Tag Archives: Leslie McFarlane

23: THE MELTED COINS

23

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Leslie McFarlane in 1944.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1970 by Andrew E. Svenson, one of two he revised, and the second since book 7, The Secret of the Caves.  But Mr. Svenson starts to write his own books soon, but his originals were written about twenty years earlier and were then rewritten by others about the time Mr. Svenson was revising this book.  Confused yet?  Imagine how Mrs. Svenson must have felt when Andy explained it to her.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Red and green, somewhat abstract, with Joe holding the secret contents of the briefcase from Pulp Fiction.  And a big, crooked mask looming over them that as a kid I found very helpful in picturing what they were talking about in the book.  A nice, bold cover.

Setting: Upstate New York.  You do know that Bayport is in New York for real, right? Well, they travel to various places upstate, including Niagara Falls.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Stage left.  He’s off on a different angle of the same case, and then at the end he literally solves Frank and Joe’s case for them while staying offstage until the very end.  Very odd to have it happen that way, making for a bit of an anti-climax climax as the boys wait around waiting to hear if dear old dad wraps up their case for them.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, with Biff and Tony making the most deus ex machina entrance of all time and then disappearing again to go fishing.  I’m not kidding.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Eating corn soup, evidently.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: None, but she makes a brief appearance to make a salami and cream cheese sandwich for Chet.  Why that kind?  It’s needed later as a clue, so it had to be a weird sandwich that would stand out.

Plot: A Native American mask goes missing, the boys try to find it, while immersing themselves in the community.

Review:  It’s not bad overall.  In fact, despite the unfortunate use of “redskins” (and by a Native American character at that!) that can be chalked up to the ignorance of its time, this book tries hard to be fair to them.  They get nuanced characters, prejudice on both sides is shown to be pointless and harmful, and respect is shown to the culture.  As for the mystery, it’s limited, but interesting, and the bad guys are not the typical ones.  It’s a fun book.

Score: 8

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

21: THE CLUE OF THE BROKEN BLADE

 

21

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: John Button in 1942, the fifth of his five books in a row.  Mr. Button is now done with the Hardy Boys.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1969 by Richard Deming, the only one he did.  Mr. Deming, this is your book.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Is there red and yellow?  Not really.  We seem to be going into the abstract period now, and this one is blue, blue, blue.  Frank and Joe fence, someone stares at them behind a mask, and a broken blade reminds us of the title.  It’s OK, well made.  I’m not as big a fan of the abstract ones.

Setting: Bayport, and California, this is Frank and Joe go to Hollywood, sorta, which is nothing like Frankie Goes to Hollywood.  Just sayin’.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Oh, he goes on vacation with the missus until they both show up in the most unlikeliest of places.  Fans of Laura Hardy — this is your book.  She actually gets to help.  Briefly.  Then the Hardy Boys syndicate shuts her down real quick and we get back to normal.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet (honorary Hardy Boy at this stage), Callie and Iola, Biff and Tony.  Only Chet gets the big part, and no, I’m not making fun of his weight, which is more than I can say for Frank and Joe for whom no occasion is so solemn as to prevent them from making fun of Chet’s weight.  Way to show empathy, boys…

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Fencing, as is also the hobby of Frank and Joe and Biff and Tony, not one of whom ever fences again, but they are expert enough in this book to get hired on the spot as fencers and trusted enough to run a fencing school by themselves.  Mr. Deming, we figured out your interest in life, and you crammed it into the plot.  Still, if you have a kid who likes the idea of fencing, this is his book!  But don’t turn your back on that kid…

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: “Pieces” of rhubarb pie, three of them for Chet.  Aunt Gertrude never made fun of Chet…

Plot: An inheritance inscribed on a blade, but the blade has been missing for decades.  Wanna bet the boys find it by chapter XX?  Hey, Frank and Joe, we never found Jimmy Hoffa, wanna take a crack at it?  Anyway, the clues lead to Hollywood, an odd screenwriter, a movie being made, and enough crooks running around to baffle anyone trying to make sense why this case is that important.  Mostly everyone fences.  Yeah, we get it, Mr. Deming, fencing is cool, or something.

Review:  Eh.  I’m a little tired of the boys getting on a case involving, say, broccoli, and then suddenly every crook in town is suddenly into broccoli, and willing to kill to keep you from discovering they like broccoli.  Hey, I think I smell a new Hardy Boy mystery: The Clue of the Overcooked Broccoli.

Score: 5

18: THE TWISTED CLAW

18

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: John Button in 1939, the second of his five books in a row.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1969 by Tom Mulvey, the last of his five revisions.  I like each of his previous four quite a bit.  

