Tag Archives: Iola Morton

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

54: THE MYSTERIOUS CARAVAN

 

54

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1975.  The third of three in a row he wrote, among others.  And with that we say goodbye to Mr. Svenson.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  A symbolic cover, for no such scene occurs in the book.  In fact, this cover refers to an historical event, not something Frank and Joe are looking at in the present.  A very yellow cover, appropriate for the setting, but hardly my favorite look.  And what are Frank and Joe reacting to in a pose that indicates danger?  Camels?

Setting: Bayport, Jamaica, Morocco in Africa.  The boys really travel in this one!

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Back in the States working on another angle.  Until he shows up in Chapter XX.

Which Chums Show Up?: It’s a Svenson, so we get the whole gang:  Chet, Biff, Tony, Phil, Callie, Iola.  Tony and Phil and Biff and Chet go to Jamaica, but only Chet goes to Africa (along with their new Jamaican friend William).

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: None.  Even Svenson is giving up now.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: An unnamed pie was baked for Chet, but the poor reader never learns what type it was.  C’mon, Chet, spill it!

Plot: The boys find an African mask washed up on the shores of Jamaica where they are on holiday.  Bad guys immediately try to get the mask from them.  Or kill them, if possible.  Meanwhile Fenton is investigating some stolen airplane tickets that are being resold illegally.  Meanwhile the mask seems to hold the key to an ancient African treasure.  You know, a typical Hardy Boys plot.

Review:  Nothing wrong with this one.  Mr. Svenson tries to educate his readers about other parts of the Earth, and it would be fun to discover a bit of Africa and of Jamaica as a ten-year-old.  The actual plot about masks, maps and gold is classic Hardy Boys.

On the other hand, it felt a bit disjointed, as if he was trying to put all the elements of a Hardy Boys story in a big bowl, but just didn’t mix them enough.  It has a bit of by-the-numbers feel to it.

Not my favorite Svenson, but he remains an excellent writer for the series.

Score: 7

53: THE CLUE OF THE HISSING SERPENT

53

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1974.  The second of three in a row he wrote, among others.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Another symbolic cover, this time without the usual red and yellow, but a beautiful blue and green motif.  The elements are all there, the dragon, balloons, chess pieces.  Very nice cover.

Setting: Bayport, nearby, Hong Kong.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Back in the States.  It’s up to the Hong Kong police to show up in Chapter XX this time.

Which Chums Show Up?: All of them.  Svenson likes to bring them all in.  So we have Chet, Biff, Tony, Phil, Callie, Iola in one scene or another.  But it’s Chet who does the heavy lifting, and no, that was not a weight reference, why do you ask?

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Ballooning.  Of course.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Lovely wedges of apple pie after some roast-beef sandwiches.  Now we’re cookin’!

Plot: It’s 1974, chess was quite the rage since the Bobby Fischer world championships a couple of years before.  So a valuable chess piece is in danger of being stolen, and the boys are hired to help.  Who can they trust?  What are the crooks after?

Review:  This one felt odd to me.  It’s a Svenson, and he has written some great ones.  But this one felt disjointed.  If you told me a new writer was assigned this one, I’d believe it.

I kept losing track of the plot.  And pieces of the plot seemed to be brought in almost randomly.  A dragon-shaped balloon?  OK, we got one of those, but now what?  It doesn’t really have much to do with anything.

We get some 70s dialog:

“We flush out vagrants now and then.  Mostly junkies.”

The travel to Hong Kong at the end is nice.  On the whole though, not a great one.

Score: 6

52: THE SHATTERED HELMET

 

52

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.

“Really?”

“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.

Score: 7

50: DANGER ON VAMPIRE TRAIL

50

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1971.  One of many he wrote, including my favorite.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Green green green!  Plus vampire bats.  Frank and Joe look older than in the early days, so this is clearly the new house style for the boys.  This is a striking symbolic cover, very distinctive for all you lovers of the color green.

