November 2016 Update

Bayport Beat
Welcome to the November 2016 edition of The Hardy Boys News.
This month there is my review of “The Haunted Fort” as well as the new releases and Spotlite Book “Mystery Of The Desert Giant”.
Visit The Hardy Boys Unofficial Home Page’s Facebook Page for your daily fix of Hardy Boys news & trivia! If you’re not a Facebook member, you can see all the postings on The Hardy Boys Unofficial Home Page.
I’ve recently added a Series Book Sales Page to my SeriesBooks.info site with dozens of series both old and new listed. Check it out!

 

Spotlite Book
“Mystery Of The Desert Giant”
Comments and reviews are welcome.
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All Editions For Sale
1961 James Buechler (182 pages) – For Sale
Art: Rudy Nappi
Notes: Last DJ edition. All subsequent titles released in PC format.
The Hardy Boys and Chet search on the California desert for missing industrialist, Willard Grafton, and break up a gang of criminals intent on defrauding the US government.

Description of current edition from Amazon.com: In a search for the missing Willard Grafton, Frank Hardy and younger brother Joe, encounter a gang of criminals intent on defrauding the US government, and are lead across California and even into Mexico.

 

New Releases
Hardy Boys Adventure Graphic Novel #1 – 11/16
Paperback
New graphic novel series for the Hardy Boys.
Contains “To Die or Not To Die” plus three other adventures.

 

Just Announced
Hardy Boys Adventure Graphic Novel #3 – 08/17
Paperback
New graphic novel series for the Hardy Boys.
Contains “Chaos At 30,000 Feet” plus three other adventures.

Hardys In Review

The Haunted Fort
Spoiler Alert!
Synopsis: A long-distance telephone call from Chet Morton’s uncle summons Frank and Joe Hardy and their staunch pal Chet to a summer art school, located near old Fort Senandadga which is reputed to be inhabited by a ghost. The young detectives assignment: recover two famous oil paintings stolen from the valuable Prisoner-Painter collection owned by Jefferson Davenport.
Mr. Davenport, millionaire sponsor of the Millwood Art School, reveals that one of the famous Fort Senandaga pictures painted by his artist ancestor, General Jason Davenport, contains a clue to the hiding place of a priceless chain of gold.
Vicious threats and deadly traps beset Frank, Joe and Chet as they search for clues to the stolen paintings and the gold treasure–a search that is complicated by a stormy fued between a proud Englishman and an equally proud Frenchman over the military history of the ancient fort.
Comments: This story originally appeared a couple of years after I had given up reading the Hardy Boys for more typical teenage pursuits. At the time, I little realized just how lucky I was! The mid-60’s was a low point for the Hardys and this story (along with The Secret Agent On Flight 101) represents the series’ nadir. It’s almost as if the Syndicate was deliberately trying to destroy the series.
There are just too many characters running around in this book and the author doesn’t know how to handle them very well (actually, not at all!). The characters rush to and fro in a purposeless frenzy, there are numerous pointless scenes and many acts of senseless violence. Even in the few rare scenes that do somehow contribute to the plot, it’s clear the author simply does not know how to write. Really, he doesn’t have a clue! His ham-handed approach to exposition and characterization and his apparent tin ear to dialog is laughably bad. It’s clear who the culprit is early into the book, despite the antics of obvious red herring, Ronnie Rush. There is more suspense in wondering if the sun will rise in the morning than there is in this entire story.
Although the basic premise of the story (lost treasure in old fort/clue in painting) is a pretty good one (and frankly, the only halfway decent thing in this whole abortion), the execution is abysmal. Furthermore, the idea of the treasure being a gigantic solid gold chain is simply ludicrous. In the first place, what type of imbecile would make such a thing during a war then haul it up to the middle of nowhere and hide it? The treasure could just as easily have been a far more sensible cache of gold coins or bullion. Can anyone tell me why a Civil War prisoner would be held captive in an upstate New York pre-Revolutionary fort? And why would he be allowed almost free run of the place? Why, despite the fact that everyone knows his name, is he invariably referred to as “the Prisoner-Painter”? Stupid, Stupid, Stupid with a capital “S”!
Some of the scenes are so absurdly idiotic that they border on the surreal. Can anyone imagine a full grown man being so terrified of a rubber sea serpent that he would jump out of his boat? Or that anyone would seal a boy in a steel drum, throw him in the middle of a lake and NOT expect him to die? Or how about Frank and Joe being completely conversant in the esoteric terms used to describe the various parts of an 18th century fort? Then there’s Chet winning an art contest with a painting he’s forced to revamp at the last minute after a vandal smears paint on it! Furthermore, if I never hear or read the word bateau again, it will be bateau goldarn soon for me!
If this story were to made into a movie, only the demented directorial talents of the immortal Ed Wood Jr. (who made Plan 9 From Outer Space, Glen Or Glenda and countless other grade Z epics) would be able to do justice to it’s complete imbecilic lunacy. Fortunately for all concerned, Ed is dead, so the chances of this horror reaching the silver screen are thankfully nil.
According to the archives in the NY Public Library, this story was heavily edited by the staff at the Syndicate. This is hardly surprising, since author David Grambs clearly is unfit to write even a coherent grocery list! Grambs first work on the Hardy’s was his abominable revision of The Shore Road Mystery in 1964 and he continued to display his startling ineptitude in his revisions of Footprints Under The Window in 1965, The Secret Of Skull Mountain in 1966, finally culminating in the odious The Secret Of The Lost Tunnel in 1968. At that point, apparently someone at the Syndicate came out of a coma long enough to realize that Grambs was either an idiot, apathetic or incompetent (or maybe all three) and informed him that his services would no longer be required. The rumour that the Syndicate sued him for taking money under false pretenses is undoubtedly false but they certainly would have been well within their rights in doing so. His work on the series is so atrocious that I’ve often wondered if English was Grambs’ primary (or even secondary) language or if he was somehow related to the Stratemeyer family.
Enough! It would be child’s play to go on skewering all the idiotic things that occur in this story or to continue lambasting the author’s total incompetence but why go on beating this poor, dead horse? Suffice it to say that this story ranks among the worst in the Hardy canon, surpassed only by the unreadable and totally meritless The Secret Agent On Flight 101 (which, by the way, will NEVER be reviewed here!).
Rating: F
Suitable only for masochists, long-suffering reviewers or diehard Hardy fans who have read every other story (twice)!

