Sunday, August 30, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
"The Secret of Skeleton Island". Sounds creepy, atmospheric, and definitely worth reading. If it was the 1930's and 40's, it could be a great B movie from Universal, or even better, a 15 chapter serial. In reality, it is the title found in not one but two classic children's book series! Both Ken Holt and the Three Investigators solved the secret at Skeleton Island, and did so a mere sixteen years from each other.
In 1949, Ken Holt and Sandy Allen solved the first Skeleton Island secret. The Ken Holt series was published by Grosset and Dunlap and written by Sam and Beryl Epstein using the pen name of Bruce Campbell. "The Secret of Skeleton Island" is the premiere volume in the series, and is full of action and suspense. The Epstein's create a world that will remind one of the film-noir output of Hollywood in the late 40's and early 50's. Crooks are mean and nasty, families are innocent and cohesive, and the good guys relentlessly pursue evil until the bad guys have been brought to justice.
I just recently re-read this book, and if you have not read it, do so. It does a great job introducing readers to the new series, and the Epsteins are wonderful writers. The suspenseful, ominous mood prevalent throughout the book is proof of the talent of these two gifted people. Many consider the Ken Holt series the best of the children's book series published. I have read 4 of the 18 books in the series and have never been disappointed. I would go as far as to say that it rivals any adult mystery series currently on the market today. I was fortunate to find a first printing of this book. The inside flap features a synopsis of this and the second title in the series, "The Riddle of the Stone Elephant". The back flap features the first six Rick Brant titles, and the back lists to the 28th title of the Hardy Boys series. Whether you find a first printing, or a reading copy, pick this one up and read it! Classic series book reading at it's best!
Seventeen years later, author Robert Arthur visited a Skeleton Island found in Atlantic Bay located in the southeast coast of the United States. Another pirate hangout, this one also features an abandoned amusement park, and rumors of buried pirate treasure. The Three Investigators series was a book series created by Robert Arthur and published by Random House. Arthur was looking to create a children's series similar to the Hardy Boys, but wanted the series to highlight good writing, something he felt was lacking in other series of the era. The series consists of 43 titles in the original series. Arthur penned ten of the first eleven titles in the series, and achieved his goal of a well written series before his death in May of 1969. Jupiter, Pete and Bob's adventures were the envy of many boy book readers of the 1960's, myself included.
The Three Investigators title rivals the Ken Holt entry when it comes to danger and excitement. It's a roller coaster ride that has one surprising thrill after the other. The element of an abandoned amusement park is an inspired piece of creativity. A phantom ghost is rumored to return periodically to the Merry-Go-Round that was the scene of her untimely demise years before. The carousel comes to life whenever the ghost decides to attempt to finish her deadly ride. The park is being readied for a movie, and Alfred Hitchcock, a recurring character in the original series, sends the boys to solve the mystery so that the film can finish production.
Though lighter in tone than the Holt adventure, this book rivals it's predecessor. Arthur spins a compelling mystery of ghosts, criminals, pirate doubloons and creepy happenings. Danger abounds, and the sinister mood that Arthur creates leaps off of every page. Though you may figure out the secret before the end of the book, you may not know every surprise that the ending brings. Again I was fortunate to find a first printing of this title. The back of the book features the first six titles, listing to itself. In addition, know that the first printing incorrectly lists the first book title as "The Mystery of Terror Castle". The real title? "The Secret of Terror Castle". This is a great read, and the Three Investigators evoke a sense of nostalgia for a time of innocence that makes the whole series worth collecting and reading.
Anyone know of other book series that share similar titles? Are they worth reading as these two are?
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
I'm back after a relaxing weekend in Cape May, New Jersey. Cape May is a ferry ride away for me and is a beautiful place to visit. It is billed as "The Nation's Oldest Seashore Resort" and is actually celebrating it's 400th year anniversary this year. It has been preserved with beautiful Victorian homes from the 18th and 19th century. Bed and Breakfasts abound along with some beautiful hotels. Around every corner is another beautiful home to look at, and add the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, you have a pretty amazing place to visit. I stayed at the city's oldest hotel, The Chalfonte, built in 1876. Above is a pic of the hotel.
Cape May also hold's a piece of history in the world of series books. According to Seth Smolinske's Three Investigator Collectors Site, Robert Arthur lived in Cape May from 1962 until his death in 1969. Seth has a page on his website, and list's Arthur's address as 309 Franklin Street. In addition, Arthur wrote the first 10 Three Investigator's books there. After checking into the hotel and settling in, I asked where I could find Franklin Street. I was amazed to find out it was just around the corner on the next block. I had no problem finding 309 Franklin, and went to the house to take some pics. These pictures are the home as it looks now in 2009.
It was an incredible experience to stand at the location where some of my earliest series book memories began. I wonder where in the home he actually wrote his stories, where he dreamed those early stories of Jupiter, Pete and Bob. It was a privelege to see it myself, and it did feel like a special place, as is Cape May.
I did purchase a couple of Beverly Grays, but otherwise the book picks were rather slim. Hope you enjoyed the pics. I also included a couple more of the beautiful Chalfonte Hotel!
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I actually started collecting Oz books, and this was actually 20 years or more. I have 39 of the original Reilly and Lee canon in Reilly and Lee printings. I still need a "Handy Mandy" to complete the set. I upgrade occasionally, but they are not my main passion.
Personally I love the Grosset and Dunlap/Stratemeyer Syndicate series of the 1920's,30's, 40's 50's and upward. Nancy Drew is a personal collecting favorite, along with Ken Holt, Rick Brant, Judy Bolton, the Dana Girls, and Hal Keen. Mix that with Penny Parker, Trixie Belden, Beverly Gray and The Three Investigators, and you get an idea of what my bookshelves look like.
Of course, the internet has helped tremendously in fueling my passion. I live right outside Ocean City, Maryland on the Delmarva Peninsula. This is not a hot bed of used bookstores chock full of series books. Instead, my mail lady Rachel is constantly delivering boxes of books, while I am at work teaching tenth grade students English. I love coming home to a mailbox with a book or books purchased from somewhere on the internet.
Currently, I have set up a Bonanzle booth to start selling books that I may have duplicates of, or items I no longer want or have upgraded. My booth is called SeriesBookLover's Bookshelf and it can be reached by clicking on the Bonanzle link at the top of the page. I'll be adding more, so come back and check things out. I've just started adding.
Tomorrow I leave for Cape May, NJ for the weekend. Robert Arthur, author and creator of the Three Investigators series lived there. Thanks to Seth Smolinske (sp?) of the The Three Investigators web site, I know the address of the house. I'll post some photos when I get back, and share my thoughts as I roamed the streets of this great author. I plan on taking my copy of Ken Holt #1, "The Secret of Skeleton Island", and I will be perusing antique stores for that elusive first printing of "The Secret of the Old Clock". Wish me luck!