Setting: Bayport and heading West.  Seriously, this is basically one long road trip.  The Hardy Boys Go Camping.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: He shows up in the first chapter, hands them this case, and then disappears other than to get occasional phone reports from the boys.  No Chapter XX entrance for him this time.  

Which Chums Show Up?: Biff, Tony, Phil, Chet, Callie and Iola.  Biff and Chet actually go camping with the boys.  Just like the last Svenson Hardy Boys book, he likes Biff and Chet but no one else.  The others get mentioned as if on contract to be part of each book, then get dropped.  If I ever wrote a classic Hardy Boys book I’d have Phil Cohen, Callie and Iola go around the world with Frank and Joe, with each of them doing something brave and smart.  Biff, Chet and Tony can cool their heels back home for a change.  Naaaah, who am I kidding?  Chet has to come too.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Not much of anything, really.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: No direct scene, but a reference is made to her “fluffy meringue on top of her famous lemon pies.”  I wonder how far her fame went?

Plot: In 1971 credit cards were not all that common, and so this plot is about crooks using bad credit cards.  Oh, there’s a side plot about sapphires, but it’s not that important.  In fact, the credit card stuff is what merely gets the story going, but the book itself is about Frank and Joe camping and the trouble that happens along the way.  What about vampires?  Forget it, kid.  Not happening.

Review:  Considering it’s a Svenson Hardy Boys, it’s surprising how atypical this one is.  It’s a camping tale.  Not particularly interesting or memorable.

Score: 6

49: THE BOMBAY BOOMERANG

49

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Vincent Buranelli in 1970.  The same year he revised 20: MYSTERY OF THE FLYING EXPRESS, and one year before he would revise 22: THE FLICKERING TORCH MYSTERY.  He then writes several original Hardy Boys books in the 1970s.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Red fans, this is your cover, the most red since 18: THE TWISTED CLAW.  Bit of yellow in the upper right.  A mix of symbolism (the boomerang) and realism (the dock scenes).  Note how much older Frank and Joe look here compared to, say, 4: THE MISSING CHUMS or 8: THE MYSTERY OF CABIN ISLAND.  Same artist, same rough era (4 was revised in 1962 and 8 in 1966), yet the boys look older.  I have to think as we hit the 1970s, the publishers thought they should look like modern teenagers, not a 1950s concept of teenagers that belong on the Mickey Mouse Club.  Anyway, this is a striking cover, but not a great favorite with me.

Setting: Bayport, Washington D.C. and Baltimore.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Working with the boys, and in fact the boys help him out when he gets in trouble in Baltimore.  As with our last book, Fenton is working with the U.S. government, and this time the boys go right to the Pentagon and get instructions from an Admiral.  It helps that they dialed a wrong number and got the Pentagon.  Man, I hate when that happens.

Which Chums Show Up?: Biff, Tony, Chet, Phil, Callie and Iola.  The gang is all here, but this time it isn’t Chet who shows up to help.  It’s Tony and Phil who get the call, go help, and then return home.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Boomerangs.  Yup, he’s so busy making and selling boomerangs, he doesn’t help Frank and Joe.  But yes, his hobby gets used in Chapter XX, and then never mentioned again in any other Hardy Boys book.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: A “piece of [her] fresh-baked apple pie.”  I can feel the warmth from here.

Plot: Shipments of mercury from overseas are being stolen, someone in the Pentagon gets attacked, there’s talk about a missile, clues are found on freighters from India, and what is the Bombay Boomerang anyway?

Review:  This is a mature Hardy Boys mystery.  The stakes a high (threats to the country, the military on the trail, the crooks professional and deadly), the boys are competent, the clues are realistic.  It’s good.

This is another Indian adventure, so once again I greet my readers from India.  In particular from Mumbai (how Bombay is now known).  This book talks about how Bombay came into being and tells us about the worship of Krishna. As a youngster reading Hardy Boys books, you learn an amazing amount of information about the world.  That’s a good thing.

This is, of course, the first Hardy Boys book I ever read, and clearly it hooked me.  So on the whole I give it a:

Score: 7