This review originally appeared in Issue #22 of The Bayport Times.

 

“The Haunted Fort” is available from Amazon.com.

 

If you would like to write a Hardy Boys related review or article for inclusion here, email: fwdixon@yahoo.com

 

October 2016 Update

Bayport Beat
Welcome to the October 2016 edition of The Hardy Boys News.
This month there is John M. Carlson’s review of the revised text “Hunting for Hidden Gold”, some musings by John Vander Sloot, as well as the new releases and Spotlite Book “The Mystery Of The Chinese Junk”.
Visit The Hardy Boys Unofficial Home Page’s Facebook Page for your daily fix of Hardy Boys news & trivia!
I’ve recently added a Series Book Sales Page to my SeriesBooks.info site with dozens of series both old and new listed. Check it out!

 

Spotlite Book
“The Mystery Of The Chinese Junk”
Comments and reviews are welcome.
Yahoo Fan ForumFacebook Fan Forum
All Editions For Sale
1960 James Lawrence (184 pages)
Art: Rudy Nappi
The Hardy Boys and Chet become owners of the Chinese junk Hai Hau which contains a hidden treasure.
Description of current edition from Amazon.com: The Hardys purchase a Chinese junk to use as a ferry service, in order to make some money over the summer. It soon becomes apparent that others are very interested in the ship.

 

New Releases
13: Bound for Danger – 10/16
PaperbackHardcoverKindle
Brother detectives Frank and Joe find themselves on the basketball court and in the midst of a dangerous team initiation scheme in this thrilling Hardy Boys adventure.
Joe and Frank are taken aback when Principal Gerther announces that they need more extracurriculars on their school transcript, and he’s signed them up for the basketball team. They think it’s odd because they both stink at basketball!
But the Hardys soon find out that their principal isn’t acting out of concern for their college applications; he wants them to solve a dangerous mystery on the team. It turns out that a band of masked players are kidnapping new team members and then beating them up, blackmailing them, and threatening them-all in an effort to boost performance.
Can the boys step up to the line and stop the shadiness?
Specter of a Hardy Boy Collector
Or The Treasure in the Storage Locker
By: John Vander Sloot
Reality: circa 2005:
My eleven-year-old daughter Katie stepped into my storage unit for the first time. Mom was working, so I took her along as I needed a few things from the 10X30 rented space. Donned in a dirty shirt, shorts that didn’t match and her favorite pair of Crocs, it was obvious it was a day with Dad, not mom. Mom would never let Katie in public looking like that.

To Katie, the storage locker was filled with wonderful things and her brown eyes were wide with amazement. For me, it was thousands of dollars of samples that I needed for my job. To Katie, it was newly found treasure. I started rifling through the plethora of boxes, picking items out for a sales meeting the following day. Katie copied me by rousing through boxes herself.

“Fish hooks, dad!” she cried as she opened her first box. I replied with a simple smile. Katie loves to fish with me. “Look at all these lures. You haven’t opened any of them.”

Inside the next box, Katie finds a tube with dials on top. “What is this, dad?” she inquired as she looked through the tube.

“A rifle scope,” I replied, stopping to show her how it works. She was fascinated at how the tube made objects appear closer, running around the storage unit with the scope to one eye, pretending she is on a ship and it is a telescope.

“Can I have it?” Katie asks, peering at me through the scope. Still scouring through my samples, I replied that it wasn’t a toy. Tossing it back, Katie continued to peek into various boxes, asking me to explain each new discovery.

“You really sell all this stuff?” she asked.

“You bet, sweetie. That is why I am not home a lot, I am out there selling all this stuff,” I answered.

“Then why is it all still here?” Katie innocently asked.

Chuckling, I gave her a hug. I stepped back, dropped to one knee and brushed her light brown hair out of her smudged face. “These are samples I show customers. When they order, the product comes from the factory it was made in,” I explained. She smiled and walked back to more boxes. I knew she didn’t quite get it.

After a few more boxes and twice as many questions, Katie came upon two big boxes of books. She pried open the brown, folded flaps and gasped out loud. “Look dad, books” she exclaimed. Me, festooned with samples in my arms, turned around and looked at Katie. “Wow, those are my old Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew books,” I replied.

