Tag Archives: England

55: THE WITCHMASTER’S KEY

55

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Vincent Buranelli in 1976.  The first of three in a row he wrote, among others.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  A symbolic cover, drab grey and brown.  There’s Stonehenge, and there’s the mysterious bearded dude, and there’s a key all right.  Blah. It’s ugly.

Setting: England and Ireland.  Not the kind of story that will make their tourist boards happy.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Back in the States after sending them off into horrible danger.  He does not show up.

Which Chums Show Up?: Just Chet and Phil.  And they only show up by accident, in a way.  No, this one is Frank and Joe’s story.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Hard to say.  He and Phil go on a cycling tour of Europe, so I guess cycling is the hobby.  But Chet also mentions wanting to take Manx cats back home to Bayport.  Wait, what?  Maybe that’s the hobby.  I dunno, feels like a comment that was stuck in to check off the “Hobby” box.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: She only appears on the phone to tut tut about danger.  No pie today, boys.  Better get yourself a Cornish pasty instead.

Plot: Fenton asks them to fly to England to help a professor friend with whatever he needs.  Yup, that’s it, no idea what’s in store, just go help a friend.  Then witches.  That’s about it for the plot.

Review:  My sons went to England and just brought me back a curse.  Or something.  Look, remember the Scooby Doo rule that there is never going to be any real supernatural stuff in the Hardy Boys.  They just pretend before realizing it was just Mr. Hopper wearing a mask, and he would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for you kids — sorry, let’s move on…

At one point we get this description:

“A pitch-black raven perched on the topmost pinnacle.  As they watched, it emitted a loud, hoarse croak and flew off in the direction of the churchyard, which was visible in the distance.

The rising wind shook the top of the Witch Museum.  rain lashed the tiles outside.  A bolt of light night cut through the sky.  Thunder boomed overhead.”

Oh brother, that’s laying it on thick!  You get the point, the authors aways try to make you think a woman is walking on water or rising from the dead, but it ain’t the case.

That said, this is the closest they ever get to the supernatural.  In this case, they really do deal with witches.  Wiccan beliefs are discussed, though they are never called Wiccan.  Curses are issued.  Rituals are followed.  If this stuff freaks you out, skip this book.

But in the end, of course, it’s a simple case of robbery.  Hey, it’s the Hardy Boys.  But because of the overt nature of the witch plot, this is an atypical book.  It’s the Hardy Boys telling ghost stories around a campfire.

Not my favorite.

Score: 5

46: THE SECRET AGENT ON FLIGHT 101

 

46

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Tom Mulvey in 1967.  That same year he also revised 10: WHAT HAPPENED AT MIDNIGHT, as well as 13: THE MARK ON THE DOOR.  Two years earlier, in 1965, he revised 9: THE GREAT AIRPORT MYSTERY.  Then in 1968 he would revise 15: THE SINISTER SIGNPOST, and in 1969 he revised 18: THE TWISTED CLAW.  This Secret Agent on Flight 101 book is his only original.

His previous five books, coincidentally, got scores (not in order) of 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.  Can he get a 10?  A 4?

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Blue and green action scene, Frank and Joe chasing a bad guy.  Good look, nice action, a bit monochromatic, but not bad.

Setting: Bayport, off the coast of New England, London England and finally Scotland.  Yes, that does describe a journey and a direction, doesn’t it?  This is Frank and Joe do the UK.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: They found a unique way to get Fenton off the stage: put him on a stage in a magic show, make him disappear, then make sure he stays disappeared.  Ah, but who is the secret agent on Flight 101?  Heh heh.

Which Chums Show Up?: Biff and Chet.  Mostly Chet.  When even higher ups in major spy organizations are suggesting the boys bring Chet along, you know you are in Chet Morton fantasy land.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Magic.  Does it apply to the bad guy?  Of course.  Does Chet’s hobby save their lives at the end?  Of course.  Will Chet ever use this hobby ever again?  Of course not.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: “Dessert.”  Just “dessert.”  Bad form, Mr. Mulvey.  You described her pies and cakes before, you know.

Plot: Magician offers to make Fenton disappear.  He does.  Now the boys have to find him.  Then they get involved with a spy organization (SKOOL) to fight the bad guys who are involved in a bad guy organization (UGLI).  The chase takes them to Scotland.

Review:  SKOOL and UGLI?  Really?  I realize it’s 1967, and James Bond and SPECTRE are a very big deal in the world, but this is just dated and bad.  I realize the Hardy Boys books are written for kids, and so as adults we see the holes in the plot or the simplistic writing.  But I’m telling you that some of these books stand up to adult scrutiny to some extent.  But when you do juvenile writing about spy organizations called SKOOL and UGLI, it’s embarrassing.

And really, the professional spies suggest they go to Scotland, and then they wait around for the Hardys to suggest the next plan of action, and then say, ‘good idea!’  I’m sorry, that’s just not realistic.  The professionals would be calling the shots, would not suggest they bring their chum, Chet, along.

No, they never refer to those spy organizations after this book, and that’s good.  Frank and Joe are supposed to be amateurs doing independent work.  I realize some of the later Hardy Boys books do involve Frank and Joe in a spy organization, but I’m talking about the original 58 books only.

And I must point this out from the fourth paragraph of the book:

“It was Friday evening.  Bayport High had closed for summer vacation the day before.”

Got that?  The boys have been solving mystery after mystery, this being #46 in the sequence, almost all of which take place during the summer between their junior and senior years of high school.  Yet #46 takes place the day after school ended for the summer.  I guess most of the other 45 adventures took place the day before…

Now if this sounds as if I don’t like this book, don’t get that impression.  I’m picking on aspects of it, but the mystery is good, the bad guys are rotten, the scenery is fun.  Frank actually climbs outside of a moving airplane to get something, so we truly are in James Bond territory, but I enjoyed it.  But it’s not the best of the bunch.

Score: 7