Tag Archives: Scooby Doo

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

37: THE GHOST AT SKELETON ROCK

 

37

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: James D. Lawrence in 1957.  His first of three in a row, plus one other one he wrote years later that will conclude this series.  But Mr. Lawrence also revised three of the earlier books (16: A FIGURE IN HIDING, 17: THE SECRET WARNING, 19: THE DISAPPEARING FLOOR).  I gave those three earlier books scores of 7, 6 and 8.  But just to keep things odd, Mr. Lawrence revised those books in the mid-1960s.  Yes, he wrote his original books first, and then revised earlier entries.  Got it?  Good, quiz at the end.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1966 by Pricilla Baker-Carr.  Which was the same year Mr. Lawrence was revising Hardy Boys books.  So as he did that, she revised his. Somehow there is a metaphor for life in there.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  A classic cover.  Night scene, ocean in the background giving us our dominant blue color, the plane being shot at from crooks on the beach below.  This is a realism cover from Mr. Nappi, and it’s a solid entry.

Setting: Bayport and Puerto Rico.  Welcome, readers from that lovely island that I’ve visited three times so far.  I enjoyed it as much as Frank and Joe did.  More actually since no one was trying to kill me at the time.  

But once again we get the absurd notion that crooks, needing money in Puerto Rico, decide to raise some by swindling the good folks of . . . oh, let’s say Bayport.  Riiiiiight.  That’s the first place I would think of if I were in the Caribbean.  Nobody to swindle in Florida?

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Washington D.C., as usual.  But then the boys get to play Deus Ex Fenton in Chapter XX and rescue him for a change.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Tony, Callie, Iola.  What, Biff was busy?  But Tony gets to play a larger part then usual and does a great job.  Fans of Tony Prito, this is your book.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Ventriloquism.  Who’s the dummy now, eh?

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: I’m so hungry I could nibble on the corner of this book.  Aunt Gertrude evidently didn’t bake pies in the 1950s or something.  But good stuff is going to show up before we’re through.

Plot: Lots of Hitchcock MacGuffins in this story. It’s about crooked fortune tellers.  Nope.  It’s about smuggling diamonds in ventriloquist dummies.  Nope.  This plot ultimately gets into the political (the bad guys are playing a very big game) in a way that would have resonated in the 1950s (mostly because this is just the sort of nonsense that was happening back then).  In any case, the boys have to fly to Puerto Rico, figure out who to trust, and oh yeah, solve the Scooby Doo mystery of the “ghost,” if you catch my drift.

Review:  Speaking of Scooby Doo (and I do this a lot here since so much of Scooby Doo derives from the Hardy Boys), check this quote out:

“We might have pulled it off if that important [MacGuffin] hadn’t been sent to the very town where the Hardys lived.  Those nosy detectives and their pals upset our plans.”

Yup, Scooby Doo.

On the whole, this is a very good adventure.  It has the usual cast of crook types, plus a bonus one who looks just like one of the boys (and when you find out why he does look like one of the boys, you’ll shake your head at the stupidity of doing what he did which would GUARANTEE Frank and Joe would never, ever stop until they got their man).

The ghost sub-thread is predictable, contains a bit of Carib racism that was probably typical of the time, and has a very Scooby Doo ending.  But if it sounds like I am scoffing at this book, the bottom line is I enjoyed it very much.  It moves, it’s fun, it’s a good entry.

Score: 8

28: THE SIGN OF THE CROOKED ARROW

 

28

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Andrew E. Svenson in 1949.  His first since revising 23: The Melted Coins (which I gave an 8) and before that 7: The Secret of the Caves (which only got a 5).  Mr. Svenson will end up writing several of the later volumes.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1970 by Priscilla Baker-Carr, who will be revising most of the rest as we go along.

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Yellow and red are back!  A bit abstract, not actually an event from the book, but thematically accurate.  Mid-level Nappi.

Setting: Bayport and then New Mexico.  Unlike Hunting for Hidden Gold, written originally in 1928, and very much reflecting the Old West in spirit, this one is very much a product of mid-century Americana.  In the late-40s and early-50s, the U.S. went Western mad, so this is very much a Frank-and-Joe-go-West story.  But unlike the Old West setting in Hidden Gold, this is more dude ranch western living.  

Where’s Fenton This Time?: He gets his sorry self shot by an arrow and spends lots of time in the hospital and then recuperating in bed.  In fact, this is why Frank and Joe have to fill in when his sister needs help on her New Mexico ranch.  Don’t worry, he wouldn’t miss his Chapter XX appearance, typically by air.

