Friday, April 15, 2005

Miscellaneous: Halcyon Days

This week, many of my regular blog stops – Bill Crider, Ed Gorman, James Reasoner – have looked at books that were childhood favorites. I’m always ready to jump on any bandwagon.

There’s The Hardy Boys, natch. It was an odd time in the series’ history when I was reading it. The original run of books had been revised to reflect the times, but early editions were still in circulation. I didn’t know anything about copyright dates back then, so the only way I could tell if it was a new or old version was by the font size.

Purists don’t care for the later books in the series, but I loved them. Especially those set in foreign countries, like THE SHATTERED HELMET (Greece), THE MYSTERIOUS CARAVAN (North Africa), and my personal favorite, THE WITCHMASTER’S KEY, with Frank and Joe in England.

I was also around for the first of the “new” Hardy Boys books released in paperback, but those really were poor. I didn’t even care for the titles. THE APEMAN’S SECRET?

My biggest influence was easily the Three Investigators books, about a trio of boys who solved crimes from their junkyard HQ: boy genius/former child star Jupiter Jones, lad of action Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews, listed on their business card (they actually had a business card) as “Records & Research.” They were often aided in their work by Worthington, the chauffeur whose services they initially won in a contest.

Best of all, Alfred Hitchcock himself would turn up in the last chapter to hear how the boys had cracked the case.

The Hitch connection came from the fact that series creator Robert Arthur, a veteran of the pulps and radio drama, also worked as a writer and script editor on ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS. Other books in the series were penned by novelist Dennis Lynds. I have no doubt that they still hold up.

I shifted to reading science fiction when I was in high school, but eventually moved back to crime fiction and suspense. There’s something about the books that first captured your imagination as a kid that you can never shake.

Miscellaneous: Personal Grooming Report

As is my wont in the winter months, I grew what I think of as a relief pitcher beard. Small and neat. I was about to shave it off when I realized that I’ve never seen what I look like with a mustache alone.

So I lost the beard, but the ‘stache stayed. I reserved judgment on my appearance until Rosemarie saw me. In situations like this, your significant other’s opinion matters most.

Once the initial shock wore off, she said: “You look like Brian Donlevy. How can you grow period hair?”

She’s right. Somehow I ended up with a ‘40s mustache. I’ll probably shave it off in a few days. There’s not much call for ward heelers any more.

Miscellaneous: Quote of the Day

“There are people who say that beauty is not important, that what’s important is what’s inside. But who is going to get close enough to an ugly woman to ask what’s inside?”

- Beauty academy owner Hermán Vallenilla, on Venezuela’s mania for beauty pageants