Tag Archives: sam radley

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

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

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

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

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