Tag Archives: flying

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

31: THE SECRET OF WILDCAT SWAMP

31

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: William Halstead in 1952.  His one and only Hardy Boys book.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1969 by Pricilla Baker-Carr.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.    A bit of red and yellow, but mostly we are in the green period.  A little too much green for the subject, if you ask me (and if you are reading this site, you are asking me).  This is another literal episode cover, and it nicely confuses the reader into thinking this book will be about wildcats when it’s really about . . .

Setting: Bayport and the West.  This is another Hardy Boys Go West story, and this one not only has cowboys, it also has people running around on top of a moving train.  Just like Hollywood.  Hey, 1952 was Western central.   

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Back east until it’s time for his usual appearance, but it’s earlier than usual and he and the boys work together a lot more than is typical.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet.  Yee-haw!

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: None.  But, and this is really important, for the first time ever Chet remembers he had a hobby in the past.  He actually remembers his judo from 28: The Sign of the Crooked Arrow!  Well done, writers!

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

Plot: A teacher in Bayport asks Frank and Joe to come out west to help him with an archaeological dig in Wildcat Swamp.  Which when they get there nobody knows it by that name.  And a bunch of crooks are, naturally, after that very spot for . . . something.

Review:  Decent, not a big fan of the Hardy Boys Western series.  It’s just adventures out west, not so much of the detective stuff.

Score: 6

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

28: THE SIGN OF THE CROOKED ARROW

 

28

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1949.  His first since revising 23: The Melted Coins (which I gave an 8) and before that 7: The Secret of the Caves (which only got a 5).  Mr. Svenson will end up writing several of the later volumes.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1970 by Priscilla Baker-Carr, who will be revising most of the rest as we go along.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Yellow and red are back!  A bit abstract, not actually an event from the book, but thematically accurate.  Mid-level Nappi.

Setting: Bayport and then New Mexico.  Unlike Hunting for Hidden Gold, written originally in 1928, and very much reflecting the Old West in spirit, this one is very much a product of mid-century Americana.  In the late-40s and early-50s, the U.S. went Western mad, so this is very much a Frank-and-Joe-go-West story.  But unlike the Old West setting in Hidden Gold, this is more dude ranch western living.  

Where’s Fenton This Time?: He gets his sorry self shot by an arrow and spends lots of time in the hospital and then recuperating in bed.  In fact, this is why Frank and Joe have to fill in when his sister needs help on her New Mexico ranch.  Don’t worry, he wouldn’t miss his Chapter XX appearance, typically by air.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, of course.  Iola appears briefly.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Judo.  Yup, gets used.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: After three desserts in the last one, Gertrude had to rest a bit. Don’t worry, the boys get good western cooking.  Chet even eats too much to go riding.  What, like that surprises you?

Plot: Some crooks who knock people out and rob them decide to take their stuff made in New Mexico and travel to, oh, lemme think, what would be a good place to be swindlers?  How about Bayport, all the way across the country, and thick with crack detectives?  Yeah, that’s the idea.  And then they are forced to try to prevent Frank and Joe from going to New Mexico. Hint to crooks: If you hadn’t been stupid enough to set up shop in Bayport, Frank and Joe wouldn’t have a clue you exist!  Anyway, their aunt in New Mexico needs help because her ranch hands start going missing.  Yes, it’s all tightly connected.  And hint to readers: if you ever get invited to ride in a plane with the Hardy Boys, decline with extreme prejudice.  Guaranteed your plane will be tampered with and require an emergency landing.  The FAA should ban these books.

Review:  Not bad, not great.  Amazing coincidence as usual, a bit tiring with all the cliched western speech, amazing how Frank and Joe are expert at everything that the ranch hands spend their living at, but the mystery is interesting, and it keeps you guessing.  And hey, if a kid learns a bit about modern cowboy life, why not?  But remember how I keep drawing parallels with Scooby Doo?  Check out this line from the book: “I would’ve gotten the car, too, if it hadn’t been for you Hardys.”  I’m telling you, the Hardy Boys got there first…

Score: 7

22: THE FLICKERING TORCH MYSTERY

22

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Leslie McFarlane in 1943. After five in a row of John Button, and five I was not especially fond of, the master is back with only two more to his name yet to come.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1971 by Vincent Buranelli, the second revision he did along with his later originals. I didn’t care for his other revision, The Mystery of the Flying Express, giving that one a very low 4 score. Will Mr. Buranelli do better with a McFarlane?

