Book Meme 2012 Week 6 – Authorial Proliferation


Topic: Of which author do you own the most books?

After all these deep, soul-searching topics the Meme has presented recently, it’s refreshing to have one that is simple math. Just count up the volumes, compare final tallies, and include a few thoughts on the why and wherefore.

(Isn’t “the why and wherefore” rather redolent of redundancy? Bah! Nevermind them!)

Smiling to myself, I sidled over to my bookshelves, confident that a narrow victory would be found among three of my favorite authors.

Tick, tally, tick, tally, etcetera and so on…that’s ten for Tolkien! Good show, Professor.

Uno, due, tre, quattro, etcetera and so forth…why, exactly ten for ol’ Brian Jacques! And only one of those unread. A tie, so far, but the game isn’t up yet.

Eins, zwo, drei, vier…aha-ha! Twelve for jolly C.S. Lewis. Excellent form, good master, excellent form. And that’s not even counting his Space Trilogy, which technically belongs to my church library and not to me (though I am the church librarian…).

So easy! Yet before I could step away with my triumphant (if rather predictable) answer to this topic, my eyes dropped to a lower shelf that I don’t frequent as often as I once did.

Oh.

Oh, wow. This changes things. Terribly sorry to have forgotten about you guys. It’s been awhile, you see? Yes, yes, of course I’ll tally you, even though your victory is evident.

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen…(Sheesh, I really collected these books, didn’t I?)…fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen…twenty!

Twenty books from The Hardy Boys series by Franklin W. Dixon.

Now it’s true that Franklin W. Dixon is a pen name first used by Leslie McFarlane and later applied to many such ghoswriters under the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Edward Stratemeyer created Frank and Joe Hardy and developed many of their basic storylines, and then farmed them out to the ghostwriters, who would fill in the smaller details and put everything in actual prose. They had strict guidelines, with little wiggle-room for personal style or artistic flair. These books are designed to be reasonably exciting mysteries aimed at young boys, but they are very “safe.” The heroes are morally upright, unusually bright and resourceful. They have a list of character traits to distinguish themselves from each other, but not much personality otherwise. The plots range from clichéd and simplistic to clichéd and fun. And to be fair, as an elementary and middle-schooler, this was the first exposure I had to many of the classic mystery tropes.

And I loved them. I probably haven’t read one in ten years, but when I was the target age, I lapped these books up, and twenty of them still sit patiently on my shelf.

See, while these books weren’t written to be art, to be challenging, to break new ground, or to introduce you to new worlds or fascinating characters—in short, they didn’t try to do most of the things I now look for in a book—they had a certain innocent appeal, a comfortable familiarity that kept me coming back.

This is mostly because of Frank and Joe, who are best friends as well as brothers. They’re good, decent boys, essentially kind-hearted, conservative in their values, and desirous of helping others. Brave, honest, and gentlemanly, while still down-to-earth, they are almost symbols of home-made American masculine youth. Their flaws—often getting in over their head, hot-headedness in Joe, some pride in Frank—are ticked off a list to make them a bit more relatable, but never really get in the way of their lives or happiness. It’s not enough to make them profound or truly delightful characters, but enough to make them likable. You’d like Frank and Joe in real life. While some might call them goody-two-shoes, they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty, and they relish adventure. In this way, they are a kind of wish-fulfillment for the young boys reading their mysteries. My best childhood friend and I would sometimes call each other Frank and Joe, and try to take up amateur sleuthing in our neighborhood (neighbors didn’t always like this). And you know what? It’s not so bad to have characters like Frank and Joe as role models. They taught me to always carry a heavy metal tool, preferably a crowbar, in the trunk of your vehicle, and to always take a flashlight when you travel. They introduced me to the world of competitive fencing, to the Iditarod sled race in Alaska, to the rare beauty of snow leopards (and the heinous crime of stealing one from a zoo!), and to Secret Sinister Clues to the Mysterious Twisted Marks on the Treasure Towers in Viking Skull Pirate Mountain At Midnight and other such descriptor-filled titles that practically shouted Thrills! Suspense! Mystery! Ah, the good ol’ days!

Actually, the original series, as I remember most of it, had mostly the same, safe formulas. The crimes were usually theft, forgery, intimidation, kidnapping, etcetera – no one ever got seriously hurt, and no one died. I suppose readers got tired of that after awhile. So, sometime in the 1980s, they started the Hardy Boys’ Casefiles, which finally featured more serious topics like murder and international espionage. I remember being shocked when the first Casefiles book killed off Joe’s long-time girlfriend in a car bomb. But even though the spinoff series lost some of the franchise’s innocence, Frank and Joe were still essentially the same solid, decent guys you could trust in and root for. So I read the Casefiles, too, and enjoyed the more varied plots.