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, of course.  Iola appears briefly.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Judo.  Yup, gets used.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: After three desserts in the last one, Gertrude had to rest a bit. Don’t worry, the boys get good western cooking.  Chet even eats too much to go riding.  What, like that surprises you?

Plot: Some crooks who knock people out and rob them decide to take their stuff made in New Mexico and travel to, oh, lemme think, what would be a good place to be swindlers?  How about Bayport, all the way across the country, and thick with crack detectives?  Yeah, that’s the idea.  And then they are forced to try to prevent Frank and Joe from going to New Mexico. Hint to crooks: If you hadn’t been stupid enough to set up shop in Bayport, Frank and Joe wouldn’t have a clue you exist!  Anyway, their aunt in New Mexico needs help because her ranch hands start going missing.  Yes, it’s all tightly connected.  And hint to readers: if you ever get invited to ride in a plane with the Hardy Boys, decline with extreme prejudice.  Guaranteed your plane will be tampered with and require an emergency landing.  The FAA should ban these books.

Review:  Not bad, not great.  Amazing coincidence as usual, a bit tiring with all the cliched western speech, amazing how Frank and Joe are expert at everything that the ranch hands spend their living at, but the mystery is interesting, and it keeps you guessing.  And hey, if a kid learns a bit about modern cowboy life, why not?  But remember how I keep drawing parallels with Scooby Doo?  Check out this line from the book: “I would’ve gotten the car, too, if it hadn’t been for you Hardys.”  I’m telling you, the Hardy Boys got there first…

Score: 7

27: THE SECRET OF SKULL MOUNTAIN

27

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: George Waller Jr. in 1948.  This is Mr. Waller’s only entry into the canon.  Mr. Waller, step on down, this is your book.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1966 by David Grambs, and the first one he revised since #6, The Shore Road Mystery (which I liked a lot and gave a 9) and #12, Footprints Under the Window (which I thought was merely OK, and just gave a 6).

Cover: Rudy Nappi.  Classic Nappi, great action moment with a landslide coming down the mountain, and Joe carrying a skull.  All described in the book, folks.

Setting: Bayport, and surroundings.  We never travel too far.

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Hanging around house waiting for word from Chicago, or headed to Chicago, because while the interesting crooks get to be rounded up by his boys, it’s Fenton who takes down an entire syndicate.  Show-off.  But he shows up at the end like the sheriff does at the end of each Scooby Doo episode.  Speaking of which, isn’t this a classic Scooby Doo title, The Secret of Skull Mountain?  Can you just see Shaggy’s legs quivering as he hears the gang’s plans to travel there?

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, the third Hardy Boy by this point considering how often they include him, and how often he includes himself for Aunt Gertrude’s fine meals, making himself her personal gourmand.  Then there is Biff and Callie and Iola.  Fans of Callie Shaw: this is your book.  She gets to do some detective work and does a fine job of it.  I’m not kidding, she actually does well.  Frank should be proud.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: No hobby this time.  You’d think his fly fishing from the last book would come in handy by the lake in this book, but noooooo….

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Your patience has been rewarded!  Not one, not two, but three different specific desserts are mentioned here: “generous slices of cherry pie,” as well as apple cake and a seven-layer chocolate nut cake that the boys use to bribe Chet into coming to Skull Mountain.  No, seriously, that’s how they convince Chet.  What?  It works.  Meanwhile Gertrude gets in a snide remark about how the Hardy house is “worse than a railroad station!  People racing in and out any time they please, expecting Laura and me to run a twenty-four hour restaurant service!”  You tell ’em, Gertrude!  You probably had to put down your copy of The Feminine Mystique to cook these beasts their food on demand — nah, she loves it, especially Chet who actually shows appreciation for the grub.

Plot: Something’s wrong with the water supply in Bayport, and the planned new dam that will be up on the lake by Skull Mountain is running into all kinds of resistance.  And a suspicious plumber is up to something.  And it’s amazing how people start acting all hillbilly just a few miles outside of Bayport which is, I remind you, in New York State.

Review:  Good job, Mr. Waller Jr. and Mr. Grambs.   This is classic Hardy Boys, a good mystery that is actually quite straightforward, a scientist is kidnapped, locals are threatening but of mixed motive, the bad guys are suitably rough, and the story moves along.  Plus Frank gets to have a solo adventure in the bay that is quite physically challenging.  And at the end the boys figure it out themselves, and they defeat the bad guys themselves.  Plus the cover is good, and Callie helps out, and Chet does a good job.  I will note that it’s always amazing how these boys will plunge into dangerous situations with little regard for personal safety, just as long as they can solve the mystery they will jump right in.  I hope we never get The Dante’s Inferno Mystery or these boys will be plunging into something they won’t get out of so easily.

