it’s a solid entry.

Setting: Bayport and Puerto Rico.  Welcome, readers from that lovely island that I’ve visited three times so far.  I enjoyed it as much as Frank and Joe did.  More actually since no one was trying to kill me at the time.  

But once again we get the absurd notion that crooks, needing money in Puerto Rico, decide to raise some by swindling the good folks of . . . oh, let’s say Bayport.  Riiiiiight.  That’s the first place I would think of if I were in the Caribbean.  Nobody to swindle in Florida?

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Washington D.C., as usual.  But then the boys get to play Deus Ex Fenton in Chapter XX and rescue him for a change.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Tony, Callie, Iola.  What, Biff was busy?  But Tony gets to play a larger part then usual and does a great job.  Fans of Tony Prito, this is your book.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Ventriloquism.  Who’s the dummy now, eh?

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: I’m so hungry I could nibble on the corner of this book.  Aunt Gertrude evidently didn’t bake pies in the 1950s or something.  But good stuff is going to show up before we’re through.

Plot: Lots of Hitchcock MacGuffins in this story. It’s about crooked fortune tellers.  Nope.  It’s about smuggling diamonds in ventriloquist dummies.  Nope.  This plot ultimately gets into the political (the bad guys are playing a very big game) in a way that would have resonated in the 1950s (mostly because this is just the sort of nonsense that was happening back then).  In any case, the boys have to fly to Puerto Rico, figure out who to trust, and oh yeah, solve the Scooby Doo mystery of the “ghost,” if you catch my drift.

Review:  Speaking of Scooby Doo (and I do this a lot here since so much of Scooby Doo derives from the Hardy Boys), check this quote out:

“We might have pulled it off if that important [MacGuffin] hadn’t been sent to the very town where the Hardys lived.  Those nosy detectives and their pals upset our plans.”

Yup, Scooby Doo.

On the whole, this is a very good adventure.  It has the usual cast of crook types, plus a bonus one who looks just like one of the boys (and when you find out why he does look like one of the boys, you’ll shake your head at the stupidity of doing what he did which would GUARANTEE Frank and Joe would never, ever stop until they got their man).

The ghost sub-thread is predictable, contains a bit of Carib racism that was probably typical of the time, and has a very Scooby Doo ending.  But if it sounds like I am scoffing at this book, the bottom line is I enjoyed it very much.  It moves, it’s fun, it’s a good entry.

Score: 8