Tag Archives: Phil Cohen

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

51: THE MASKED MONKEY

 

51

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Vincent Buranelli in 1972.  Besides his revisions, he wrote several original Hardy Boys books in the 1970s.

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Two green covers in a row!  This is a symbolic cover that nicely captures the book.  The boys really do go into the jungle, there really is a menacing chimp, it’s a good cover thematically and esthetically.  Boy were we spoiled by Mr. Nappi’s great skill in book after book.

Setting: Bayport, nearby, Brazil, nearby, Bayport again.  Yes, I snuck Brazil in the middle there.  So did the author.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Sets the boys on the case, then stays home while they jet off to Brazil, and finally shows up in Chapter XX as usual.

Which Chums Show Up?: Tony, Chet and Phil.  The gang is half here, but this time the gang stays home while Frank and Joe go to Brazil alone.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Scavenging golf balls from golf course water traps.  Does part of the story take place in country clubs, you ask?  Sparky, you are too clever for this game!

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: No dessert here.  She merely clucks about danger and then clucks no more in this story.

Plot: A missing person, someone is creating false passports, a frenzied chimp taught to steal stuff and attack people, this is an odd little plot.

Review:  Not bad.  The Brazil section is nice as an introduction to the land, but out of date now.  But when you read the book and realize the significance of the Brazil section when you are done with it, you’ll have a laugh as to why it was included.  Hey, it’s an excuse to fly them off to Brazil, what more do we need?

The crooks are devious, ubiqitious and deadly.  The showdown is satisfying.  The explanation of the masked monkey makes sense.  The Brazilian voodoo display is put on by a faker, thus keep alive the Scooby Dooish aspect of the Hardy Boys, and check this quote out:

“Putting his fingers under the chin part of the last mask, he wrenched it off.  Everyone gasped in amazement!”

And he would have gotten away with it too if it weren’t for you kids!

Score: 8

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

45: THE MYSTERY OF THE SPIRAL BRIDGE

45

 

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1966.  Two years before he revised 7: THE SECRET OF THE CAVES.  Four years later he revised 23: THE MELTED COINS.  I was a fan of #23, not so much #7, but I chalked that up to these being revisions.

From 1949 to 1951 he wrote three originals in 28: THE SIGN OF THE CROOKED ARROW, 29: THE SECRET OF THE LOST TUNNEL, and 30: THE WAILING SIREN MYSTERY.  Those got two 7s and a 6.

Finally, we will encounter Svenson originals in #48, #50, #52, #53 and #54.  Basically, Mr. Svenson is one of the giants of the Hardy Boys writing business, involved in the process off and on from 1949 to 1975.  What score will this one get?

Was It Revised?: No.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know what I think of this cover for this forms the logo of this site.  That’s right, this is — by far — my favorite Hardy Boys cover.  The classic elements are in pace with Frank and Joe peering at danger.  Joe has his red shirt, the yellow is in the title, and it’s a night scene which remain my favorite.  But what makes this cover soar is the red, orange, yellow shading of Rosy.  It’s absolutely beautiful.  An outstanding cover.

Setting: Bayport, New York City, and then Kentucky.     

Where’s Fenton This Time?: In the hospital.  The entire time.

Which Chums Show Up?: Everybody.  Chet, Biff, Tony, Phil, Callie and Iola.  The gang’s all here (I consider Jerry to be a bench part of the gang, not in the starting lineup), and almost all of them take important parts in the plot.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Shot put.  Yes, so that it can come in handy at the end.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Nothing.  The only thing that keeps this book from being perfect is the lack of a chocolate cake from Aunt Gertrude.

Plot: Fenton Hardy is investigating sabotage on a road building project in Kentucky when he is captured by some crooks, tortured, and winds up unconscious in the hospital.  It’s up to the boys to go down to Kentucky and stop the sabotage and figure out why the crooks want to stop the road being built.  And what’s with that spiral shape?

Review:  Perfection (minus a chocolate cake, although given the seriousness of the story, it’s understandable why Svenson didn’t include such a scene).

Let us count the ways this is the perfect Hardy Boys book:

There is real emotion from real characterization.

“Laura Hardy wept softly as her husband was carried toward the ambulance, and Aunt Gertrude tried hard to hold back her own tears.”

How could you not feel something for poor Laura? The inciting incident is real and powerful.

There is time later in the book for the boys to have an actual scene of pure fun when the gang heads down to a recreation room to play pool and ping-pong.  I always like it when they hang out and do fun things as a group.

Current culture is referenced when Tony jokes about Chet being secret agent 008.  In 1966, James Bond was as big as he ever got in the popular culture, and this book acknowledges that.

The mystery is hard to figure out.  You want to keep reading to understand what is going on.

No Fenton rescuing them in this one; this is the boys rescuing Fenton, so to speak.  They act very grown-up in this one.

It’s interesting, the characters are all here, the mystery is solid, and if for nothing else but the cover, this one finally gets a second:

Score: 10

24: THE SHORT-WAVE MYSTERY

 

24

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Leslie McFarlane in 1945.  And yes, as World War II comes to an end, so does the great Mr. McFarlane’s participation in this series comes to a close.  This is the last Hardy Boys book he wrote, so let me take a moment and thank him for wonderful childhood memories.  Yes, I know, his originals were 25 chapters and written in a more complex manner than the revisions, and what I’m reviewing are the revisions.  But he gave us the Hardy Boys, and for that I am thankful.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1966 by Priscilla Baker-Carr.  Just as we say goodbye to Leslie McFarlane, we now say hello to Ms. Carr for she will be revising most of the next dozen or so books.  Ms. Carr, you are now in the spotlight.  Welcome.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  The red and yellow habit is being carried on by Joe.  This steps back from the recent abstract covers and returns to the classic look: Frank and Joe staring at danger.  This one is a night scene with blowing snow, Frank using his short-wave radio, Joe peering in at some nefarious doings.  Great cover.

Setting: Bayport, and briefly Canada.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: He’s got his routine down pat: be part of some related part of the case that keeps him out of his kid’s hair until he’s needed in chapter XX on Deus Ex Machina airlines.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, with Biff, Tony, Phil, Callie and Iola showing up a bit.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Taxidermy.  No, he won’t use it after this book.  His closet must be stuffed with old hobby tools…

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Made some nice meals, but no pie.  I’m getting impatient.  And hungry.

Plot: Some strange short-wave transmissions get picked up by Frank and Joe, and some business espionage, and missing jewels, and stuffed animal heads that carry a secret, and juvenile delinquents that Frank and Joe take care of (hi, 1966).  Yes, it all ties together.

Review:  Classic Hardy Boys.  A good mystery involving code words, Chet’s hobby is the center of the Bayport universe, the stuffed animal plot is fun and clever.  It moves.  It works.

Score: 7