This was pure guilty pleasure ! And given a chance, I would plop myself down with a Hardy Boys right now and try to finish two at one go...
I got introduced to The Hardy Boys when I was at school and as far as I remember, that is how I got hooked to reading in the first place. I mean, there were conscious efforts by well-wishers to induct me into the bookworm's club but as a kid, I was more annoyed than pleased when I found that about eighty percent of my birthdays gifts were books (I sound like Dudley Dursley). How the times have changed !
My high school library was a real gem. It was always choc-a-block with all kinds of books and besides my parents, I owe my reading interests entirely to the apparently glum-faced librarian, who often let me in during lunch breaks and suggested titles to me and kept aside a particular edition if she saw that I was distraught about not getting it next week (we were permitted to issue two books at a time). Well into my plus two levels, when most of my classmates were fighting over reference books, there I was, standing on toes to fish out a James Herriot or a Harry Potter or a Hardy Boys or a Sherlock Holmes.
So this was when I was in my first year of high school, when I was yet to discover the joys of reading, that I casually issued a Hardy Boys. The book was due in a week, and I hadn't touched it till Wednesday, when my mom, having unexpectedly found a few hours to herself and without an unread book at hand, decided to give mine a go. She finished it in one siting and suggested that I read it as it had a pretty high-octane action scene towards the end that I might like.
Thus began my fascination with the Hardy Boys and the school library, which, as I realised to my delight, had enough editions stored for me to last two years.
This month, while flitting through the streets of Kolkata, my eyes fell on a pile of battered Hardy Boys in the street-hawkers' collections. I couldn't help but stop and after a bit of haggling, was the proud owner of a pair of severely cellotaped and crumpled Hardy Boys. one of which is the Cult of Crime.
It was a delight to be reminded of the similar format: a cliffhanger in the last paragraph of each chapter. The story was a bit outlandish (they always were !) but the these are the kind of books where anything too realistic would strike such a jarring note that garish is the preferred mood. There is a suspicious cult up to no good, a brainwashed girl and personal vendetta and of course the boys out there, trying to save the day with their fast thinking and even faster karate chops.
It felt great to be reminded of Joe and his impulsiveness that sounded quite cool, and Frank's quiet, calculated take on things which always seemed to make me feel guilty of preferring the younger brother's brashness! There was only a little mention of the boys' father Fenton Hardy and almost nothing on his wife Laura Hardy or his sister Aunt Gertrude (I used to love her!), though the boys' friends Chet, Phil and Biff feature briefly.
This particular story however, belongs to The Hardy Boys Casefiles series, which reportedly, was published from the late 1980s onward and was hence, yet to develop the clean, innocent good-v/s-bad flavour of later works. Consequently, I was mildly surprised to find rare instances of some drastic developments which I do not really recall having felt as a kid. I'm not complaining at all though! The language is plain and incredibly uncomplicated and makes for a smooth reading without burdening the brains in the least.
I had initially decided not to score Hardy Boys for two reasons. To begin with, it would be wrong to compare it with HMS Ulysses or The Night Watch. Secondly, the series holds a very soft spot in my heart and I don't feel the requirement to be too honest about it (that is supremely hypocritical right ?!) We require potboilers from time to time, perhaps more frequently than my forcefully-sophisticated brain would suggest. What with the real life poking and prodding and patience being hailed as the saviour of the day and all that, a little bit of fast solutions and simpler worlds wouldn't do anyone any harm at all. Quite to the contrary, the jauntiness is infective. Which is why I shall say something obscene to my monthly targets, and sit down to read the other Hardy Boys in my arsenal: Dead on Target (no pun was intended).
And yes, as you must have noticed, I did rate the book anyway, though personal bias would say otherwise. Humph.
Image courtesy: Wikipedia