“There must be thousands of them,” Katie cried as she starts rifling through them.

I had to think for a minute before I replied. “I bet there are more like 100 or so.”

“Did you read them all?” Katie asked in amazement as she continued to ransack through the Hardy Boy book box.

“Yep,” I replied, “when I was your age, I would read them over and over.”

“An alligator dad!” Katie exclaims and holds up a 70’s era Picture Cover copy of The Hidden Harbor Mystery before tossing it down and opening the other box.
Memory Beacons:

I smiled at her enjoyment rummaging through the box. My mind drifted back to when I read those books. ’74 – ’76 I figured – each and every one of those books were bought and read. I couldn’t recall why I had saved them. But I sure remembered when I read them.

Sundays. I read and reread every one of those books on Sundays. I chuckled as I threw some samples in my truck, thinking about how Katie is growing up so much different than how I grew up. Me at 11? Strict religion ruled the house, Sears Toughskins in puce were considered fashion and I wasn’t allowed to use the telephone – an emergency call might be coming in, you know? For Katie, there is no church. Clothing wise, it is hoodies and skinny jeans. As for telephones? I am reminded weekly of how EVERYONE of her friends has a cell phone but her.

Sundays. If Cadets on Monday night and Catechism on Wednesday night weren’t enough, there was Sunday – the actual instigator of Cadets and Catechism. Sunday. The day my parents put aside to punish me every week. It was the day I got up and had to start my day with a shower. Any other day I bathed, it was at night. Sunday was the day I got to wear the uncomfortable clothes, especially the shoes which were always too tight. Then off to the Church we would go. After a painful hour and a half, mom and dad got to go home. Not me, I got to go to Sunday School. 5 days a week wasn’t enough school for me, I had school on Sundays, too.

Funny how the mind drifts back and certain suppressed memories suddenly get unlocked from some chained box in the brain. I recalled the time I got expelled from Sunday School. Our homework was to draw a picture of what one loves the most about Easter. Being torn between my peppery Aunt Connie’s chocolate bunny I got every year and the answer I knew the teacher wanted, I improvised. I drew a chocolate bunny on a cross, complete with blood coming out of the nail holes. Needless to say, my dad literally dragged me out of Sunday School by the nub of my ear. I remember him uttering unfamiliar words like “Sacrilege” and “Blasphemy”. And here I thought it was sheer brilliance.

Dad would always pick me up from Sunday School and then home for a huge meal. It always confused me that dinner was served at 1pm only on Sundays. Every other day, the big meal was served at night. After dinner there was “the wait”. I had to stay indoors, regardless of the weather. Outside, the rest of the neighborhood was riding bikes, skateboards and one kid had a Puch Moped. Not me, I had to stay inside and wait for the 6pm church service. It was the Sabbath after all.

Somewhere in this childhood social clash; I found the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. No clue when or how I got my first books. All I remember is the homemade bookshelf I had in my bedroom. A mismatch of bricks and lumber I had scavenged from the new construction sites around our home (looking back, it was probably considered theft!). Aligned on those hackneyed shelves were a vast collection of HB and ND PC (politically correct) books. Every Sunday afternoon I would sequester myself in my bedroom with these books and read and reread them dozens of times. It didn’t matter if it was Nancy or Frank and Joe, they were next to each other in the store – so they were the same to me.

I smiled and was thankful I was giving Katie a different upbringing. One would need a world class shrink to analyze how my upbringing affected my parenting of Katie. But one thing I knew: if it was sunny and 80 on a Sunday, Katie and I were going be outside.
Back to Reality 2005:

I was snapped from my haunted memories when Katie exclaimed, “Dad, look at this cover!” She had found the Nancy Drew box and held The Secret of Mirror Bay in her trembling hands. “Can I read them like you did?” I smiled at her eagerness. Despite her upbringing being so different than mine, having her read these books seemed to make sense to me. They saved me at her age. Not the way the preacher talked about, no. These books literally saved me in a different way. Now sitting there on the floor of the storage unit, they were about to change my life again.

“Tell you what, Katie,” I replied “you pick out two Hardy Boys and two Nancy Drews and we will take them home and read them together as a family.”
Katie didn’t even reply, she tossed “Mirror Bay” on a shelf and delved back into the wondrous boxes. Picking by the attraction of the cover, Katie left with 4 books in hand.
The next 18 months are a special memory for me. Every night we could, the family would read Hardy Boy and Nancy Drew books together after dinner. Katie, dad and mom would all read out loud to each other – powering through the 20-chapter books in two nights flat.

But the time was short lived. Katie moved on to books like the Michigan Chillers series by Jonathan Rand. Then the whole vampire thing erupted and Katie was hooked. I remembered I moved on from them too. In fact, the last HB book I had in that box of books was 1976’s The Witchmaster’s Key. So my window must have been about 2 years, too.
A Collector is Born:

The summer Katie moved on from the HB and ND books was a hot one. It was a blistering Sunday morning with the humidity in the 90’s and the high temperature to be the same. The family decided to pack a picnic lunch and take our pontoon boat on our lake and park it. My bride started packing the picnic basket (in retrospect, I see the irony) and I had to run to my storage locker first. My wife had piled up the now discarded HB and ND books and asked me to take them back to the storage locker.

