So I checked out another of the old(er) Hardy Boys books because I got caught up in it when I was at the library last time. This one is “The Clue in the Embers” – an intriguing title if nothing else, and is number 35 in the series. Unfortunately this isn’t one of the very early editions, but a later revision. Even so it’s not a bad read.
I’ve taken to reading some of the odd volumes of the original “Hardy Boys” series the local library has while I’m there volunteering. This time I pickt out #8, the Great Airport Mystery. My observations:
The book had copyright dates of 1930, 1957, 1966 and 1993. The first was obviously the original publication. The subsequent ones indicate some revisions here or there. I was able to find a reference to plexiglass that was obviously a post-WWII addition, and a comment about building Cape Kennedy hangars would have been added in 1966. I am not sure what was done for 1993, other than possibly remove material. There may have been some offensive material that was excised so it could still be acceptable. Of course now it’s hopelessly dated since we have the following material intertwined in the story:
- The sole and exclusive presence of landline telephones.
- Film cameras.
- Use of low altitude airplanes for picture taking instead of satellite images.
- Uninhabited Caribbean islands.
The last one is definitely noteworthy and seems to be pre-1930 even. Also, some out-of-contact natives in the Caribbean also figure slightly, which is a definite throwback to earlier times.
I am not sure who was “Franklin W. Dixon” for this book (the name rotated among writers), but whoever it was was definitely familiar with aeronautics. Various jargon associated with the profession turns up and “radiation fog” is mentioned and explained a couple of times.
The Hardys’ have a convertible car (and are evidently old enough to drive) and keep “emergency detective kits” on hand. These contain at least “vivid red paper” that can be torn up and dropped to create a trail.
Corporate branding doesn’t appear to exist in their neighborhood. Company names are uniformly descriptive and bland. This could be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your view of management consultants.
In the past, the DMV was required in most states to provide open access to registration information. This lets the boys look up the owner of a car via its license plate, as opposed to having to let the police do it.
The two know sign language! This is explained as being useful for detective work (I can easily believe that), but is such an ingenious idea on the part of the author that I am quite charmed by it. I don’t know if he (“Dixon”) got the idea from a real life event or person, but it is original in my experience.
I don’t know if I’ll bother with more of these comments, since the books seem to get less likely with later revisions and those are mostly what the library has.
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.