There are hundreds of Hardy Boys books, all under the pen name of Franklin W. Dixon. Of the twenty I own, maybe four I never got around to reading. I don’t know if I ever will. But I’ll keep the books around. My nephews have some of the series, and Matthew is just getting to the age where he can start to follow a simple novel, if he works at it. When I have children of my own, I’ll probably read them some of the Hardy Boys.

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Author: David

I’m a young Christian American reader writer dreamer wanderer walker flier listener talker scholar adventurer musician word-magician romantic critic religious idealist optipessimist man.

12 thoughts on “Book Meme 2012 Week 6 – Authorial Proliferation”

  1. I had a bunch of books in this series (the same blue hardback covers). I’m not sure if I had every book, but there were quite a few. I loved them when I was a kid, and ended up giving them away while in middle school prior to moving on to Agatha Christie mysteries. It’s too bad there hasn’t really been a good TV or movie adaptations of the Hardy Boys.

    1. Yeah, they would make for a good children’s or teen mystery show, if they were adapted with the same classy timelessness that the books have.

  2. Ah, I needed some Gilbert and Sullivan today. 🙂

    I would be in much the same position if I still had all of my Nancy Drew books. I honestly don’t know where they got to. They might be somewhere in my parents’ attic. I don’t remember much about them, either, which makes me a little sad.

    1. Isn’t G&S invigorating? My family has season tickets to a local G&S theater group and we get to see three a year. They’re funny, biting, classy, and encouraging. I want to share them with everybody!

      Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were both done by the Stratemeyer Syndicate — in fact, I think there are even crossover books. Before the Hardy Boys I read the Boxcar Children, and after them the closest thing to mysteries I read were the Clive Cussler books, which leaned more on action-adventure. It’s not the individual mysteries I remember from the Hardy Boys, so much as the overall feel of the series and how I wanted to be just like them. Although there was that one Casefiles book with them getting attacked in Alaska by a helicopter that was always my favorite book. I reread that one a couple times just for the scene with the bear attack and exploding gas tanks.

      1. It is very invigorating! I’ve only been privileged to see a few productions on stage, but I’ve listened to the music all my life. 🙂

        Indeed. I cannot even remember basics about the Nancy Drew books. I think they were probably eclipsed by Bryan Jacques and suchlike in my mind.

        1. Probably so. +)

          If you can find a DVD, watch the 1983 movie of “The Pirates of Penzance.” Despite some rock-opera-ish tweaks, it’s mostly a very faithful and extremely fun adaptation.

  3. Kudos to you for keeping them! I’ve moved a lot in my life, so I tend to give books away, which just breaks my heart.

    I read a couple Hardy Boys, as well as Nancy Drew and the Boxcar Children. (How cool would it be to live in a boxcar? I was so envious.) For me, though, the series that dominated my early reading years was The Baby-Sitters Club. I read so many of those books throughout elementary school. In fact…

    … Okay, having perused the list on Wikipedia, I can say that I have read/owned 55 books of the original series, 6 Super Specials, 6 mysteries, and both books about Mary Anne’s boyfriend Logan. And then there were The Baby-Sitters Little Sisters books. And I owned the movie. And a doll.

    Wow. Scholastic owes my parents a thank-you letter. The question is, where are all those books now?

    1. I loved Scholastic, and the Book Fairs they brought to my school. That’s where I discovered many of my favorite books. That’s even where my dad bought me LOTR, despite not knowing anything about it, but just on a hunch that it might be something we’d enjoy. Boy, was he right!

  4. I was addicted to the Nancy Drew series when I first learned to read.* I eventually found the Hardy Boys and fell in love with their series, too. I think I only ever owned 2 or 3 Nancy Drew books, but I read ever so many from the library. I almost want to try going back and reading them, but I know that with their simplistic style, I wouldn’t enjoy them like I used to. So I shall probably content myself with my glorious childhood memories of mystery and adventure.

    *The mystery genre was my first literary love. Sherlock Holmes was maybe my first introduction. But I went on to read some Christie, and Chesterton’s Father Brown stories, and even one Trixie Belden at my mother’s urging (maybe she thought I’d find it less scary than Nancy Drew? I was always frightened by her stalkers with their threat letters and kidnapping attempts, but I kept reading anyway), but Trixie was never as cool as Nancy.

    1. The Hardy Boys and various boy-and-his-wolf stories were what taught me how to really read. I don’t know even know how I first got into fantasy — Narnia and The Hobbit had a lot to do with it, but I’m not sure I read any fantasy beyond them until maybe fifth grade. As for mysteries, I — oddly — never read any after the Hard Boys. Well, that one Poirot novel, but not even any Holmes. I’ve owned a copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles for ages, but never read it. Instead, I got my mystery fix from movies and TV shows (through which I’ve become familiar with nearly all the Poirot and Holmes stories).

      Also, if you stay online, I’m about to post an update on our Half Price Books raid.

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