I loaded up the books and took the two-mile drive. I opened up the unit, grabbed the books and walked inside. I thought of the moment Katie and I were there 18 months ago. I let out a big sigh and escorted the books to their respective boxes. For some odd reason, I decided to organize them in the box, so I started taking them all out so I could put them back in in numerical order.

But there was an anomaly in that first box of HB books. Tucked in the bottom of the carton were two odd books. One was a thick, light blue book with red coloring on the top of the pages. The Sign of the Twisted Candles was boldly written in orange lettering. I recognized the title, but not the format. I opened it up and was shocked to see 25 chapters and a glossy frontispiece. Below the ND, was a thick brown book. I grabbed and stared at the dark brown title Hunting for Hidden Gold. Again, a bright frontispiece and more than 20 chapters. I was baffled.

Forgetting the organizing, I threw all the books except the two anomalies, back into their boxes. I grabbed the samples I needed and shut the storage locker. I was going to reread an Agatha Christie book on the boat, but decided then and there to check out these odd books instead. When Katie found the HB and ND books, she thought she had found a treasure. What I didn’t realize at that moment was the storage locker was going to give me a new gem as well.

We spent the day on the lake. The girls would bob in inflatables alongside the pontoon while I was propped up in the boat with a cooler of beer, the Tiger’s game on and my two new book finds. At first, I couldn’t recall where these two books came from. Then another door in my memory creaked open a little and I recalled how they came to be. My audacious aunt Connie, the instigator of the chocolate bunny fiasco, had given them to me for my birthday in the late 70’s. An avid garage sale hound, all my birthday and Christmas gifts came from her haunts in other people’s discarded wares. She meant well by giving them, but I must have simply tossed them, unread, on my homemade bookshelf. Aunt Connie didn’t know I had moved on from juvenile series books. But here they were 25 years later.

The girls came out of the lake for lunch and we feasted on cold fried chicken, vegetables, chips and we even had cake (well, if you call Hostess “King Dons” cake…). Almost done with Hunting for Hidden Gold, I reread the snowball fight scene with Chet and Con Riley to the girls. There never was a chapter like that in the PC books I grew up with. The humor, the slower pace of an age gone by and of course, the disregard for the law, all richly written in a different style of prose.

I was hooked after finishing both books that sultry summer day. After that, I did some research and found out there was a whole different world out there than the HB and ND I grew up with. I quickly started combing used book stores and antique shops for any of the old books deemed “Completely Different” or “Drastically Altered”. Today, I sit on a modest collection of Hardy Boy books from all eras. I have every Yellow Spine DJ book and every Wrap Around DJ book. I only have a few White Spine books, as these have proven tough to find organically.

Today, my bride of 24 years refers to my collecting as my “Midlife Crisis”. “It could be worse,” I always quip, “the crisis could be fast cars and faster women”.

I have enjoyed collecting the books and the hunt may be the best part. But looking back, I find it a strange tale of how I got here. As a youth, the PC books really saved me. Then I got to enjoy them again with my daughter. Finally, the HB’s gave one more time and provided me a remarkable hobby. I wonder what Edward Stratemeyer would have thought of that?

Ah, he probably would have advised me to buy that ’69 Chevy Chevelle SS with the 396 in it.
Author’s Note: A special thanks to Jeremy Morong for the edit. A Hardy Boy enthusiast himself, he is also the author of several books including The legend of Hummel Park and The Adventures of Braxton Revere.

 

Hardys In Review
Hunting For Hidden Gold (Revised Text)

By John M. Carlson
Spoiler Alert

Hunting for Hidden Gold (Revised Text) was my first Hardy Boys book, which I got when I was about 7. I was too young to read it myself – my reading level then wasn’t even Laura Lee Hope, let alone Franklin W. Dixon – but my mother read it to me. I fell in love with the book, and I had my mother read it to me countless times. Meanwhile, my father got stuck endlessly acting out this book when he played with me.

I recently reread this book. One might think I’d still have it totally memorized, but such is not the case. Plus, of course, I’m reading it with adult eyes, not the eyes of a young boy.

In this book, Fenton Hardy is hired to investigate an armored car service holdup that took place in Montana. He goes there, and tracks the ringleader of the gang, Big Al, to Lucky Lode. Unfortunately, Lucky Lode is not a lucky place for Fenton, and he ends up injured. Fortunately, Frank and Joe are on one of their endless vacations from school (like usual!), so they fly to Montana to help.

Frank and Joe also get involved in another case in Lucky Lode. The second case involves missing gold. (Thus the title of the book.) Years before, Black Pepper’s gang held up some men who were mining gold together. Bart Dawson, one of the miners, escaped with the miners’ gold. The miners planned to meet later on and split the gold. But Dawson totally disappeared with the gold. So Frank and Joe are faced years later with finding Dawson and finding the gold.

There are plenty of smaller mysteries that may or may not be connected to the armored car robbery or the gold mystery. A mysterious blue light sometimes appears in the town’s cemetery, and mysterious music sometimes comes from an abandoned dance hall.

Since this is a Hardy Boys book, there are plenty of near-death situations, such as a cave-in of a mine tunnel. There is also the typical threatening note telling the Hardys to drop the case, but (unusually) it’s spray painted on boulder, which is sent crashing through the wall of the cabin where they are staying.

