For reasons completely unknown, I was thinking about fifth grade, and my teacher Mrs. Meares. Although we were at that bridge point in our life, (about to become 6th graders) Mrs. Meares still read books out loud to the class. She must have been a great reader because I can remember The Black Stallion, The Black Stallion Returns, and a book whose title remains a mystery to me, but whose contents still haunt me. The tale of three young people, stranded on an island, who through the course of their adventure discover the island, is sinking. How will they escape?
Another book read to us, which is so vivid in my mind, is The Mystery of Cabin Island. This was the first Hardy Boys tale I was ever exposed too. Why it did not turn me into an avid reader of those books I’ll never know. I do remember that Alfred Hitchcock’s endorsement of The Three Investigators was a big lure, and most of my friends were reading that series. Yet, for all the Jupiter Jones, Peter Crenshaw and Bob Andrews stories I’d read as a youth, The Mystery of Cabin Island still stays with me. In fact, so much so, that I found a copy online recently and read it.
From the very first chapter, it all came back to me. The thrill of sailing across the ice on aboard an ice-yacht was something I had never heard of before. In the adventure-mystery of Cabin Island, the Hardy’s zip back and forth across the frozen bay of their hometown in search of clues on The Seagull. Although it never makes it clear in the book how big The Seagull is; the story makes it seem large, with room for four people plus supplies. The two young detectives at times do battle on the ice as they are forced to combat attacks from another sailing iceboat The Hawk.
I confess I was sucked right into the story just as I was so many years ago in the fifth grade. The writing was crisp, the dialogue not bad, and the mystery fair. Although we live in a much more evil world than is conveyed in the Hardy Boys novels, it was nice to read something that was thrilling without being sadistic. In fact, the story was so enjoyable that I read two more stories, The House on The Cliff and The Secret Warning. I confess that neither gave me the same thrill that Cabin Island did, however, they were entertaining.
Frank and Joe Hardy were the creation of book publisher Edward Stratemeyer, who included the mysteries of the young detectives in his line of books in 1927. An army of ghostwriters wrote the stories under the company name of Franklin W. Dixon. Starting in 1959, the books underwent revisions to eliminate racial stereotypes and made easier to read for a youth market with shorter attention spans. Much has been written about this transition, with many feeling that the characters and stories lost their individuality during the change. This unofficial online resource for the Hardy Boys offers more information on the topic.
If you are interested in reading one, two, or more of this youthful series from the 1959 – 1979 canon, then check out the site: The Creative Archive.