Tag Archives: Fenton Hardy

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

43: THE MYSTERY OF THE AZTEC WARRIOR

43

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Harriet S. Adams in 1964.  In 1946 Ms. Adams wrote 25: THE SECRET PANEL, which got revised in 1969.  Then in 1959 she revised the first two Hardy Boys books.  Five years later she wrote this one.  I thought The Secret Panel was a great book.  What do I think of this one?

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Reddish-brown as the dominant color, and Frank and Joe doing some investigating.  True to the book, not my favorite color selection.

Setting: Bayport and then Mexico.  In the early days it was all Bayport, all the time, that bastion of criminal nefariousness.  But in recent books it seems to be Frank and Joe Do [Insert colorful location].  We had Alaska, and the Northwest Territories in Canada, and the desert southwest, and now Mexico.  Man, Bayport must be crawling with pickpockets by this time.    

Where’s Fenton This Time?: On the phone getting updates from the boys down Mexico way.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet.  Señor Morton does a good job.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Nothing.  Seems to be in a bit of a hobby slump.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: “Famous strawberry shortcake topped with a sea of whipped cream.”  She had me at “famous.”

Plot: This is a humdinger of a plot.  A wealthy man dies but names the Hardys in his will, stating they must solve a mystery before any relatives get paid.  The mystery is to find “the Aztec Warrior.”  That’s it.  Go ahead, you figure out how you’re going to solve that one.

Review:  The boys soon head down to Mexico to find that Aztec culture with nothing more than the idea that a ceremonial weapon is involved in the mystery and a couple of names of people.  Imagine showing up in Times Square in New York City and asking people if they know a “Tom Smith.”  Think you’d get far?  Nope.  But the Hardys are nothing if not persistent, and eventually they get some leads.

Plus kids are introduced to a somewhat out-of-date look at Mexico tourism. You do get a flavor of life south of the border that would make the Mexican Culture Minister proud.  If nothing else, you’ll want some enchiladas by the time this book is done.  Fortunately Aunt Gertrude has some strawberry shortcake to finish the meal.

Look, this is not a typical mystery.  This one is about finding a man, whoever he might be.  And yes, you’ll never guess who or what the “Aztec warrior” turns out to be.  It’s a fun ride.

Score: 8

42: THE VIKING SYMBOL MYSTERY

 

42

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Alistair Hunter in 1963.  His only original Hardy Boys book, but written in the same year he revised 5: HUNTING FOR HIDDEN GOLD and the year after he revised 3: THE SECRET OF THE OLD MILL.  I gave #5 a rating of 5 and #3 a rating of 6.  Can Mr. Hunter get a 7 at last?

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Red and yellow, with a mostly realistic setting.  Good, classic look.

Setting: Bayport and then Canada.  Edmonton and Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories.  Come see Canada!     

Where’s Fenton This Time?: He incites the action by getting Tony and Biff to go one way, and the boys and Chet to go another way, and then he joins in midway through and continues with the gang.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Biff, Tony, but it must be said that Tony disappears and Biff is used sparingly.  But at this stage Mr. Hardy is using them all as cheap labor.

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

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Chocolate cake, not to mention “juicy, tender roast beef, buttered baked potatoes, fresh asparagus” before that.  Aunty is on her game in this one.

Plot: An old slab of rock goes missing that, wouldn’t you know, tells how to find a missing treasure if you can only read the Viking symbols.  A gang is trying to read it, and the Boys have to stop them.

Review:  Not bad, though I never want to hear “Bon tonnerre!” ever again.  But hey, Caribou Caron is a stand up guy, so I’ll forgive him for that.

This one has an awful lot of flying back and forth between the lake and Edmonton.  And they are constantly catching members of the gang and locking them up, until the whole book seems like a catch-the-next-guy story.  But it has nice adventure, with bears and salmon and pesky insects, so readers will get a feel for the Canadian wilderness.  And the story has enough suspense to keep you interested along the way.

Score: 7

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

36: THE SECRET OF PIRATE’S HILL

36

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: John Almquist in 1956.  His second of two in a row that Mr. Almquist wrote, the only ones he did.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1972 by Pricilla Baker-Carr.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.   What a beautiful cover this is!  Nice shades of underwater blue with green vegetation.  Frank and Joe scuba diving with a ray in the foreground.  Having handled rays, I know how gentle they actually are, but hey this makes the cover look striking, so shut up.  The funny thing is the book begins with scuba diving and ends with scuba diving, but not so much in between.  This is sort of a scene from the book, sort of symbolic (no rays appear in the book), mostly just a pleasant cover.

