Tag Archives: jerry cohen

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

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

17: THE SECRET WARNING

17

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: John Button and Leslie McFarlane in 1938 — Wait, what? Leslie McFarlane  took a break after this one, as he really wanted to do as he didn’t think much of these “juveniles” that he wrote for money.  So this one was partially written by him and partially by Button (unbeknownst to McFarlane).  Editing mixed them together into a bit of a mishmash. Don’t worry, though, McFarlane will be back for another few books starting with #22.  For now, it’s Mr. Button.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1966 by James D. Lawrence, one of three he revised and the second in a row after A Figure in Hiding.

Cover: Rudy Nappi, red and yellow as is typical, but this time the Sleuth is shown in a gorgeous night shot with the lighthouse in the background.  Very solid cover.

Setting: Bayport and its surroundings, with a couple of jaunts to Manhattan.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: As usual, on a case that is related to this case.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet a bit, Biff, Tony, Jerry, Phil, Iola and Callie for brief stretches.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: None, he must be bored.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Nothing.  Again!  Tivoli the Great Dane gets treated better than the boys in this one.  I’ve already posted a complaint to the Great Dane Society, so relax.

Plot: A King Tut-like golden bust worth — pinky to  mouth — ONE MILLION DOLLARS, a sunken ship near Bayport (natch), a couple of rival deep sea divers, you know, the usual.

Review:  Doesn’t read like a pure McFarlane, that’s for sure.  This one has all the characters, but it’s off.  I do like the climax though where some kindness shown comes back to reward the boys.  It’s not a typical climax, it’s more of an adventure at sea ending, not the crooks holding a gun to the boys ending.  You know what I think?  In 1966 James Bond was HUGE.  Thunderball had already come out with its Oscar-winning underwater photography of skin divers fighting.  I’m guessing the rewrite tried to capture a bit of Thunderball.

Score: 6

11: WHILE THE CLOCK TICKED

11

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Leslie McFarlane in 1932

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1962 by James Beuchler

Cover: Rudy Nappi, red and yellow as is typical.  What is not typical is this cover is a massive spoiler!  One of the two key mysteries of this book is solved for you right on the cover.  Oh, Mr. Nappi, it’s a good thing you didn’t paint this cover in the 21st-century — Twitter would have been all over you for doing this.  But back to the cover, it’s a solid entry.  The boys are not just staring at trouble as usual, this time they are in the middle of trouble, and oh what trouble it is (see below)!

Setting: Bayport.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: He and the missus are off somewhere and don’t show up at all.  The one time we really need Fenton to ride to the rescue, he’s AWOL.  Fenton, you had one job…

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Biff, Jerry, Tony, Iola and Callie.  Chet gets the big role.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Doing criminal voices again, I guess.  He hasn’t had any hobbies for a couple of books now.  Maybe Iola teased him too much.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: A whole fudge pie, and then later some apple pie, and a big feast at the end.  If you don’t get hungry reading Hardy Boys books, you’re doing it wrong.

Plot: More jewel thieves in town (it’s a wonder any woman in Bayport has so much as an earring left).  Hurd Applegate shows up again (see The Tower Treasure), and again, his jade gets stolen.  It’s called a safe, Hurd, look into it.  Meanwhile an abandoned house is purchased and the new owner hires Frank and Joe to solve the mystery of how someone is able to leave threatening notes in the middle of a completely sealed room.

Review: The ending of this one makes your hair stand on end.  It’s an are-you-kidding-me moment where you cannot believe what you just read.  Usually the boys get beat up, or threatened to get dumped in the ocean or something.  But look at that cover.  This is at the end when the boys are tied up and a bomb is set to go off and kill them.  Obliterate them!  And there is NOTHING they can do about it.  They cannot get untied, they cannot reach the bomb, they know it will go off at 3am and all they can do is watch that clock tick to their doom.  Blow up the Hardy Boys?  Was Mr. McFarlane so sick of writing these books that he indulged in a little fantasy here?  You read this ending and you are shocked at the potential violence here.  And the bad guy is really, really spiteful!  No confession at the end for this jerk.  Even after he’s caught, good luck finding the stolen jewels.  Phew!  This one’s intense.

Score: 8

10: WHAT HAPPENED AT MIDNIGHT

10

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Leslie McFarlane in 1931

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1967 by Tom Mulvey

Cover: Rudy Nappi, blue, yellow, nighttime in the park in the rain.  This is one of my favorite covers. Frank and Joe look serious and grown up, the rain effect is beautifully done with the lights burning yellow in the background as the clock is about to strike midnight, and there is Anchor Pete just like in the book. Wonderful cover.  Simply magnificent work by Mr. Nappi.

Setting: Bayport.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: California, working on a case that, natch, ties into the boys’ case.  Chapter XX cavalry!

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

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Nothing.  He does speak well of his jalopy when it gets insulted, so I suppose he was spending his time on Queenie.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Some undescribed cake.  Harrumph.  At least give us some details of the food, please.

Plot: Robberies that vary in location from time to time to stay one step ahead of the law, and this time it’s in Bayport, that notorious nexus of nefariousness.  Frank and Joe are asked to grab a nifty spy radio some scientist had invented, but the radio is a Hitchcock MacGuffin.  The real story is the gang of thieves who decide to get rid of the Hardy Boys since they are getting in the way.  There’s kidnapping, plane crashes, a guy who uses an anchor as a weapon (did you not see the cover?  That’s chapter 19 right there!), stolen cars, the works.  Yet it’s all Bayport.

Review: This is a good one.  It’s a tightly contained story without any traveling or odd side plots or Chet hobbies and the like.  Crooks versus Hardy Boys, with the motif of the clock striking midnight repeated throughout the book.  This is a simple mystery well told.

Score: 9 (8 for the pretty good story, extra point for the terrific cover)