In some ways, this book is a bit different than other Hardy Boys books. Fenton Hardy is injured, so he is pretty much limited to giving advice. So he can’t come charging in during Chapter 20 to save the day. The boys are alone when they finally face Big Al in the end, and they have to rely on themselves. Their friends, including Chet Morton, aren’t even around after about page 16. And the book mostly takes place far away from Bayport.

The plot was fun when I was young. It’s still fun now that I’m not so young; however, I now notice real flaws in this book. This book is a revised text book, and I don’t need to check the copyright page to know that fact. It feels “thin” as I read it. It feels like action-action-action. There is no real character development. There is no lengthy description of anything. There is none of the humor a Leslie McFarlane book has. There are no extended fun scenes with the Hardy Boys having fun with their friends.

It is, frankly, a little painful reading this book, since it was once my very favorite book!

However, this book is readable, if not as readable as a McFarlane book. Indeed, it may well be one of the better revisions. (Admittedly, this isn’t saying much!) I am able to make it though all 177 pages. I can also imagine many young kids of today might like this book. But the book will likely disappoint original text devotees.

“Hunting For Hidden Gold” is available from Amazon.com.

 

If you would like to write a Hardy Boys related review or article for inclusion here, email: fwdixon@yahoo.com

 

September 2016 Update

Bayport Beat
Welcome to the September 2016 edition of The Hardy Boys News.
This month there is Steve Servello’s review of “Hunting for Hidden Gold”, as well as the new releases and Spotlite Book “The Mystery At Devil’s Paw”.
Visit The Hardy Boys Unofficial Home Page’s Facebook Page for your daily fix of Hardy Boys news & trivia!
I’ve recently added a Series Book Sales Page to my SeriesBooks.info site with dozens of series both old and new listed. Check it out!

 

Spotlite Book
“The Mystery At Devil’s Paw”
Comments and reviews are welcome.
Yahoo Fan ForumFacebook Fan Forum
All Editions For Sale
Original: 1959 James Lawrence (Andrew Svenson wrote the last 3 chapters) (183 pages)
Revised: 1973 Priscilla Baker-Carr (180 pages)
Revision: Slightly Altered
Art: 1959 Rudy Nappi
Art: 1973 Rudy Nappi
Notes: Harriet S. Adams also signed a release form for both the original and revised editions.
The Hardy Boys head up to Alaska to solve some mysterious disappearances and break up a plot to steal a lost US moon rocket.
Description of current edition from Amazon.com: When Frank and Joe Hardy receive a telegram from Tony Prito in Alaska telling them that his life is in jeopardy, they immediately make plans to fly to Tony’s rescue. Unknown enemies dog the Hardys and their pal Chet Morton even before they start the 4,000 mile journey. Puzzling questions lead the Hardys into dangerous sleuthing in the wilderness of Alaska and British Columbia. The astounding secret that the young detectives uncover, in the shadow of the forbidding mountain peak Devil’s Paw, winds up one of the most perilous adventures they have ever encountered.

 

Recent Releases
3: Water-Ski Wipeout – 08/16
For Sale: PaperbackHardcoverKindle
Brother detectives Frank and Joe face perils in the wilderness as they try to track down their missing teacher in this thrilling Hardy Boys adventure.
Detective brothers Frank and Joe try to figure out who’s spoiling the fun on a class trip in the third book in an all-new, interactive Hardy Boys chapter book mystery series.
Frank and Joe Hardy are super-psyched for their school trip to Lake Poketoe. Along with their friends, they can’t wait to go tubing, make s’mores, and take nature walks. And Joe is particularly excited to try out his brand-new water skis during the trip!
But when the group tries to head out for their first day of boating, Joe discovers his skis are missing! Who could have taken them? And how could they have disappeared without anyone noticing? With time running out on their trip, can Frank and Joe figure out who the sneaky ski thief could be?
Hardy Boys Adventures Paperback Box Set #2 – 08/16 For Sale
Volumes One to Ten with a special slipcover.

Hardys In Review
Hunting For Hidden Gold

Review by Steve Servello
Spoiler Alert

Normally when I review a book that I have read previously, it is with many preconceived notions and thoughts. Such was decidedly not the case here. I had last read “Hunting For Hidden Gold”(original text or OT) about 12 years ago and probably only once before, as a youth. I had no memory whatsoever of this book and that allows me to review with a clean slate.

I naturally read the OT version first and utilized my picture cover format (which caused me to do a double take when I next read the revised story.) Just now as I write this, I have checked Bob Finnan’s “Unofficial Hardy Boys Page” and see that Rudy Nappi is responsible for the fine cover art . It shows Black Pepper observing Frank and Joe as they have finally uncovered the hidden gold, of the title. More on this scene later. The one piece of interior art, opposite the title page, must have been drawn by another, perhaps Stricker (again, this from Bob’s Page). I don’t like it, though there is a small part of me that admires the use of basic black and white and an interesting portrayal of the flashlights rays on Joe as he tries to free a trapped Frank with a crow bar for leverage. This scene actually takes place on page 114 while the cover scene is a slightly inaccurate view of events on pages 197 & 198.

