Franklin W Dixon - Shastrix Books

Franklin W Dixon

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The Apeman's Secret

The Apeman's Secret

Franklin W Dixon

2nd May 2021

This is possibly the first Hardy Boys story that I read as a child, though I don’t have any specific memory of that first encounter, just if this volume being an early one I came into possession of.

It’s also the first story of the 1980s, and as with the start of the 70s feels like a significant shift - with television and comic books playing a part in the story for the first time.

It’s a classic plot, with a decent mystery to investigate. But the narrative suffers from many of the dated aspects that repeat through the series and really stand out forty years later. There’s a range of body-shaming, sexism, classism, and ableism, together with the ‘if you’ve nothing to hide’ fallacy.

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The Pentagon Spy

The Pentagon Spy

Franklin W Dixon

17th April 2021

The third of the Hardy Boys Digests sees the brothers get caught up in a complex and serious case that their father is working on. In some respects, probably the most serious and high profile case of their career.

Simultaneously however they also have another case, the case of the stolen weathervanes, and I can’t believe they didn’t go with that as the title.

Joking apart, it actually feels like one of the most robust plots of the series so far, and I quite enjoyed the blend of history and the modern day.

However the book also has the usual problems, a bunch of body shaming, some bad politics, and the standard set of tropes that might be expected from the Hardy Boys.

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The Mystery of the Samurai Sword

The Mystery of the Samurai Sword

Franklin W Dixon

28th March 2021

The second novel from the digests era of the Hardy Boys sees the brothers working with their father to protect a visiting Japanese dignitary, when everything goes awry.

The plot is quite interesting - bringing in more elements of the classic mystery story than are in a lot, allowing me the reader to come up with a variety of ideas of how it might have been done before reaching the big reveal.

However there's also still a lot to date the text - including terminology used repeatedly which to a modern reader stands out as racist, sexist, or body-shaming.

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Night of the Werewolf

Night of the Werewolf

Franklin W Dixon

28th March 2021

The first of the Hardy Boys digests doesn’t seem to depart much from the adventures that came before. This time the brothers travel north to help investigate for a family who believes one of them may be a werewolf, which is one of the more outlandish suggestions they have faced but seems to be something that’s considered reasonably plausible.

Many of the standard elements are present, including a solid dose of dated racism, and a lot of weight shaming. The number of times that new characters recognise the boys’ names has now reached the level where the author has to be parodying the series and the publisher just hasn’t noticed.

The plot is a bit weak, quite confusing, and at one point made me crack up at how absurd a plot point was in not having been mentioned earlier.

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The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook

The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook

Franklin W Dixon

14th February 2021

I had no idea what this was going to be, but having read to the point in the listings of Hardy Boys novels where it tends to get listed, I thought it time to find out. My copy is the revised edition from the early 1970s.

It is a book of two halves - the first is a collection of short stories about the Hardy Boys, their father, and their friend Chet, solving mysteries using specific elements of the crime-solving skill set, including fingerprinting and surveillance.

The focus on the skills is very detailed, and mostly presented as a lesson from one character to another. What in a usual Hardy Boys novel might be summed up in the sentence “Frank dusted for prints” has become an entire story of its own, and that makes for quite a different experience, and one that is at least historically interesting.

The narrative style however differs from what I’m used to from reading the novels. The text is a bit more formal, and feels a little bit patronising to poor Chet. Fenton Hardy is present a lot more than usual, but in general the characterisation feels missing - there’s not really anything to distinguish Frank and Joe. We also get our first part of a narrative (I think) with neither brother present.

The nature of the crimes also feels different from usual - we see our first murder of the entire series, and it’s a particularly brutal and close to home attack which felt entirely unnecessary to the explanation of ballistics, as well as being totally unaddressed from a point of view of emotional impact. There is also a rather dogmatic attempt to denounce drugs which feels heavy handed and not in the least written for real youngsters.

The second part of the book removes the narrative, and just seems to become a set of lists. As a child I imagine I might have found interest in this, but as an adult reading 50 years after publication it feels a bit like filler material.

More interesting I think from an academic perspective than anything else, and probably not necessary for anyone trying to be a completionism on the storytelling like I am.

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The Sting of the Scorpion

The Sting of the Scorpion

Franklin W Dixon

14th February 2021

The final novel in the original publisher’s run of Hardy Boys novels is unusual in a couple of respects - the plot is more outlandish than I’ve become used to, and it makes several references back to earlier stories, something the series to date seems to generally avoid.

Unlike the preceding books, this one takes place mostly near home, though the Hardy’s continue to be supported by their crew of dedicated friends. The mysteries on this occasion are a cross between airships and a Safari park, two concepts which feel slightly alien from a modern point of view.

The adventure feels very relaxed, causal in its storytelling, and this gives makes it a more engaging experience that some of the earlier novels.

I’m not entirely convinced that I followed the plot though - there seemed to be a lot going on and the same time, but ultimately I don’t think that matters this time.

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The Firebird Rocket

The Firebird Rocket

Franklin W Dixon & Vincent Buranelli

23rd January 2021

It’s the end of the 1970s for the Hardy Boys and the fifty year old teenagers are now solidly in a technology age as their case this time visits Australia and involves space rockets and nuclear reactors.

