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Welcome to the Bayport Times.
Hardy scholar Tony Carpentieri has announced that several of the Grosset & Dunlap Hardy Boys stories are to be slightly modified to correct spelling, grammar and punctuation errors for their 1999 printings.
If you would like to contribute an article, letter or announce a new Hardy Boys discovery, please send e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org - Please use "Bayport Times" as your subject heading.
Yep, I need your help to locate the following books for my personal collection:
2 in 1 editions: #8 Sinister Signpost/Figure In Hiding; #9 Secret Warning/Twisted Claw
Hardy Boys Classic: Treasure Island
Nancy Drew & The Hardy Boys Campfire Stories
Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!
See you next time!
By Robert Finnan (with apologies to H.P. Lovecraft)
Chapter One - The Bayport Horror
When a traveler takes the wrong turn at the junction of the Shore Road just beyond Crabb Corners he comes upon a lonely and curious country. The ground gets higher and the muddy culverts and deep ditches press closer and closer against the ruts of the dusty, curving road. Ancient, witch-haunted abandoned mills and squalid mansions dot the landscape and one hesitates to ask directions from the rustic, solitary figures spied now and then on the crumbling doorsteps or the rock-strewn meadows. One notices that, despite the luxuriant growth of wild weeds and grasses, the apple trees of the region are stunted and bereft of fruit.
When the road again dips, one can see the sluggish lower reaches of the Willow River as it empties into fetid Barmet Bay near the rotted, ancient wharves and slime covered piers. Dark, ominous clusters of buildings come into view and it's not reassuring to see, on closer inspection, that most of the houses are deserted and falling to ruin. The weather suddenly changes from fair to foul with no warning whatsoever. Criminals run wild through the streets while a supine and incompetent police force is reduced to seeking the aid of teenagers. One instinctively feels it is unwise to tarry long in such an unwholesome spot. It is always a relief to get clear of the place and to follow the narrow road up along the high cliffs until it rejoins the Shore Road. Afterward one sometimes learns that one has been through Bayport.
To be continued...
by Tex W. Dixon
from Texas Monthly September 1995
On a summer morning in the mid-fifties, my mother was chatting across the fence with our next-door neighbor, a retired teacher named Mrs. Wood. "You know, I've got a box of books that belonged to son when he was little," Mrs. Wood mentioned. "Your boys can have them if they'll come get them." I scampered next door and came staggering back with a large carton of well-cared-for hardcover books. "You take good care of them, young man," Mrs. Wood told me, "and they'll give you a world of pleasure."
I liked all the books in the box, but my favorites focused on teenage boys who led action-packed lives. One series chronicled the worldwide derring-do of Don Sturdy, an intrepid teen whose explorer father is trapped in the Great Pyramid. Another series recounted the adventures of young sleuths who zipped their roadster around their hometown of Bayport, New York, matched wits with criminal minds, and solved mysteries that invariably befuddled the adult authorities. They were, of course, the Hardy Boys, Joe and Frank, and they helped make me, at age nine, the serious and addicted reader I am today.
I loved the Hardy Boys, although I'm now embarrassed to remember slouching in a living room chair one morning, lost in their latest adventure, and having to lift my bare feet while my mother vacuumed under me. It was always something of a letdown to close the book on Joe and Frank's Bayport and walk outside into my hometown of Bellmead, a blue-collar suburb of Waco. In Bellmead the glaring sun seemed to wash out the color and verve that Joe and Frank experienced. More than anything else, I was intrigued by the author, Franklin W. Dixon. Who was he? How could he dream up such fresh tales? And did he write anything else? I checked the public library and the children's book department at Goldstein-Migel department store, but I never found anything else he had written.
Forty years later, I still have the hand-me-down books, now musty-smelling and yellowed. A price tag on one reads 50 cents. I also have an answer to my childhood question about the identity of Franklin W Dixon: I am Franklin W Dixon. A couple of times a year, the spirit of the Hardys' creator unlocks the boy's imagination still residing in the mind of this middle-aged man. Together we journey back to Bayport, where Frank and Joe, perpetually arrested in carefree adolescence, eagerly await another adventure - an adventure I get paid to take them on. And I'm not the only ersatz Dixon. Ten to fifteen ghostwriters around the country keep the brothers alive and sleuthing, which is how it has been since they debuted nearly seventy years ago.