As the story begins, I was grabbed by the very first lines (as I should be) , “A fortune in hidden gold! That certainly sounds mighty interesting.” How could any avarice man like myself, not be interested from the get go ? On that same first page it is revealed that neither Frank nor Joe had ever been more than 200 miles from Bayport. This is true as their first four cases were very local. Therefore, “Hidden Gold” is a landmark book (of sorts) in The Hardy Boys Series. Whether it was a positive sort, remains to be seen.

As is often the situation, what starts off as Fenton Hardy’s case, somehow gets tied in with what the two brothers are involved with. Here we find that their father, the internationally famous detective (I used to think what a cool dad he would make. He was so realistic to me.), is out west in Montana. His job, to locate a shipment of stolen gold bullion, in mining country. Naturally the 16 year old Frank and his one year younger brother Joe, are wistful about not being able to help their father out . They then reminisce (page 3) about their earlier cases by highlighting the events very briefly. It isn’t until pages 13-15 that a more in-depth analysis of those four cases is given, by the author, Leslie McFarlane.

Putting thoughts of something that could never be (as they then thought), behind them, the youths head out for a day of skating on the Willow River with two of their chums, Chet Morton and Jerry Gilroy. Surprisingly, no Biff Hooper or Tony Prito. But before leaving for the river, Joe and Frank are admonished by Aunt Gertrude, the spinster older sister of Fenton, concerning all manner of dire straits the boys could be in, on the Willow. But escape they do, her tart tongue!

Meeting their friends, they don skates and begin a leisurely journey upriver, though it looked like snow was coming. No matter, they were having too much fun and wanted to reach the (apparent) source of the Willow River at Shallow Lake. I found this to be a significant piece of local geography, tying in the full course of the river from source to Barment Bay. The farmlands and rolling hills the young skaters passed, made me long for such simpler times. In my opinion, this journey was the high-point of the book. Sure, no mystery, but it made me want to be there and I was (as I read along). But then the blizzard hits! Or is a storm, hurricane, or gale ? Take your pick, as all terms are utilized. Forced to seek shelter along the bank of the Willow, they barely make way to its relative safety. While huddled there the four chums hear a crash and find a cottage had been blown down from a nearby cliff. While investigating, they meet the owner Jadbury Wilson who is badly injured but lucky to be alive, considering.

After making the elderly man as comfortable as possible, the boys settle down for the duration and listen to the old miner’s tale : After having made and lost, a couple of fortunes, Jadbury Wilson, Bill Coulson and his brother Jack, plus Bart Dawson hit the mother lode but are then attacked at their remote cabin by the Black Pepper Gang. Dawson is entrusted with the desperate attempt to sneak away from the besieged site with their 4 bags of gold. He succeeds but is never heard from again, well sort of. It is assumed that he absconded with the gold. One telling clue as to why an apparently good man would turn scoundrel is revealed when a fellow prospector sees Dawson up North and he denies his identity when confronted …

Well, as Wilson was in poor shape and his cabin in worse, he reluctantly accepts the hospitality of the Hardy’s home on High Street (I thought it was on the corner of High and Maple, but my memory …). Mrs. Hardy and Aunt Gertrude make the elderly man their welcome guest. Due to the blizzard, school is called off for the following Monday but is never mentioned again, despite Frank and Joe traveling cross country to Montana shortly thereafter.

For one day at least there is a respite from their usual mysteries and adventures. The Hardy’s engage in bobsledding on a nearby hillside with Chet, Jerry, Biff Cooper, Tony Prito, Phil Cohen, Callie Shaw, and Iola Morton. Of course their youthful fun is interrupted by Officer Con Riley who ends up being snowballed into a humiliating retreat. I hope that he is not the best that Bayport has to offer. How pathetic!

Then it’s back to the forthcoming mystery which necessitates a string of unlikely coincidences. It turns out that Fenton Hardy is working out of the old miner’s town of Lucky Bottom, the very same place Jad Wilson and his partners had resided in while mining their stolen gold. And then it happens. A letter from their father instructing the boys to come to Montana and assist in the case! Frank and Joe make reservations on the next train to Chicago, from whence they’ll transfer to another that will arrive at their final destination of Lucky Bottom. As this is their first real trip away from home the farewell from both Laura and Gertrude Hardy is very emotional (page 55). Handkerchiefs are waved, good-byes are shrieked, sobs are audible, and Jad Wilson brandishes his cane, as the Hardy’s leave for the train terminal by taxi. To show what a new kind of experience this is for the boys, Joe remarks “I’m only afraid of one thing”. “What’s that ?” Frank replies. “I’m afraid I’ll wake up and find I’ve been dreaming.”

Their enthusiasm continues as the train departs the environs of Bayport and enters the open country. A sense of elation and freedom prevails and the reader shares these emotions with them. Well done Leslie! Arriving in Chicago they are more than pleased to be treated like adults in the big city hotel, which holds their reservations. It is here that the brothers receive a second telegram from their father explaining in more detail the nature of the situation in Montana. Fenton was injured chasing a crook and was under the care of one Hank Shale, at his cabin. Until his ribs were repaired, he needed Joe and Frank to continue the investigation. He had not wanted to worry his wife and sisters with this news.

