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This month focusing on early Hardy Boys writer's outlines with a brief look at the outlines of the first 20 stories and the actual original outline to Volume 1 The Tower Treasure.
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Recently, I've obtained copies of the original Syndicate outlines for the first 20 volumes of the Hardy Boys series from the archives of the NY Public Library.
They vary in length, with the later outlines generally being longer and more detailed:
In the early outlines (1-12) specific chapter divisions were not specifically mentioned but are clearly alluded to by the various paragraph breaks. In volumes 2-12, only the end of chapter 1 (aka "The Cliffhanger") was specified. In the later outlines (13-20), the chapter breaks are explicity stated.
Edward Stratemeyer wrote the outlines for volumes 1-9. His daughter, Edna, wrote the outlines for volumes 10, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17 and 19. His other daughter, Harriet, wrote the outlines for volumes 13, 15, 18 and 20.
Let's examine the outlines for chapter 1 in volumes 1 and 13:
Depending on the writer, the results of these detailed outlines varies wildly. Old pro Leslie McFarlane was still able to inject some enthusiasm and excitement into the stories, even while laboring under the stricter guidelines. On the other hand, a hack like John Button merely fleshed out the outline, rendering the stories dry as dust. This phenomenon reached it's nadir in the execrable The Disappearing Floor, which was taken directly from the outline and is universally derided as the worst story in the original text canon.
Note the "125" written on the right border of page 1 - it's what McFarlane was paid to create this immortal story.
The woman sat in the leather chair, noticeably uncomfortable. The chair itself was not the problem, nor was the temperature of the pleasantly furnished office. It was the man sitting opposite her in an identical leather chair. With a cool professionalism, he was staring at her silently, as if he were studying her. Which, come to think of it, he was.
After a time, he broke the silence.
"So, Laura. What can I do for you?"
Laura Hardy felt her throat tighten. She looked at her lap as she fidgeted with the hem of her dress.
"I--" she began, then faltered. "It's just that--"
The doctor gave a reassuring nod. "It's all right. Just tell me what's on your mind," he said softly.
Laura collected herself and took a deep breath. "Okay. All right. It's just that sometimes I feel like such a non-entity."
The doctor nodded.
"My husband, as you probably know, is a world-famous private detective. Very successful, obviously. After all, can you name another world-famous private detective?"
"I meant in real life."
"Sorry," said the doctor. "Please go on."
"Anyway, we have two boys in high school. They should be graduating soon, I suppose. Some days I actually remember that they DID graduate, but that doesn't make any sense. Maybe I dreamed it."
"Do you? Then explain it to me. My life makes no sense. My husband is away constantly, always on some cockamamie "case," or so he tells me. And recently the boys have decided THEY want to become detectives, too."
"Really," commented the doctor. "How effective could two high school boys be as detectives?"
"I hate to admit this, because I am SO against the whole idea, but they do some to have some talent. They've personally solved over two hundred cases."
The doctor was taken aback at this.
"Two hundred? And when did they start this detective business?"
"Well, Frank is still 18, and Joe's 17, so it's been a year or two since the first one."
Laura realized as the words came out of her mouth how crazy it sounded.
"So, if I understand this correctly, they've been solving a case every couple of days or so, then immediately starting a new one. Is that correct?"
Laura looked embarrassed. She said nothing.
"I'm sorry," said the doctor, noting her discomfort. "Please continue."
"In any case, with everyone always busy on some 'case' or another, all I do is sit home alone and worry."
"Is that really all you do?"
"Well, I suppose I make a sandwiches a lot, too. Which is strange, because I'm SURE we have servants. A cook, at least."
"So you feel like a servant in your own home?"
"I don't even feel up to THAT level. It's like I'm not there. No one pays any attention to me at all. I didn't want the boys to be detectives, especially before they graduate. Did anyone listen? I always tell everyone to be careful not to get whacked on the head and tied up, but it happens all the time! No one listens! No one ever asks my opinion, not that they'd pay any attention to it if they DID listen! Not even Gertrude!"
"Gertrude?" inquired the doctor.
"My husband's 'sister', although she's old enough to be his mother. She comes for a month-long visit about fifteen times a year."
"So she's there a lot. How do you feel about that?"
"I'd rather have Attila the Hun move in. The woman is a terror. She takes over everything as if I'm not even there. And, on those rare occasions she DOES want to speak to me, she just shouts 'MILDRED!' and waits for me to come to HER! Then when I DO, she ignores me like everyone else."
"Is Mildred your middle name?"
"Not as far as I know!"
The doctor looked down as he wrote on the yellow legal pad in his lap. Laura observed that he was a nice-enough looking man, probably about Fenton's age, wearing a crisp blue button-down shirt. He had brown hair, but Laura suspected it might be a toupee...
The doctor's look became serious. "Laura, I want you to think about this. What year was your oldest son born?"
"1911. And Joe in 1912. He's a year younger."
"Uh huh. And what year is it now?"
"2000," replied Laura, wondering what the doctor's point could be.
"That would make Frank 89 and Joe 88."
Laura became indignant. "You're mocking me, doctor! They're just high school boys!"
"Laura, do you remember why you first came to see me?"
The woman's brow furrowed. "To be honest, Doctor, I don't recall how I got here at all..."
"I thought not. If it makes you feel any better, I had a similar experience last year shortly after one of my former patients showed up in my bedroom and shot me."
"Shot you!" exclaimed Laura.
"Right in the belly. I could feel all the life draining out of my body. In the following months, I was in denial about my, uh, situation. But eventually I adjusted. In fact, they made a big Hollywood movie about it. I thought Bruce Willis did a great job!"
Laura felt a chill down her spine. She began to understand why everyone ignored her, why they seemed unaware she was even in the room. The horrible, horrible truth was sinking in...
Unnoticed by either, a small boy with light brown hair had quietly entered the room. His face showed a terrible burden for one so young. Tears welled in his large blue eyes. His mouth opened, but for a moment no words came out. Finally, in a near-whisper, he said:
"I SEE... NON-CHARACTERS....."
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