26 May 2009

Ties and the Hardy boys

The past, it is said, is another country; they do things differently there.

The Secret of the Old Mill is the third book in the Hardy Boys series. Written by Leslie McFarlane* (using the Stratemeyer house name of "Franklin W Dixon"), it was originally published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1927. In 1959 they began updating the earliest volumes in the series, condensing and changing them to make them more familiar to a younger audience than the original readers.

In 1991, Applewood books began offering reprints of the original texts of the earliest Hardy Boys (and Nancy Drew) books, complete with original illustrations and flap copy. Our local library has this edition of The Secret of the Old Mill, and as I'd never read either version of it I decided to borrow it. It bears almost no resemblance to the plot summary at Wikipedia....

Typical Hardy Boys action, with Frank and Joe and their friends getting into various adventures before finally solving the mystery. But the big surprise came in chapter V, when Frank, Joe, Tony Prito, Biff Hooper, Chet Morton, Jerry Gilroy and Phil Cohen go for a walk in the country - wearing neckties! Neckties? On high-school boys? For a walk in the country? Surely you jest.

But wait - there are illustrations. The original cover (by Walter S Rogers) was included on the reprint. It shows two of the boys (still out in the countryside) in a scene from chapter VII, by the millrace; they're both wearing khaki pants and what look like plaid flannel shirts. And neckties. Rogers also did a frontispiece, which illustrates a scene from chapter XXII. The brothers have gone out in the middle of the night to break into the mill. Frank is wearing a plaid shirt again, whilst Joe has a rather nice-looking cardigan and a plain shirt. And again, they're both wearing ties.

Wow. Glad I didn't have to wear a tie all the time when I was a kid! Maybe I should check out the Nancy Drew reprints, too....

* McFarlane's autobiography, The Ghost of the Hardy Boys (now out of print, alas, but available from used-book dealers and presumably also from libraries), is recommended reading for fans of the series.

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