You see, Franklin W. Dixon never existed. Neither did Victor Appleton, the author of the Don Sturdy series and of Tom Swift. There was no Laura Lee Hope of the Bobbsey Twins, no Carolyn Keene of Nancy Drew. All the authors and all the books were the brainchildren of an amazing mass-market genius named Edward Stratemeyer. Between 1900 and 1930 Stratemeyer created Sturdy, Drew, and Swift, the Hardys and the Bobbseys, Dave Fearless, Dave Dashaway, the Rover Boys, the Darewell Chums, the Outdoor Girls, the Moving Picture Girls, and numerous other adventure heroes and heroines - as well as their pseudonymous authors. Bruce Watson, who wrote about the relatively unknown Stratemeyer in the October 1991 issue of The Smithsonian magazine, says this mild-mannered "literary machine" produced 125 series and more than 1,300 teen novels. Stratemeyer's lifetime sales, Watson reports, totaled more than 200 million copies.
Realizing that he alone could never accommodate all the youthful characters and exciting plots that sprung from his fertile imagination, Stratemeyer began crafting story ideas into detailed three-page outlines and farming them out to writers. According to Watson, a ghostwriter working for the Stratemeyer Syndicate would produce a novel within a month. Then Stratemeyer would edit it, check it for consistency with previous books, and send it to the publisher. The ghostwriters earned between $50 and $250 per book, signed away all rights to the syndicate, and agreed never to divulge their true identities. We latter-day Dixons make a bit more per book, but we still sign away all rights - to Mega-Books of New York - and we still agree to remain ghosts.
I got into writing Hardy Boys mysteries for the same reason Stratemeyer's ghosts of yesteryear did: I needed the money. I also had a connection. A friend from Austin had moved to New York to write a novel, but she needed to supplement her income, so she took a job at Mega-Books rewriting horrendously written Hardy Boys editions. Overwhelmed with work, she asked me to take an idea fumbled by a Dixon ghost and see what I could do with it. The arrangement suited us both, and now I produce a couple of books a year.
Creating a Hardy Boys mystery is something of an assembly-line process. Once I discuss potential story lines with my editor, she gets Mega-Books' approval, and then I come up with a detailed chapter outline, which usually takes about a week to write. When the outline is approved, I start on the book, which is about a month's worth of work. I rarely have an uninterrupted month to focus on the project, but when I'm "in the zone," so to speak, I'm as oblivious to the rest of the world as I'd be if I were writing War and Peace. Coming to the climactic moment of my most recent Hardy tale, I even found myself getting teary when Joe's life was in danger and Frank was desperately trying to save him. Something about brotherly love must have gotten to me.
My Hardy Boys editor is probably the best editor I've worked with in twenty years as a professional writer. (When she's not pummeling Joe and Frank into shape, she's a travel writer for the New York Times.) Her requirements for a rewrite are thorough, exacting, and thoughtful. She pays special attention to the logic and plausibility of the mystery and to making sure the prose is accessible to teens without being condescending.
Although Edward Stratemeyer would still recognize his daring duo, Mega-Books has worked to update them. As the Mega-Books writer's guide ("the bible") urges, we ghostwriters are supposed to jettison the image of the goody-goody Hardy Boys that most of us remember. Frank and Joe now have distinctive personalities, and the crimes they solve are realistic and dangerous, everything from terrorist attacks to industrial espionage.
The Hardys - except for the title, you don't call them Hardy Boys anymore - are still in their late teens, and they still live in Bayport with their mother, Laura, their eccentric Aunt Gertrude, and their father, the internationally famous private detective Fenton Hardy. Their chubby, wisecracking pal Chet Morton still makes an occasional appearance, as does Callie Shaw, Frank's true love.
Among the nineties-style crimes that attract the Hardys are armed robbery, arson, and kidnapping - but no drug crimes. Dialogue no-no's include cursing, double entendres, vulgarity, and taking the Lord's name in vain. No matter how slimy the villain, you'll never hear joe say, "Jeez, Frank, he's an old rugby player; I was damn sure he had leather balls. "
As the Mega-Books bible explains, we writers can focus on murder as long as we keep from delving into the gory details. In other words, someone can be shot and killed, but no puddles of blood. In one of the case files, as the books are called today, the fanatical Assassins blow up the Hardys' car with Joe's longtime girlfriend, Iola Morton, inside.
