03 November, 2009

Books 28 and 29: "There was nothing the two brothers liked more than tackling a tough case."

Do you know what teenagers love doing best? No, it's not drugs. No, it's not groping each other in their parents' cars. No, it's not dressing all in black and talking about how anti-establishment they are. Teenagers love solving mysteries! And I know what I'm talking about, because I spent about two hours last week hangin' out with the Hardy Boys.

Titles: The Flickering Torch Mystery (1971 revised edition)
The Secret of the Old Mill (1972 revised edition)

Author: Franklin W. Dixon, although he's not actually an actual person as far as I know.

Why these books?
Well... I found them at a flea market. And they were cheap! And they reminded me of my childhood! I couldn't resist.

So what's it all about anyway?
OK, I'm going to do my best to remember the actual plots of these books, but they are honestly so convoluted I can barely separate the two.

In Flickering Torch, the Hardy's detective father is busy on a case involving the constant theft of government property, so he fobs off a new client on to Frank and Joe. Needless to say the client is unimpressed that this famous detective is telling him that his teenage sons will take his case. But! Frank and Joe are used to being treated like this, because it is hard to believe they're so brilliant! The mystery has something to do with silkworms being stolen, and the brothers start working on the farm next door to the silk-worm farm, where they talk like the inbred country bumpkins so no one will actually know their true identities. For some reason, this actually works. Then, um, I guess there's a whole lot of detecting that goes on, mostly at night, and there's flickering torches involved somehow, and the boys' case improbably has something to do with their father's, and there's illegal mining involved? I don't even know.

The Old Mill was less confusing. There is money forging going on, and... you know what? It's not less confusing. The counterfeiting is somehow inexplicably tied to this new technology company that has just moved into Bayport, which keeps having its projects sabotaged. For some reason the criminals behind this scheme set their base in the titular mill, which is far less exciting than, say, an underground lair inside a hollowed out volcano. But! Frank and Joe nevertheless solve the mystery! Oh, and I just remembered there was some kind of motor-boat shenanigans in there. The Hardy's boat is called the Sleuth, just in case you were wondering.

The Good and the Bad
Man, these books are hilarious. Frank and Joe are pretty much indistinguishable, except that Joe is slightly more impulsive because he's a whole year younger than Frank (he was the one I had a crush on when I was a kid, incidentally). Neither of them have actual personalities, though. You can tell their best friend Chet Morton is comic relief because not only is he Fat, but he also isn't Super Keen About Mysteries! He is a Reluctant Mystery Solver! Is there anything more hilarious than that? Chet's hobbies involve eating, and also getting a new hobby every book (hilarious!) Alos, you can tell that this is a book for boys, because unlike Nancy Drew, who has a boyfriend she spends quite a lot of time with, Frank and Joe just have "favourite dates", both of whom are not only pretty, but also excellent cooks. That's what every boy wants in a favourite date!

So yeah, really, really outdated. Everything is "swell", everyone is a stereotype, and each page is so dripping with wholesomeness that it is difficult not to choke on it. These books were written at a time when children's books had Bad Guys and Good Guys and zero moral uncertainty. I mean, the Hardys are so amazing that they can tell who the bad guys are just at looking at them. This because bad guys are Surly and Unpleasant, whereas good guys have Honest Faces! Oh Hardys. If only it were really that easy.

Relatedly: You might want to check out Kate Beaton's comic about Mystery Solving Teens. I found it amusing and accurate!

So, should I read it or what?
Ahahahahahaha... hahahaha. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Do yourself a favour and don't ruin your childhood.

Later this week, probably: Fairytale characters that are alive! And, in some cases, dead.


Shannon said...

I love the bit about their "favorite dates."

I never could get through a Hardy Boys book when I was younger. Ick, boys.

Sadako said...

But...but...it's so deliciously vintage!

This makes me think of that South Park spoof. "I've got a RAGING CLUE."

HelenB said...

Shannon - I'm pretty sure that Nancy Drew was vastly superior! But I just found some ND/HB crossover books, so I guess I'll be finding out shortly.

Sadako - I think the vintage-ness isn't the problem, it's the fact that the books were first written in the 1940's but heavily edited over the years - partly to get rid of the blatant racism, but also to "modernise" the books, often at the expense of small things, like the characters and the plot!

Sadako said...

Yeah...it's weird how stuff for kids could be so racist and classist and sexist. I saw a lot of that when I would read Enid Blyton books growing up.