Some thoughts on the “Short-Wave Mystery”

Going to the Library to kill some time today, I didn’t find any work to do, so instead I just found a book to read. I ended up picking out the 24th original “Hardy Boys” story: The Short-Wave Mystery. You can read the semiofficial summary on WikipediA, while I share some observations:

The story was written in 1945 and set in the northeastern United States, so I was completely amazed and surprized that there is absolutely no reference to the World War anywhere. Even more surprizing – and gratifying – was that the lawbreakers in this aren’t somehow spies or working for the enemy. I found the restraint in that respect quite enjoyable.

The crimes being investigated are stealing things and operating an illegal radio factory. I’m not sure what made the factory illegal (it wasn’t that it was using stolen equipment, that was covered separately), or what you needed to do to run a legal radio factory, or why.

Back in 1945, you could call the telephone operator from a phone booth and request that a call to a closed business be transferred to you. The boys have to leave a diner when it closes and immediately afterward the phone inside starts ringing. They go to a phone booth and call the operator and request she connect them to the caller. I’m guessing this would only be possible on a fully manual exchange and not a dial exchange.

A minor juvenile delinquent plays a part in the story. The boys visit his parents and it is strongly implied that he’s a delinquent because both parents have jobs. Scandalous. This is resolved before the end of the book. His father is injured and has to stay home. Unconventionally, his mother doesn’t quit her job.

At the end of the book, the FBI gives them a walkie-talkie with a television! Shades of Dick Tracy and his “two way wrist television”! Hoover is not mentioned at all.

The ending – which I can’t really mention without spoiling too much I think – has an outrageous co-incidency of plotlines that might ruin the enjoyment for some people. It was just a little too, well, unlikely even for FW Dixon to pull off.

Even though I’m sure it was edgy at the time, it seems quite ridiculously “clean cut” now. Technology aside, the crooks never go further than tying up or slugging their enemies and even the ones that are supposedly “international” seem really regional more than anything. Still, I liked the book and the library was nice to have it. I wish they had the entire series, but they only have every other one or so. A sad fate to a good series of books.

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