Whatever the crime, nearly each of the chapters must end in a cliffhanger. In fact, coming up with "cliffs," which usually involve physical danger, is one of the real challenges of being a modern-day Franklin W Dixon. Not only do they have to be relatively believable and sufficiently hair-raising to keep young, TV-jaded readers turning the page, but they have to be resolved within the first few paragraphs of the next chapter. Like this: An Assassin's bullet penetrates the boat's fuel tank while Joe is at the helm, and as the chapter ends, the craft erupts into a ball of fire; we discover in the next chapter that Joe dived into the shark-infested Gulf of Mexico a second before the explosion. Or this: Helplessly attached to a hang glider, Frank sees a cliff looming before him. As the chapter ends, he closes his eyes and awaits his smashing end; we learn in the next chapter that at the last possible moment a propitious breeze off the Pacific lifted our hero onto a mesa.
My other challenge is the one every mystery writer faces: peeling away deli-thin layers of information so that the reader exclaims "Ah-ha!" at about the same moment the Hardys do. And, as with any novel, it's always a challenge to keep the story moving, the dialogue crisp, and the descriptions fresh - even if the approach is formulaic and my readers are adolescent.
Although Frank, as the bible describes him, is "a Sherlock Holmes in jeans" and Joe "a devil-may-care swashbuckler with a short fuse," the bros today are hip to fast cars, rock music, and the latest computer and video gadgets. They hang out at shopping malls and love fast food. They also have an eye for the girls, although when it comes to sex, the bible is unequivocal: There isn't any. It's not that the guys aren't interested, you understand, but since "thug-busting is a 24-hour-a-day job," the Hardys have little time for socializing. Except for the rare kiss or hug shared with a pretty associate, it's mostly look-don't-touch, with Joe doing the more uninhibited looking. Those female accomplices, by the way, are true nineties women; they're usually just as plucky and resourceful as Frank and Joe.
The Hardys travel more frequently than they did in the early days, usually in the summer or during spring break or Christmas vacation from Bayport High. In Evil Inc., they are in Paris, decked out in black leather combat boots, spiked hair, and gold earrings; they're posing as gunrunning punks so they can infiltrate a band of arms dealers. In Too Many Traitors, they fly to Spain and get mixed up with international spies and a beautiful but dangerous operative named Elena. In Trouble in the Pipeline, they're in Alaska, where, with the assistance of a hunting and fishing guide named Virgil, they thwart a plot to blow up an oil pipeline.
Joe and Frank also travel to Texas on occasion. In Web of Horror, they're in a city just outside of Dallas, where a horror flick being shot on location becomes the scene of a real murder. In Hot Wheels, they fly to El Paso, where they compete in a solar-powered-car race and crack a mystery involving sabotage and research theft. In Shock Waves a "Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys Super Mystery," the brothers and their famous female friend journey to South Padre Island, where a squad of "resort sharks" has ripped off a fortune in loot. In adventures to come, joe and Frank will be back on South Padre and in Matamoros, where they'll get caught up with gunrunners, bullfighters, and a beautiful Mexican girl named Rosa. (Only one of the Texas books is mine; I don't know who wrote the others. In fact, we Hardy Boys ghostwriters are as much a mystery to each other as we are to our readers.)
Sometimes I worry a bit that dreaming up boys' adventure tales comes rather easily to me. I'm supposed to be a serious writer; what does this propensity say about my emotional and aesthetic maturity? But then again, who cares? I'm pleased I can do my part in keeping alive two youngsters who are clever, courageous, adventurous, and good. In other words, just the way I wanted to be when I was a boy.
"Tex" W. Dixon is the pseudonym of an Austin Writer.
From: RNELSONS@aol.com (Bob Nelson)
A friend of mine, Tony Carpentieri was recently at the New York Public Library, and saw the Stratemeyer Syndicate archives collection. He said that they have everything there, including manuscripts of most titles, among them, some unpublished manuscripts for Tom Swift, which would have been volumes 12, 13, and 14 in the Wanderer paperback series from the '80s. Number 12 you may recall was going to be called CHAOS ON EARTH. Interestingly, the Hardy Boys book, THE MASKED MONKEY, which was published as volume 51 in 1972 was, believe it or not, going to be the revised story for volume 22, THE FLICKERING TORCH MYSTERY!! Apparently, the country club where much of the story took place, the one where Chet had the job retrieving golf balls with that vacuum pump he invented, was originally going to be named THE FLICKERING TORCH COUNTRY CLUB. The original draft of the manuscript has this information. Tony also said that several manuscripts in the collection had working titles that were different than the titles eventually used for the books. He didn't write them down, unfortunately. Looks like I should schedule a trip to New York! Anyway, I thought you might find this information intersting. I'll keep you posted!
From: bl030@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Joseph T. Arendt)
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