It is the Hardy Boys books that first sparked my desire to read. And there were so many of them, that it took until my junior year in college before I finally finished the series and could read something else. The next book I found was something called “Ulysses,” and since it did not feature small time crooks, lost treasure, or hilarious Chet Morton fat jokes, I threw it away (maybe the fat jokes don’t show up until the second act).
It is impossible to describe my love for the Hardy Boys mythology — which makes it an odd choice for a blog post. But I love the whole zany logic of the universe. Frank and Joe Hardy are brothers who are relatively interchangeable, except for their age and their hair color. Frank is always described as 18 and dark haired. Joe is 17 and blond. Always and for all time. Remember, Frank and Joe by now have starred in nearly 200 regular mysteris, 130 Case Files (more grown-up mysteries), a handful of Justice League-type books where they team up with Nancy Drew, and a collection of ghost stories. And that’s not even everything. Because I was a supremely nerdy child, I once went through the books in my collection, calculating the days spent on each case. Because their age never changed, I was certain the entire series could fit into one year. I’m sure the brothers share the same birthday, and Book 1 just happens to begin on the day after.
I stopped calculating somewhere after 8 years.
The brothers live in Bayport, a sleepy little coastal town, where they attend high school, date their girlfriends, and constantly reference Chet Morton’s bulging tummy (with affection). They are also always hot on the trail of thieves, smugglers, poachers, spies, outlaws, and assorted unsavory characters. Washington D.C. holds the current record for the city with the most crime in the U.S. I think it’s because they didn’t count Bayport. But in spite of the never-ending criminal proceedings, it’s a lovely town.
The Hardy Boys are amateur supersleuths, following in the footsteps of their professional father. This means they don’t accept payment. Which is fine, since they are always uncovering stolen caches of money, lost jewels, or ancient buried treasure. Presumably they donate this to museums or sick relatives, since their means are modest.
They live with both their parents and their spinster aunt Gertrude, who is always worried about them. And with good reason. I don’t think there has been a single book in the series where Frank or Joe doesn’t end up knocked out by a criminal who catches them “snooping.” If the NFL really wants to study the effect of concussions, they should take a look at the Hardy Boys. Apparently, concussions have no effect on people whatsoever, and in fact may actually improve your mental aptitude.
The Hardy Boys give as good as they get. They are forever punching people in the solar plexus. The solar plexus is an area of the body that I have rarely heard mentioned outside the Hardy Boys books. But it is a magic spot that can render a criminal unconscious with a single blow. They don’t often use guns, but they both have their pilot’s license, play instruments, dominate sporting events, customize cars, perform Houdini-esque escape tricks, and are surprisingly good with animals. To young boys looking for a hero, you can’t get much more perfect than Frank and Joe.
Forgive me a bit of self-promotion, but the Hardy Boys hold a special place in our hearts, having provided the inspiration for Johnny Socko, the teen supersleuth star of The Raiders of Castillo del Mar. Johnny embodies all the same characteristics, right down to the clean-cut, square dialogue of our favorite childhood heroes. The Raiders of Castillo del Mar is a loving tribute to those days spent lost in the library with Franklin W. Dixon and his only literary creation. There are several Hardy Boys references hidden in the book.
My personal collection numbers well over a hundred titles, and I still have them, proudly displayed in my office, though many of them haven’t been read since my youth. They are among my most prized possessions.
Next up.. #58!