Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Books: While The Clock Ticked by F.W. Dixon

This may be more of a personal forgotten book, the Hardy Boys are as popular as ever, but it's been 28 years since I've read a 'Hardy' story. Normally I’m not one to go back to a book I've already read, but a wave of nostalgia must have overcome me when I found a 1932 edition of While the Clock Ticked......

On the morning of my tenth Christmas, I awoke to a large white cloth ‘wrapping’ the bookshelf in the living room. When I finally got the okay from my parents to ‘open’ my gift, I pulled back the cloth and was ecstatic to find the entire set of the Hardy Boys books. I was dumbfounded at the sheer number of them and I remember childishly thinking that this must have cost my parents thousands of dollars. That collection, which I still have, was the first to spur my first interest in detective novels (this cover creeped me out when I originally read the story).

While The Clock Ticked is 11th in the series. Raymond Dalrymple, the town banker, calls to enlist the services of the boys' detective father, Fenton Hardy. With Mr. Hardy and his wife away on vacation, Dalrymple reluctantly agrees to allow the teenage sleuths to investigate after much insistence from Frank and Joe.

Dalrymple has purchased the old Purdy house on the shore road. Jason Purdy was an eccentric and he had built a secret vault with a time lock mechanism to have a safe place to count his gold. Dalrymple discovers the room along with threatening messages warning him to stay away: “Death while the clock ticks”. How the messages get into the room is quite ingenious and entertainingly demonstrated by Frank.

Revisiting the characters was like catching up with old friends. From Chief Collig and Detective Smuff to the girlfriends, Iola Morton and Callie Shaw, and the chums Tony Prito, Phil Cohen, Biff Hooper and Jerry Gilroy. And, of course, I can't forget roly-poly Chet Morton (Iola’s brother) who owns an old yellow jalopy he lovingly called Queen, and, when he’s not busy eating, he always seems to have a hobby that aids in the brothers' investigation. Also, there is everybody’s favorite Aunt Gertrude, who seems hard on the sleuths but deep down is very proud of her nephews. In this original version, Aunt Gertrude seems to play a bigger and harsher role than I remember in the revamped editions I read as a kid.

I discovered the entire series overhauled in the 1950s due to outdated phrases, like roadsters, and unflattering stereotypes, e.g., in While The Clock Ticked, reference is made to how well Indians can give a rebel yell. Check out some websites with great information on the series here and here.

I enjoyed returning to Frank and Joe after all these years. There’s plenty of action in this book for any ten-year-old to enjoy, and apparently for a grown man as well. I finished the book in nearly one sitting.

This secondhand book has a lot of character with stained pages every couple of chapters. Using my detective skills, I reasoned it must have belonged to a young kid who sat alone in the corner of the school lunchroom everyday, ravenously eating up each page along with a peanut butter sandwich while the clock ticked the minutes away.

Click here for more Friday's Forgotten Books on Patti Abbott's site...


pattinase (abbott) said...

There's something gorgeous in the simplicity of that cover. I read them all in the sixties.

sandra seamans said...

You surprised me when you said you don't usually reread books. I have books by several authors that I reread like comfort food. They just make me happy every time I revisit them.

And I loved the Hardy Boys along with Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon. They always had so much fun.

Scott Parker said...

David! You beat me to the nostalgic books from our younger years by a week. I'm reviewing a Three Investigators book next week. Man, I loved the Hardy Boys. I have nearly the entire collection myself even a few of the paperbacks "new" ones that were released in the early 80s. Even as a youth, I enjoyed comparing the different ways Dixon conveyed that Frank was a year older and that he was blond. One would have thought in the updating, they might have changed the title of "The Missing Chums." Did you have that one-off book about being a detective? I'm looking forward to re-reading these with my son in a few years. Thanks for the memories.

David Cranmer said...

Patti, the original covers did have a beautiful simplicity. I've seen online where an original red cover Hardy Boys with dust jacket can go for $4,000.

Sandra, Hmmm... You have me rethinking my statement. When I was a teenager, I'd read Robert B. Parker's novels several times. Same goes for The Hardy Boys. There is a comfort to them. These days, I will go back to the work of Chandler and Hemingway, mainly to learn from their style, plotting, etc. But the majority of what I read is only once.

Scott, I did have the book on how to be a detective. It had a brown cover, I believe. I went to college for criminal justice and the advisor asked me what I wanted to do and I said PI! Ha. The Hardy Boys, Magnum, and Spenser were huge influences. I did read The Three Investigators also. A great series and I'm looking forward to your review.

Randy Johnson said...

David, you ought to try The House on The Point by Benjamin Hoff if you haven't already. It's an updated Hardy Boys.
Set in 1947, it's based on The House on The Cliff with stripped down plot, three dimensional characters, and new dialogue. In an appendix, he discusses the plot devices he kept from the original, those he discarded, and the reasons for all.
I ran across it at the library a few years ago when looking for something to read. Enjoyed it tremendously, taking me back to that youth of long, long ago.

Charles Gramlich said...

Good thing you didn't live near me at that age. I might have killed you for your collection. I only read about three hardy boys books when I was a kid because that's all our library had. I loved them but it wasn't until I was an adult that I realized there had been a lot more in the series.

David Cranmer said...

Randy, Thanks, I've never heard of The House on The Point. I like the fact that it's set in the forties. I will look for it... I really enjoyed returning to these characters. Like Sandra mentioned, there's a nice comfortable feel. Maybe that old saying isn't quite true afterall and you can go home again.

Charles, Ha! I guess that would have been dangerous.

Reb said...

I remember reading the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, but I don't recall how many we had. I know it wasn't a lot of them. They were a great way to pass the time though.

Barrie said...

This post is so after my own heart! I read The Hardy Boys and, of course, Nancy Drew. And how fun that we both did kids' books this week. Happy Halloween!

Chris said...

Wow, you really brought some memories back with this one. I read quite a few of these and enjoyed them when I was younger--never thought of picking one up again, but I might now!

Chet Morton, LOL. What a sidekick!

I also got into the more modern Hardy Boys Casefiles back in the late 80s. Remember those?

One thing that cracks me up about the Hardy Boys is no matter how many adventures they have, they never age. Also, were there multiple Franklin W. Dixons? I seem to remember hearing something to that effect.

Great review. Enjoyed reading it.

David Cranmer said...

Reb, I spent countless hours reading these stories.

Barrie, Great minds think alike. Happy Halloween!

Chris, I never read the Casefiles and yes there were several ghostwriters for the series. If you check my links the history of The Stratemeyer Syndicate is quite interesting.