Setting: Bayport and nearby Pirate’s Hill. Naturally.  Amazing how much treasure is buried around this town. They should just dig up the whole area and retire. 

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Washington D.C., as usual.  Probably sorting out some partisan bickering or something.  But our Mr. Chapter XX does show up in the end.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Biff, Tony, Callie, Iola.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Guess.  Just guess.  Go on, you know you want to.  Need a hint?  Look at the cover.  Got it?  And nope, he never uses it in the book other than some practice stuff in the pool.  Hey, do you see Chet on the cover?  Didn’t think so…

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Nuttin’.  Mr. Almquist didn’t go for that sort of low-brow writing, I guess.  But man, I could go for a heaping slice of pie or something.

Plot: The boys are scuba diving when someone shoots at them underwater.  Silly crooks, don’t they know that if they just ignore Frank and Joe the boys will ignore them back?  Noooo, they have to shoot at them and start a process whereby these stubborn kids simply WILL.NOT.STOP until they bust you.  So trying to figure out why a diver tried to KILL THEM, they get contacted by two different individuals, opposed to each other, and accusing each other of bad behavior, both of whom want Frank and Joe to find a cannon.  Huh?  Why?  Well, that’s the plot.  Find the cannon.  Avoid getting killed in the process.

Review:  It’s suspenseful, and the mystery of the cannon is decent.  I’m a bit tired of the author throwing two people at us and telling us one of them is bad and letting us wonder which one.  That’s a plot device that got used a LOT.  But it is engaging enough, and that cover deserves a point.

Score: 7

35: THE CLUE IN THE EMBERS

 

35

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: John Almquist in 1955.  The first of two in a row that Mr. Almquist wrote, the only ones he did.  The mid-50s seems to have been a transition time for Mr. Dixon to find his ghost writers…

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1972 by Priscilla Baker-Carr.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.   Hate it.  So dark.  Very symbolic by throwing together elements in the book that don’t belong in the same scene.  That shrunken head?  Appears in a benign setting at the very beginning of the book and then disappears.  Yet here it is front and center as if the Hardy Boys are going to face down headhunters.  Nope.  Don’t like this one, Mr. Nappi.

Setting: Bayport and Guatemala.  

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Once again working on the same case, at times working with the boys, and at times he gets called urgently to Washington.  And then when the boys need him more than anyone, at an extremely serious climax danger situation, uh, he’s in Washington.  Sorry, boys, find someone else to do the job.  Bad, Fenton!

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Biff, Tony, Callie, Iola. And Maria Santos and Judy Rankin.  Who?  Exactly.  Nice try, Mr. Almquist, but no banana.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: None.  Oh, and he’s back to being a coward again, just as we like him.  Always nice to have ol’ Chet worry about horrible ways to die.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: She merely tut tuts about how dangerous things are, and the boys consciously lie to her as usual.  You don’t deserve pie when you do that.

Plot: Tony inherits some curios from a late relative’s shop in New York City.  At that exact moment a gang of crooks from Guatemala show up in Bayport and try desperate and dangerous things to get those curios.  What are they after?  Why are they willing to attempt murder for it?  Why does it always, always, always happen in Bayport?

Review:  Starts off hot, with a villain who is do unrelentingly desperate to get the goods that it’s amazing.  Chapters 1 and 2 are like having a rabid dog trying to get your hamburger — he does not quit no matter what.  It’s quite a start.  But then the mystery basically turns out to be, What Do They Want?, and once they figure that out, it’s the ol’ find the buried gold that the Hardy Boys can find instantly but the natives couldn’t find for centuries. Riiiight.

But hey, you get to visit Guatemala, and it does have this particularly nifty bit of detective work described:

“Joe shook out the contents of the envelope and selected one of the firmer tiny charred pieces. He clamped this in place on the microtome. Then, running a finely honed knife blade delicately through it, Joe cut off a section.
“What thickness?” he asked.
“About two thousandths of an inch,” Frank replied.
Working carefully, Joe cut other tissue-thin sections from several angles, letting them drop onto a glass slide. In a few moments Frank had prepared several photomicrographs of them, showing distinct wood grains.
“Now we’ll see what was burning in the sarcophagus,” Frank said as he prepared to project the first lantern slide.”

When you are a ten-year-old, this stuff is dynamite!  You feel like you are really learning stuff.

But on the whole, just a middling effort with some nice aspects and a depressing cover.

Score: 6