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This Emblem Leads You To Adventure

May 15, 2010

When I was five, my uncle gave me his Hardy Boys books from the 50s and 60s. As an early reader, I was already done with kiddie books and wanted something with action and mystery and a fat kid who was always eating an apple.

What particularly captivated me was the back cover, with its long list of other adventures to seek out. Me being me, though — a very, very literal kid — I interpreted the first couple of lines to mean the classic logo was an indicator that this particular story was one of the “good” Hardy Boys books.

“Look for it on the cover of the exciting Hardy Boys …” In other words, the emblem meant it was exciting. See, the problem was that the back cover design was changed around this time, so the new books I would see in stores had a different look … and no emblem. This would lead me to refuse them, or if I received one as a gift, ignore it. “No emblem,” I would say. “Probably not very good.” So I turned to Tom Swift, Ken Holt and Nancy Drew for my fix.

Just because you can read when you’re five doesn’t mean you’re quite getting it. It wasn’t until I explained this belief to my mother, and after she was done laughing at me, that I understood my mistake, and discovered there were dozens of Hardy Boys books I hadn’t read, and most of them were, to my young self, exciting after all, emblem or no emblem.

Years later, I would learn that the ghostwriter who created the original books, Leslie McFarlane, had done so in the same city where I lived. And I would later follow in his footsteps as a reporter at the same newspaper at which he worked.

I still have these books. They were in storage at the time of the fire, so they made it. And I still add to the collection whenever I come across the older dust-jacketed editions. I’m telling you about this today because I just told this story to my kids, who got the joke right away and also called me kind of dumb. But it got my youngest interested, so he came downstairs and started exploring the collection, drawn in by the lurid covers and sensational titles. And then he hit me with his most classic nerd zinger yet:

“Did The Hardy Boys ever go on the Enterprise with Spock?”

I just checked on him; he’s fast asleep, a copy of Danger on Vampire Trail on his nightstand. This kid rocks.

Full details of the Hardy series at this excellent, comprehensive site. If you look hard enough, you will find a lot of my writing.

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3 comments

  1. I’m going to start adding that emblem to everything I do.


  2. Man, I too loved the Hardy Boys books when I was younger! Did you ever read (Alfred Hitchcock Presents) The Three Investigators? I loved those too! I still go through a phase now and then when I’ll pick one up and reread it…


    • The Three Investigators were probably the smartest and best-written children’s mystery series of that era. Hey, they operated out of a trailer buried in a junkyard, with secret tunnels and Door Four and all that. However, for some reason the books were hard to come by when I was a kid. Libraries had them, but they weren’t common in stores. So while I read them all — and I own two hardcovers and several paperbacks — they weren’t as easily collected as the Grossett & Dunlap lines.

      I have some Three Investigators audio plays around here somewhere. Last year, a German company made a couple of movies about them (in English) because the characters are huge over there. I’ve yet to see the films.



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