Friday, November 21, 2014

The Hardy Boys: The Tower Treasure, 1927

This is the first Hardy Boys adventure and it commences my plan to read the maiden works of authors in genres I usually read. I also offer this review for Friday’s Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase.

© Wikimedia Commons
Some things have stayed with me since my school days. The Hardy Boys, which introduced me to the joy of reading books, is one of them. I have read most of the imaginatively titled books. Since my teens nearly three decades ago, I have been reading the Hardy Boys off and on.

Yesterday, I finished rereading The Tower Treasure, the No.1 adventure of Frank and Joe Hardy published on June 1, 1927. Did it hold up as well as it did in the seventies? Yes and no.

Yes, because I knew what to expect and I was reading for the pleasure of it. And no, because I found the story and the characters juvenile and unrealistic, which was to be expected at my age. But it was fun.

Today, teenagers are no longer exposed to the idyllic world of Frank and Joe and their friends. Instead, they are thrown into the terrifying world of Harry Potter and his friends. The Hardy boys live with their doting parents, Fenton and Laura, in a secure and comfortable family environment. Harry is orphaned by the evil Voldemort even before he takes his first baby steps and then raised by equally evil relatives, in a cupboard under the stairs. The small ocean-side city of Bayport has been substituted by the dark and imposing Hogwarts and its dreadful secrets. Everyday thieves have made way for the Dark Lord, the Death Eaters, and the Dementors. These are the creatures that inhabit our world today. Only we call them terrorists, gunmen, and militias.

© Wikimedia Commons
With the line between the fictional and the real blurring, as often as it does, it helps to escape into sunny Bayport once in a while. My recent trip into the annals of The Tower Treasure was a pleasant experience as I retraced my youth through Frank and Joe Hardy’s maiden case—first helping their best friend Chet Morton recover his stolen jalopy, The Queen, and then assisting their father, Fenton Hardy, the famous private detective, recover thousands of dollars worth of securities and jewels stolen from the Tower Mansion owned by a rich old man called Hurd Applegate and his sister Adelia.

Frank and Joe do more than crack a robbery case. The boys, aged 17 and 16, along with their parents, show compassion towards Henry Robinson, caretaker of the Tower Mansion, and his family. Applegate charges Robinson with the robbery, fires him from his job, and removes him and his family from the mansion. Robinson, whose son Slim studies with the Hardy boys at Bayport High, is forced to leave town and find accommodation in a seedy quarter of Bayport. Slim leaves school to find a job and support his family. The detective and his sons are determined to clear Robinson's name and restore his honour and his job.

The Tower Treasure, written under the collective pseudonym of Franklin W. Dixon and published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, is as much a story of human values as it is about solving a mystery. Those values are inculcated into Frank and Joe by their parents, Fenton and Laura. The Hardys are the epitome of a happy middle-class American family. The boys are dutiful, well-behaved, and always helpful, the cynosure of most parents. They run errands for their father and mother, attend school and do their homework regularly, and stay loyal to their friends. They are na├»ve and innocent in their ways. It’s what makes the Hardy Boys series still appealing for old readers like me.


  1. This post brought back a lot of memories, Prashant! As soon as I read the name "Chet," I remembered asking my parents if that was really a name. :) I read all the Hardy Boys books after finishing off Nancy Drew. Thanks for this trip back in time.

  2. THE TOWER TREASURE has gone through a few "updates" over the years. However, I prefer the original version. Like Elizabeth, I enjoyed both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries as a kid.

  3. Our town library had only about four of the Hardy Boys volumes when I was young. I read those and sure wish I'd been able to find more. As an adult I've picked up a few. Like you say, they are pretty juvenile but if you know what to expect they can still be fun

  4. I read these avidly as a kid, like you they turned me on to reading. I read the first thirty or so, and have the reprint of the originals for the first several. I think your comparison to Potter is off kilter, one mystery, one fantasy, though to be honest there isn't an equivalent current mystery series to use in your then-and-now example.

  5. I wasn't really a reader of these books when I was young, but I loved reading your modern take on the book, and your comparison of then and now. Can we expect more reviews as you work your way through the series?

  6. Did you read one of the original versions, Prashant? I bet George is right. The one you recently read was probably an update. Compare page by page an edition of THE TOWER TREASURE from the '20s or '30s to one published in the 1950s or 1960s. Substantially different.

    To Rick -- Prashant is not comparing Hardy Boys to Harry Potter, he's contrasting them. Hardy Boys is of the past, Harry Potter is what youth of today are being fed instead. Fantasy has supplanted the relatively simple adventures of days gone by. Instead of secret passages in old creepy mansions those secret passages have to be in creepy old castles protected with magic spells. I like his observation especially the metaphorical element in the final sentence.

    I'd also call attention to another change in what constitutes contemporary juvenile fiction, namely the proliferation of dystopian stories. In these books adults are seen as untrustworthy, duplicitous and selfish; it's rare that these characters encounter any adult mentor with admirable traits. The spirit of youthful rebellion and obstinate autonomy are presented as the most important tools in order to survive in a world where youth is sacrificed on the battlefield of adult self-interest -- whether it be literal or figurative. As far removed from the adventures of Joe and Frank as one can imagine.

  7. I never read more than one or two Hardy Boys stories, just couldn't get into them, but some of friends enjoyed them. Nice Post, Prashant.

  8. Loved this a kid. I'd probably love it now, too.

  9. As mentioned above, brings back some memories, probably won't revisit them myself though

  10. Prashant: Canadian author, Leslie McFarlane, wrote 19 of the first 25 Hardy Boy books. During the Depression he was paid as little as $85 for writing a Hardy Boy book. He could churn out 6 books a year.

  11. What a fun project, re-reading some classic stories from your youth. When I was a lad, I read more than my share of HARDY BOYS and NANCY DREW mysteries (working my way through my elementary school's library). Of course they won't hold up to an adult's eyes - kudos to you for being able to still appreciate their innocent charms. Like John, I also think your comparison to the more darker kids books of today is totally apt.

  12. Prashant, I don't remember reading either Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew books, but Nancy Drew is a bit more likely. I have thought of giving them a try.

  13. Thank you very much, everyone, for your kind words and for sharing your thoughts and memories of THE HARDY BOYS and other childhood reads. I have been a bit too busy at work than usual, hence I couldn't find the time to respond to each comment individually, as I like to do.

    Moira, I hope to continue reading THE HARDY BOYS every now and then but not chronologically. I remember reading some gripping adventures in the series and it's those I'll probably review in future.

    John, I don't know about the updates but you might be right about the updated version I read which had the topmost cover. I think that came later probably 1959 and after.

    Bill, I was aware of Leslie McFarlane's hand in the earliest HARDY BOYS adventures and was contemplating doing a small post on him. I'm still in two minds.

  14. I love The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, along with the Encyclopedia Brown books, they helped me get hooked on mysteries. I devoured all of those books before moving onto Agatha Christie in the 5th grade.

    1. Ryan, I was not familiar with the Encyclopedia Brown books until you mentioned it and now that I read about it on Wiki, I'd certainly like to read about the adventures of boy detective Leroy Brown, nicknamed "Encyclopedia." Thanks for the pointer.