As the Hardys prepare for the final leg of their journey they are fooled twice (pages 62-68 & 71-74) in a very unHardy-like fashion! First a Mr. Hopkins tricks the youths into boarding a train for Indianapolis instead of the west-bound one they should have and following that fiasco, an unnamed young man offers them a ride to a nearby town where they could make their way back to Chicago. It is in fact a kidnap attempt which despite a spirited fight by the Hardy’s would have been successful but for the timely arrival of a couple of local farmers. Despite these setbacks, Frank and Joe arrive in Lucky Bottom and join their father in Hank Shale’s cabin and learn even more details of the case. Plus, more coincidences occurr … Bart Dawson is in town and Jack Pepperill and his gang are the ones that Fenton is after!

While searching for the hidden gold, stolen by the Black Pepper Gang, the Hardy’s explore an abandoned mine in chapter 13, named “In the Depths of the Earth”. A better title would have been “In the Depths of Despair”. Because that is what they almost do, give way to despair, after the cave-in they endure. But being the Hardy Boys they eventually rouse themselves from their funk and make good their escape. However, at the exit point from the mine, the Hardy’s hear the gang discussing their possible fate but fail to make the connection and boldly stand forth (page 126). Sheesh! Despite another spirited fight the boys are overcome and are interrogated by the leader. During this conversation it appears that both parties are not totally sure of who the others are. Hmmm … Frank, in a wise-guy manner professes to be looking for oysters in the mine, when asked. Perhaps the Rocky Mountain variety, eh ? By a clever ruse the boys escape the clutches of Shorty and Slim Briggs, making their way back to Hank and their father. Despite the recent gunplay, assault, and cave-in, they begrudgingly allow the brothers to continue pursuing the case. Such confidence in a 16 and 15 year old pair!

A trap is laid and the not so bright Slim is captured and thinking the rest of the gang captured, gives away much information, hoping for leniency from the courts (pages 140-146). Bart Dawson puts in his initial appearance shortly thereafter. He just doesn’t seem the criminal type (not swarthy for one thing). One of the Coulson brothers is in town as well and causes even the Hardy Boys to reflect on the extraordinary series of coincidences that have paralleled events of the present with Jad’s of over 25 years previous!

Continuing their latest run of good luck, the pair of amateur sleuths recover Black Pepper’s book, complete with map describing the location of the hidden gold, the very same gold that Jad Wilson despaired of ever recovering. Utilizing information in Pepperil’s book, Frank and Joe set out once again and are once more caught in a raging blizzard and narrowly avoid death. Such a penchant for snow storms … Described as “The wind shrieked with a thousand voices. The snow came sweeping down on them as though lashed by invisible whips. The roar of the storm sounded in their ears and the fine snow almost blinded them.” I consider this a pretty vivid description of this scene. As in the previous gale on Willow River, and during the cave-in, Joe and Frank think they hear a faint cry, and are naturally correct all three times (pages 17, 111, & 164). The Hardy’s apparently have very good hearing!

Upon escaping the wrath of the latest blizzard, they make their way into the supposed mine that contained the stolen gold. While wending their way through, the two are stalked by a ferocious pack of timber-wolves. Thankfully a revolver is at hand and the inevitable escape is accomplished and in the doing so, the discovery of the hidden gold (page 195)! But Black Pepper is at hand (see cover art) as well, since he planned on absconding with the loot, under the cover of the raging storm. Sigh …, no honor among thieves I guess. With typical Hardy courage the two overpower and capture the notorious Black Pepper and march him back to the Shale cabin, along with the gold. Complete and total victory for the Hardy Boys!

Then it was time for Bart Dawson to fill in his role and connect the two tales (pages 210-213). Of course as you have guessed, amnesia was the cause of all the misconceptions and troubles. It is agreed that he, Coulson, and Wilson will evenly split the profits of their original gold strike. Fenton and his sons receive a sizable reward (though I suspect Fenton will keep more than he really deserves), and mention is made of their next mystery, on the Shore Road.

The revised version was written by Alistair Hunter in 1963 and was decreased page-wise from 214 to 177. I was chagrined to see that it had the exact same Nappi cover art. Well, that’s what can happen when your Hardy Boy collection focuses on the original text/picture cover format! I had to dig this copy out of my attic as I keep very few revised versions on display. Personal choice. A brief synopsis appears in the beginning which I purposely didn’t read, but moved on to the Nappi illustration opposite the title page. A pretty darn good rendition of the Hardy’s confronting the timber-wolves in the mine (their lair). As I then glanced at the 20 chapter titles I thought, wow, totally rewritten! There “appeared” to be no resemblence between the two versions and the opening sequence seemed to bear this out.

Biff, Tony, Chet, Joe (17), and Frank (18) confront careless hunters in the woods north of Bayport , near Clintville. Returning from their excursion in the woods the Hardy’s receive a phone call from Hank Shale in Montana, instructing the boys to come to Lucky Lode, to help their father. Hah, I thought, this could be merely drastically revised as opposed to totally rewritten, which is in fact how Bob describes it on his Hardy Boys Page. While traveling back in haste to Bayport, they lose their jeep in a ditch (see illustration on page 7) and then hear a faint call for help (yet again). It is Mike Onslow and he has been accidentally shot by those same wayward hunters. Amazingly, he was on his way to see Joe and Frank! He takes the place of Jad Wilson in this edition, but weaves the same tale involving the Coulson brothers (John and James), and Bart Dawson. The Black Pepper gang of 25 years ago is mentioned, as well as the missing gold. Only this time, Dawson took off in a plane that crashed, instead of by horse. The story is modernized already. As with Jad, Mike recuperates at the Hardy home (no street address given), under the benevolent care of Laura and Gertrude Hardy. The latter seems less tart than in the ot edition (thankfully).

