The Ken Holt series is highly regarded in the world of series book fiction. Many collectors and fans of juvenile fiction feel it is the finest written of all series books. The series was written by Samuel Epstein, under the pseudonym of Bruce Campbell. Written between 1949 and 1963, the series totals 18 books. It is passionately sought after by collectors, and continues to be discussed in it's own Yahoo group. When it comes to tightly woven, well crafted tales of mystery, one will be hard pressed to find a better series. Ken is the son of a newspaper man who ends up living with the Allen clan, publishers themselves of a small local paper. The Allen's son Sandy is Ken's closest pal, and helps Ken solve various crimes and mysteries.
The stories have a film noir feel about them. Dark and gritty, and much more realistic than the Hardy Boys or Judy Bolton, crimes are solved without relying on coincidences and happenstance. Brains are used to solve the situations, and normally there seem to be several criminals that need to be caught and brought to justice. These dirty crooks smoke and probably swear, though we are never privy to their more earthy conversations. The realistic elements found in the series is what makes it so highly regarded today.
I discovered these stories through the Internet, after starting to collect Rick Brant books. I do not remember these on the shelves of my childhood bookstores. I have only seen a few in the antique and used bookstores I frequent today. It would be interesting to know which part of the country that they sold well. Because pickings are so slim here, I don't think the Holts were widely collected here on the Delmarva peninsula.
I have managed to collect 11 books in the series, all found on the Internet. Up until yesterday, I believed all of my copies were first printings. I was mistaken. It seems, despite my guarded attempts to only buy firsts in this series, I have a couple of later printings. They are all dust jacketed, and definitely early printings, but not all firsts. Here is where I went wrong.
I'm afraid I was not as careful as I could have been when it came to paying close attention to the inside lists of books, as well as little details. My first mistake came with book ten. The Mystery of the Green Flame. The book matches all first printing points until you come to the ad on the back for the current list of Hardy Boy books available. The book lists to The Hooded Hawk Mystery, which is exactly what it should list to. The problem? First printings of this title do not include the previous HB book, The Yellow Feather Mystery. My copy lists this title. I probably have a second or third printing but definitely not a first.
My next collecting mistake comes with my copy of The Mystery of the Vanishing Magician. The dust jacket meets every printing point of a first. It is a beautiful copy, brighter then my camera caught here to the left. However it appears that this may be a mismatched dust jacket to book. It seems that someone has taken a later printing book and placed a first printing dust jacket on it. I know this because inside of the book itself, the list of titles should only list to itself. This one lists to the seventeenth title in the series.
I found one other book in my collection that I believe I bought because it was a higher number in the series. It is not a first, but it is in nice condition, and I will keep it until I find a first. So make sure you do your homework before purchasing. Know what you are purchasing, and know something about the series you are collecting. My Ken Holt titles are some of the best books in my collection. I enjoy reading these as much as I do collecting them. They are wonderful stories worth owning.