However the classic elements are still there - Chet and his hobbies, the two parallel cases, the involvement of the boys’ father, and constantly getting beaten up by the baddies.

There was only the briefest moment of racism, which feels like the writers and editors might almost have got their head into a more modern mindset by this point, and I hope as we head forward in the re-read to the 80s and a change of publisher that this will disappear entirely.

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Other reviewed books

The Jungle Pyramid
The Witchmaster's Key
The Mysterious Caravan
The Clue of the Hissing Serpent
The Shattered Helmet
The Masked Monkey
Danger on Vampire Trail
The Bombay Boomerang
The Arctic Patrol Mystery
The Mystery of the Whale Tattoo
The Secret Agent on Flight 101
The Mystery of the Spiral Bridge
The Haunted Fort
The Mystery of the Aztec Warrior
The Viking Symbol Mystery
The Clue of the Screeching Owl
The Mystery of the Desert Giant
The Mystery of the Chinese Junk
The Mystery at Devil's Paw
The Ghost at Skeleton Rock
The Secret of Pirates' Hill
The Clue in the Embers
The Hooded Hawk Mystery
The Yellow Feather Mystery
The Crisscross Shadow
The Secret of Wildcat Swamp
The Wailing Siren Mystery
The Secret of the Lost Tunnel
The Sign of the Crooked Arrow
The Secret of Skull Mountain
The Phantom Freighter
The Secret Panel
The Short-Wave Mystery
The Mystery of the Melted Coins
The Flickering Torch Mystery
The Clue of the Broken Blade
The Mystery of the Flying Express
The Disappearing Floor
The Twisted Claw
The Secret Warning
A Figure in Hiding
The Sinister Signpost
The Hidden Harbour Mystery
The Mark on the Door
Footprints Under the Window
While the Clock Ticked
What Happened At Midnight
The Great Airport Mystery
The Mystery of Cabin Island
The Secret of the Caves
The Shore Road Mystery
Hunting for Hidden Gold
The Missing Chums
The Secret of the Old Mill
The House on the Cliff
The Tower Treasure

Unreviewed books

A Game Called Chaos
A Killing in the Market
A Will to Survive
Acting Up
Against All Odds
Attack of the Video Villains
Bad Chemistry
Beyond the Law
Blood Money
Blood Relations
Blood Sport
Blown Away
Brother Against Brother
Castle Fear
Cave Trap
Choke Hold
Clean Sweep
Cold Sweat
Collision Course
Competitive Edge
Countdown to Terror
Crime in the Kennel
Crusade of the Flaming Sword
Cult of Crime
Danger in the Fourth Dimension
Danger on the Diamond
Danger Zone
Darkness Falls
Dead on Target
Deep Trouble
Diplomatic Deceit
Dirty Deeds
Disaster for Hire
Double Exposure
Double Jeopardy
Edge of Destruction
Endangered Species
Evil Incorporated
Final Cut
Final Gambit
Flesh and Blood
Flight into Danger
Foul Play
Fright Wave
Game Plan For Disaster
Grave Danger
Height of Danger
Hidden Mountain
High-Speed Showdown
Highway Robbery
Hostages of Hate
In Plane Sight
Lethal Cargo
Line of Fire
Martial Law
Maximum Challenge
Mayhem in Motion
Moment of Truth
Motocross Madness
Murder at the Mall
No Mercy
Nowhere To Run
Open Season
Passport to Danger
Peak of Danger
Perfect Getaway
Power Play
Programme for Destruction
Real Horror
Revenge of the Desert Phantom
Rigged for Revenge
Rock 'n' Revenge
Rock 'n' Roll Renegades
Rough Riding
Running on Empty
Sabotage at Sea
Scene of the Crime
See No Evil
Sidetracked to Danger
Skin and Bones
Sky High
Sky Sabotage
Slam Dunk Sabotage
Strategic Moves
Street Spies
Survival Run
Terror on Track
The Alaskan Adventure
The Billion Dollar Ransom
The Blackwing Puzzle
The Borgia Dagger
The Caribbean Cruise Caper
The Castle Conundrum
The Chase for the Mystery Twister
The Cold Cash Caper
The Crimson Flame
The Crisscross Crime
The Crowning Terror
The Dead Season
The End of the Trail
The Four-Headed Dragon
The Genius Thieves
The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew meet Dracula and other stories
The Hypersonic Secret
The Ice Cold Case
The Infinity Clue
The Last Laugh
The Last Leap
The Lazarus Plot
The Lure of the Italian Treasure
The Mummy Case
The Mystery of Smugglers Cove
The Mystery of the Silver Star
The Number File
The Outlaw's Silver
The Phoenix Equation
The Roaring River Mystery
The Search for the Snow Leopard
The Secret of Sigma Seven
The Secret of the Soldier's Gold
The Sky Blue Frame
The Skyfire Puzzle
The Stone Idol
The Submarine Caper
The Vanishing Thieves
The Viking's Revenge
The Voodoo Plot
Thick as Thieves
Too Many Traitors
Toxic Revenge
Track of the Zombie
Training for Trouble
Trapped at Sea
Trial and Terror
Trouble in the Pipeline
Typhoon Island
Uncivil War
Warehouse Rumble
Web of Horror
Without a Trace
Witness to Murder
Wreck and Roll

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