Instead of a train the boys take a plane to O’Hare Airport in Chicago. There they are trapped by Mr. Hopkins and his gang (Nick, Robby, and Zeke). Frank is upset at the “boner” they have pulled, but still manages to contrive an escape replete with a bonny fight. Upon fleein the building they had been held captive in, the sleuths jump into a nearby cab, thereby pulling another boner! A gang member is driving and the Hardy’s a fortunate to escape his clutches. I think the fact that the fake cab driver was “thin-faced and hawk-nosed” should have clued the boys in on his being a bad guy.

Upon arriving at Lucky Lode we find that Fenton has suffered rib injuries while pursuing a member of the Black Pepper Gang. Same as before. But then, a sawed-off shot-gun is rigged to kill Frank and Joe in a booby-trapped helicopter. The vigilance of Frank is rewarded, with their lives (see illustration on page 33).
Bob Dodge is the man who has hired Fenton to find the payroll stolen from his company. He remains an enigma throughout. In fact, he and local store-owner Burke are the two main suspects as spies for the gang in town. This becomes a pervasive plot thread until near the end of the book. Big Al is the leader of this gang …

It is Ben Tinker, who lives on the outskirts of town that had confronted Dawson up North years ago, as opposed to the unnamed prospector in the ot. His reports of and the Hardy’s confirmation of, winking blue lights (pages 44 & 49) in the local cemetery at night, are reminiscent of the gang signalling done later in the original “Flickering Torch Mystery”.
In one of my favorite scenes in this book, (pages 52 & 53), Joe and Frank follow the still unidentified town spy down the hillside and soon learn that they in turn were being followed! Hunter did a fine job creating the proper atmosphere for this scene.

In escaping one ambush, Frank dramatically leaps through a paned glass window and then leads his relentless pursuer on an incredible chase (pages 59-63). Such persistence for a villain! Curiously the Northern Lights are viewed by the Hardy’s with no comment. I doubt they had ever viewed this magnificent site even once in their lives.
After finding out that a tommy-knocker was really a rat on the piano keys, the Hardy’s are caught in a cave-in, as in the ot version (see illustration on page 77). It reminds me of another similar one in a Ken Holt book (“Coiled Cobra” I believe). As before, the boys escape and once again the gang is waiting on them and effect the capture. Slim and Jake are soon overpowered and the brothers make good their escape.

On their way to a suspected gang meeting place of Big Al, Frank and Joe are set up and fall down a hillside and crash into a bone-freezing creek (with horses), from which they are fortunate indeed to survive! But they do, only to confront the pack rat which steal their compass, temporarily at least, in a light moment of humor (pages 96 & 97). They continue to the mysterious “shadow of the bear”, where they do witness a meeting between Big Al and his minions. It appears that he has a secondary agenda, aside from the stolen payroll …After determining that Burke was the spy, a trap is set and all but Big Al are captured. In fact the ambush was muffed by being sprung too soon, allowing the escape of the gang leader. A very well drawn illustration on pages 126 & 127 accurately portrays this scene.

Of course it falls to Frank and Joe to carry out the dangerous pursuit of Big Al, who it is revealed finally, is also Black Pepper! He is a crafty foe who leads the Hardy’s on a wild and dangerous chase, with Joe eerily almost dying via a ghost-like noose from Al/Pepper. Following the trail behind a waterfall, through a mountain tunnel, and up cliffs, it looks like they have the villain cornered. But Al/Pepper appears to cheat justice by leaping to his death. Frank sees no body or carrion birds and believes it all a ruse, which it was.

As in the OT version, the Hardy’s encounter a second blizzard and as in original, Joe is saved by Frank’s fire, as shown in the great depiction on page 157. Again as before, they descend into a mine and are stalked by lobos or timber wolves.. The illustration opposite the title page shows events on page 165 occurring.

By page 169 the gold of Bart Dawson and partners is found and it turns out that Dodge was in fact Dawson, suffering from, you guessed it, amnesia. The cover art shows the Hardy’s finding the hidden gold as Al/Pepper looks on. The boys capture the gang leader and turn him over for justice while the loose ends are wrapped up by book’s end. And the Shore Road beckons.

While the revised version has been modernized in terms of transportation (as was done to all 38 books), the overall plot remains similar with varying manners of arriving at the same basic conclusions.Overall I much preferred the ot to the revised, but except for a few well written scenes, found both books unremarkable, sort of a poor mans “Secret of Wildcat Swamp”. They paled in comparison to, oh let’s say, the ot and revised versions of “The House on the Cliff”. There were occasional spurts of almost dazzling writing, but not enough to sustain the quality throughout. A pity, I expected more from one of the original half a dozen Hardy Boys books, but did not receive.

“Hunting For Hidden Gold” is available from Amazon.com.

 

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The latest news, reviews & articles for fans of Franklin W. Dixon's Hardy Boys mystery books since 2005.