Cover: Rudy Nappi. Is there red and yellow? A little, but this is green on purple and oh, so 70s I could just ease on down the road with a funky song in my heart. This is like a James Bond poster if they wanted to imply Sean Connery was really hitting the good stuff this time. Very dated, but the use of color is striking, and it certainly symbolizes the plot.

Setting: Bayport, and nearby.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Working another angle on the case with Sam Radley, but he shows up and helps out here and there. Mostly in the series recently he’s been there to say, no, he can’t do that dangerous step, but sure, the boys can, just be careful, OK? What does he think an 18- and 17-year-old will say to that question?

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Callie and Iola, Biff and Tony, Phil, the whole band, and yes, I mean band. Just like in 1971 Josie and the Pussycats were a band, and the Archies were a band, now the Hardy Boys are a band. This is not as egregious as it could be because there are other books where the boys are into playing music, but man, this Bayport band formed quickly. I’m just sayin’.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Building airplanes. Say what?! I mean, c’mon, play fair with the reader, willya? We get it. This is a plot about airplane parts, so you needed Chet to build an airplane. But he never showed interest in flying before, and he doesn’t remain interested afterward. I call shenanigans.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: No dessert for you!

Plot: A plane crashes upon approach to an airport, there is a plant with a tower that flickers flames, there is a nightclub called The Flickering Torch, basically this plot is whatever they needed it to be. This book is  known for its radical change from original version to this revised version. Mr. Buranelli wanted to show the boys being cool, so it’s folk rock to the rescue. Uh huh…

Review:  Has its moments, but this one is dated from its too-70s cover to the type of music they play to the way the audience reacts to the music to the ridiculous lengths the bad guys go to foil the Hardy Boys. And where was Jack Wayne in a story all about flying? But I give it an extra point for the end fate of Frank who is drugged and planned to be pushed out a plane into the ocean. Way to show hostility toward the characters, Mr. Author!

Score: 6

13: THE MARK ON THE DOOR

13

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Leslie McFarlane in 1934

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1967 by Tom Mulvey, one of five he did and the first since What Happened at Midnight and The Great Airport Mystery.

Cover: Rudy Nappi, red as always but the yellow is the sky and house.  Frank and Joe are not hidden and watching something, they are confronting a guy waving a machete!  Uh oh, are we in for more Latino stereotypes?  Nope, Mr. Mulvey resists that temptation for the most part.  The Mexico people are nuanced here.  At least we see that mark on the door.

Setting: Bayport and Mexico.  Mostly Mexico.  This is Frank and Joe south of the border.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Oh he’s around for the beginning as it’s his idea for the boys to join him in Mexico — and he even suggests Chet come along too for no obvious reason whatsoever.   Then he dutifully disappears for the bulk of the book, only to show up WITH AN ARMY at the end, as usual.  I mean, we got helicopters and everything at the end.  This is a James Bond ending.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, the third musketeer.  Jack Wayne shows up prominently again, not only to get them to Mexico and back, but also some nifty flying in country.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Ain’t got none.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: She made an apple pie.  She’s warming up in this series.

Plot: A sub is spotted near Bayport (because of course it is), and a connection is made to Mexico.  Off they fly and a search gets underway, but nobody wants to talk because of the mark on the door.

Review:  Not a big fan.  It’s Frank and Joe touring the Mexican countryside trying to solve a mystery nobody will talk about.  What on earth is so vital that lives are at stake?  When we finally find out what the plot is, we can’t believe so much effort went into so little.  Seriously?  The bad guy threaten people’s lives over this?!  He goes through that much effort for yet another scam when there are plenty of jewels in Bayport to rob like every other crook?  There have to be easier ways to make a living!  That said, there is one absolutely terrific sequence where the boys are trapped on board the submarine and they have to escape.  How they do it, and the bravery and leadership Joe shows in the process, are top notch.  It’s Joe as James Bond, and I ain’t kidding.  Hey, Mr. Mulvey rewrote this in 1967, and that was near peak publicity for James Bond.  He got ideas . . .

Score: 5