For your consideration - Thom Barker

What? There was another version of the Hardy Boys?

Thom revisits a cherished childhood activity

Have you ever revisited a cherished childhood activity you haven’t even thought about for decades?

The other day I stumbled upon a handful of Hardy Boys mysteries. When I was a kid, I loved Frank and Joe’s adventures. I had all the books including the detective handbook and the decoder ring — actually, I don’t remember if that was a thing, but if it was, I had it.

Anyway, I started reading The Arctic Patrol Mystery and, as anticipated, it was pretty rudimentary and unsatisfying writing. That, of course, was to be expected, since they were written for 10-14 year olds. For me, it was more like 7-11 because I was always a pretty precocious reader. By 12, I had moved on to the classics such as Dickens, Steinbeck, Hesse, Dostoyevsky, Twain, Scott-Fitzgerald, Golding, Mowat etc.

The whole premise of the series is also quite lame for my now (mostly) adult mind, but I kept reading, overwhelmed by the nostalgia of it. And, all in all, for what they are, they stand up pretty well.

It was also very interesting the way sensibilities have changed since these were originally published. For example, in this story, published in 1969, the boys are headed to Iceland on behalf of their famous private detective father Fenton Hardy.

Of course, they invite along their somewhat dim friend Chet (the muscle of the group) who agrees saying “… I’d like to see some real Eskimos.

Uh, whoah there, Chet. First of all, it’s Inuit; second of all, there are no Inuit in Iceland (perhaps you’re thinking of Greenland); and finally, they are people, not zoo animals.

Even more interesting is the fact that, this was the revised way of thinking. Starting in 1959, the original 38 titles, published between 1927 and 1959, were extensively revised, largely to erase depictions of racial stereotypes.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Whether we like it or not, our literature and other artistic legacies reflect our real history, not some whitewashed version of it.

It also may not be a good thing because, apparently, the revised editions were also dumbed down for a younger audience and cut for length.

“The early volumes, largely written by Leslie McFarlane [but under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon], have been praised for their atmosphere and writing style, qualities often considered lacking in juvenile series books. McFarlane’s writing is clear and filled with specific details, making his works superior to many other Stratemeyer series titles,” says Wikipedia referencing several literary critics.

Now I really need to get my hands on some of those first editions, not just for the historical context, but for the ostensibly better writing.