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.
“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.