Cover: Rudy Nappi, red and yellow (if you look for it), but mostly red, red, red.  And the usual spoiler being revealed.  Frankly, this is a Scooby Doo cover.  You can just picture Shaggy and Scooby wandering the museum at night while a sinister pair of eyes peer at them from the suit of armor.  As usual, the Hardy Boys anticipated and set the pattern for Scooby Doo.

Setting: Bayport, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Delaware, Miami, and a Caribbean island.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Right there working with the boys.  And yes, saves the day in chapter XX as is typical.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, and Iola briefly.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Archaeology, but only briefly mentioned in order to get two jokes at Chet’s expense in the middle of the book, and then repeat the joke as the book’s final line.  And it ain’t that funny.  No, this looks like the author know McFarlane typically had Chet with a hobby, so he would too, but he doesn’t know how to embed it into the story.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Oh, she’s too busy clucking that no good will come from [whatever the Hardys are doing, that always leads to good coming from it].

Plot: A pirate king with his own island, two freighters being used for no good, a series of museum robberies.

Review:  Again this doesn’t read like a McFarlane.  Lots of stuff happening, but it’s more of a procedural about working on ships, on how to rob a museum, etc.  Not that interesting or typically Hardy Boy-ian.

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

16: A FIGURE IN HIDING

16

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Leslie McFarlane in 1937

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1965 by James D. Lawrence, one of three he revised and this was his first.

Cover: NOT Rudy Nappi!  The only one of this entire series that was by someone else: John Leone.  But hey, no matter who does the cover, red and yellow are prominent.  This time it’s Frank climbing a tree to see the figure in hiding.  It’s an OK cover, kind of static despite it being an action scene.

Setting: Bayport.  Nothing but Bayport, that amazing town where crooks stumble over each other stealing every jewel in town.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Oh, he’s around, but for the first half of the book he’s off on another case.  Then he joins the boys on this case, and quickly manages to get caught and in a steamy situation (ya gotta read it to understand that — what, you think there’s going to be sex?  In the Hardy Boys?!)

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

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Physical fitness.  BWAAAHAHAHAHA!

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: No dessert for you!

Plot: Complicated.  Fake eyes, evil eyes (relax, remember the Scooby Doo rule), a health farm where Chet gets a job, stolen cars, a hydrofoil, a stolen jewel, I mean, this plot has everything.  Oh yeah, someone is in hiding.  But he’s all over the place for most of the story, so good luck trying to figure out who the figure in hiding is.

Review:  Despite it all, I kinda like this one.  It’s in Bayport, the chums do their chumly things, crooks are all over town, there’s mystery all over town, it’s a fun ride.  Not the most memorable one — good luck remembering this plot six weeks later, whereas no one forgets the plot of The Sinister Signpost — but a fun ride.  It’s like a movie full of action that is just a fun popcorn flick.

Score: 7

15: THE SINISTER SIGNPOST

15

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Leslie McFarlane in 1936

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1968 by Tom Mulvey, one of five he revised and the first since The Mark On The Door.

Cover: Rudy Nappi, red and yellow but this time Frank is wearing blue.  What a great cover this is!  Frank and Joe are dodging a classic looking sports car that is falling apart because of the sinister signpost.  Great action depiction that is like a Hollywood movie poster in that it shows something that is thematically correct while at the same time showing a scene that never occurs in the story.

Setting: Bayport and Maryland for a little horse farm subplot and Vermont for a brief side story, but mostly the region around Bayport.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: By the phone.  Seriously.  At every turn of the story, Fenton suggests Frank and Joe go out into action while he waits by the phone in case the police call or the crooks call or his bookie calls — OK, not that last one.  Mr. Deus Ex Fenton doesn’t even fulfill that role.  Instead he gets his sorry butt captured and it’s up to Joe to be heroic and save the day, with a big assist from Chet.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet a lot, and Biff and Tony for a brief scene.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Bicycle with rockets.  Yes, you read that right.  No, I’m not kidding.  Yes, of course it comes into the story.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Coconut-custard pie, and later on an apple pie.

Plot: A factory making experimental motors (and man, does Bayport have a lot of experimental, top-secret factories around town) is the victim of information being leaked somehow.  Plus race cars get their windshields clouded by some sort of device installed in street signs.  And Aunt Gertrude inherits a horse farm in Maryland that is not as irrelevant to the plot as you might think.

Review:  I like this one.  From its top-notch (pun intended, if you’ve read the book) cover, to its Bayport setting, and lots of flights by Jack Wayne who never seems to mind being asked to do anything, this one has a lot going for it.  A good mystery that needs to be solved, subplots that tie into the main plot, twins, car racing, it’s fun.

Score: 8