Ghost of the Hardy Boys

Ghost of the Hardy Boys, by Leslie MacFarlane, 1976, ISBN 9781567927177. I have a copy of the 2022 GODINE edition. The cover is by Dan Grissom.

I enjoyed this book. It gave me insight into the life of a man my grandfather’s age, MacFarlane was born in 1902, same as my grandfather. It explained the Hardy Boys, and all those series of juvenile fiction books you find on the shelves of AirBnBs whose owners fancy themselves interior decorators.

MacFarlane gives us a view of his life through the lens of freelance writing. It reads like a life well-lived, some tragedy (his hometown burns, his beloved first wife dies), some triumph, a measure of comedy. All well-written, so that lens is believeable.

All told, a charming book, and a darned good read. Ten out of ten!

Cover of Ghost of the Hardy Boys

The cover of Ghost of the Hardy Boys appears to be a Hardy Boys callout: Frank and Joe are sneaking a look at MacFarlane cranking out another Stratemeyer Syndicate mass-produced juvenile book! On the wall of MacFarlane’s office is a framed print that’s the cover of The Tower Treasure, the first Hardy Boys book.

cover of The Tower Treasure

Which is appropriate, since the title of the book is a pun. MacFarlane ghost wrote 41 Hardy Boys books, he is the ghost of the Hardy Boys.

In turn, the Hardy Boys themselves haunted MacFarlane. He credits writing Hardy Boys books during the Great Depression with giving him writing discipline. The money he earned writing Hardy Boys books sustained MacFarlane and his family through that Great Depression.

When MacFarlane got his first gig as a ghostwriter for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, he received an outline for a book in the Dave Fearless series, Dave Fearless Under the Ocean. MacFarlane is limited to one deadly octopus encounter per book, and as luck would have it, the octopus ends up on the cover of Dave Fearless under the Ocean.

The Dave Fearless series is written by Roy Rockwood, which MacFarlane didn’t know was a house pseudonym. MacFarlane writes about how he himself had read and loved Roy Rockwood books, particularly the “Bomba the Jungle Boy” series.

I thought that naming a hero and book series “Dave Fearless” was absurd, but “Bomba the Jungle Boy” seemed like a fantasy, so I looked them up. They’re both real series of books. MacFarlane mentions other real book series, like “The Rover Boys”, “The Motor Boys”, and “The X-bar-X Boys”. The 1920s are a foreign land.

When I was in third grade, circa 1969-70, there was a moderate craze for the newer Tom Swift Jr books. I read a few back then. Tom Swift and his Jetmarine sounds familiar, but I can’t be certain.

I had a copy of Dick Prescott’s Third Year At West Point apparently another of the Stratemeyer Syndicate’s series. Absolutely dreadful, but reading Ghost of the Hardy Boys gave me some insight into why Dick Prescott had a stick up his ass.

Winter of 1996-97, I read Tom Swift and his Photo Telephone. It was on the shelf of a coffee shop at the corner of 33rd Ave and Tejon St in NW Denver. The coffee was good, but the book was awful.