Sleuths of My Youth: The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tom Swift, Jr.

The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew have been keeping generations of kids reading and occasionally watching their heroic exploits.

The Hardy Boys was a series my dad talked about a lot and my older brothers read as well.  Nancy Drew I heard of in the popular culture, so I picked her books up out of curiosity. However both series’ had the same corporate owner, so can be discussed together.

There were several different Hardy Boys series’ out there when I was growing up. I had a definite preference.

There were the first 58 blue hard cover books-which I viewed as my dad’s Hardy Boys books. I read a few of them and enjoyed the classic setting and stories.

Of course, most of the Blue Hardy Boys and Yellow Nancy Drew mysteries on the market have been revised, so the ones I read in those series’ may have been a little different from what my father read growing up.  However, I was fortunate that my library had one copy each of the original Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew stories. These are a little bit longer and the language is a little more complex than modern readers are used to being set in the late 1920s and early 1930s respectively.

Then there was a Paperback series that started with #59 as the Hardy Boys Mystery digest. I viewed this as my older brothers’ Hardy Boys series. The books looked less interesting to me than the Blue books, so I never read them.

Then there was the Hardy Boys Case Files, a series that began in 1987 and contained far more action than the blue books. The first book began with a car bomb killing off Joe Hardy’s girlfriend and ends with the Hardy’s racing to stop the assassination of a presidential candidate.

That was my Hardy Boys series.

Each Hardy Boys Case File was a page-turner that packed as much suspense, action, adventure, and danger as would fit into a 160-page paperback. I devoured each copy of the Hardy Boys case files I could get my hands on. (Note: If you have trouble getting your boys to read, get on Ebay and buy a few of these.)

It was a little different with Nancy Drew.  I like the Nancy Drew files, but at some point got tired of the constant romantic subplots that kept springing up. Everywhere they went Nancy’s two gal sidekicks  George and Bess fell for different guys. They had Nancy break up with Ned Nickerson early in the Nancy Drew Files series, so Nancy could get in on the act for a while too.  The big problem with these love interests is they would invariably be murder suspects.  The teaser’s before the book would have a question like, “Has Bess fallen for a killer.” And I’d mentally add, “again.”

I liked golden age Nancy a little bit better with a greater focus on the mystery.

Of course, there was one thing the more modern Nancy Drew could do that the golden age one couldn’t.

If there was one thing better than a Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew Book, it was a Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Super Mystery. These were always fun with a greater length (usually 220-230 pages), more detectives, and a better mystery.  The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew happened run into each other and a mystery about 30 times over ten years.

Speaking of running into the Hardy Boys, the same corporation that owns the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, also owned the Tom Swift franchise, which began in 1910 with Tom Swift, Sr. as an inventor and adventure. In the 1950s, the baton was passed to Tom Swift, Jr. who developed more space age technology. As a sci fan, I’d read quite a bit of the various Tom Swift books from the 1950s as well as a couple from the 1970s. Tom  The 1990s series was similar to the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series with action-packed stories coming in at 160 pages.

They had the great idea to put the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift in the same book. While I’ve not read every Hardy Boys story, it suffices to say, that never have the Hardy Boys had a higher stake than they did in their first crossover with Tom Swift, Time Bomb.

I didn’t read all the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, or Tom Swift books out there as I was limited in time and to what I had available at the library. Still, the time spent with these characters were among the happiest I had growing up.

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