Score: 9

19 THE DISAPPEARING FLOOR

19

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: John Button in 1940, the third of his five books in a row.

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1966 by James D. Lawrence, the last of his three revisions.   

Cover: John Leone, his third and last cover with Rudy Nappi taking over again for the rest of the series.  As usual, Frank and Joe are wearing red and yellow (in fact, Joe is himself wearing red and yellow — way to take one for the team, Joe!).  Night scene, old house, ghostly figure approaching — yup, still in Scooby Doo territory here.  I’m telling you, Scooby Doo owes a debt to the Hardy Boys.  Let’s see, if Chet is Shaggy, and Frank is Fred, and Callie and Iola are . . . naaah, it’s not THAT much of a pattern.

Setting: Bayport, nothing but Bayport and its surroundings.  Why go anywhere else when major international criminal enterprises decide Bayport is a happening place?

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Chicago mostly, waiting for a break in the case that never comes.  Even when he makes his usual Chapter XX appearance, this time he doesn’t save the day.  Frank and Joe have it all wrapped up by then.

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

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Nuttin’.  Well, being scared, but willing to help.

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: Lemon pie.  But Gerty is described as making other pies that the boys are too busy to eat, so who knows, maybe the author would have described more pies if they had stuck around.

Plot: Jewel thieves in Bayport.  I know!  As if there could be any jewels left in town by this point!  Plus an old house in the middle of nowhere that has a floor that disappears.  Plus blood-curdling (I believe that would be the appropriate cliche) screams in the night, a dog that growls, someone whose dying words talk about “…the floor,” yes, it’s a humdinger of a Scooby Doo mystery here.

Review:  I like this one.  Good mysteries involving a laughably elaborate plan to fool someone into going to the 6th floor of a building instead of the 5th floor (think Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol – see folks, all of modern fiction derives from the Hardy Boys), a floor that appears and then disappears, suitably tough jewel thieves, high stakes action, a mysterious message from Jack Wayne as he seems to be flying for the bad guys, and it’s all in Bayport with Chet around to get spooked by the ghost.  Oh, right, that ghost.  You don’t really think it’s a ghost, do you?  Remember, Scooby Doo territory here!

Score: 8

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 knows McFarlane typically gave Chet 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

12: FOOTPRINTS UNDER THE WINDOW

12

Who Wrote It?: Franklin W. Dixon

C’mon, Who Really Wrote it?: Leslie McFarlane in 1933

Was It Revised?: Yes, in 1965 by David Grambs, one of four he did and the first since The Shore Road Mystery

Cover: Rudy Nappi, red and yellow as is typical.  Plus green foliage and tan roof.  Frank and Joe and Chet face down a gang of desperadoes who don’t need no steekin’ badges!  Oh sorry, so many South American cliches in this book I got carried away.

Setting: Bayport and an island off the coast of South America

Where’s Fenton This Time?: Gone until the very end, at which point he performs his usual job and SAVES HIS SON’S LIVES.  Again.  

Which Chums Show Up?: Chet, Tony, Iola and Callie.  But other than Iola getting a bag of hers stolen, not much goes on with the others except for Chet who might as well be the honorary third Hardy boy in this book he does so much.  And Jack Wayne shows up prominently to fly them back and forth to South America.

What’s Chet’s Hobby This Time?: Weather forecasting.  What?  It’s a hobby!

Aunt Gertrude’s Dessert: No sweets described, just some delicious meals the reader cannot share because they aren’t described.  Bad David Grambs!

Plot: Top-secret microfilm is at risk, and tourists from South America are having their bags stolen, and a laundry gets into the plot, and footsteps are seen under some windows, and Fenton is off doing who knows what.  And tell me this isn’t EXACTLY a line from Scooby Doo: “You catch on fast,” [SPOILER] said mockingly.  “The warning sign I put up here and the ghost legend helped keep people away — But not you nosy kids.”  Heh, you can’t tell me the Scooby Doo writers weren’t Hardy Boy fans when they were young!

Review:  Just OK.  Lots of investigating which gets interrupted by a trip to South America where they encounter a dictator’s gang (so 1960s!), fly back, get locked in a  tomb (!) and have a race to the finish when things look bad.  But the Coast Guard is made to look like an unstoppable force when they show up.

Score: 6