Hardy Boys Series

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Hardy Boys Series

Debuting in 1927, The Hardy Boys Mystery Stories were produced in book length by the famous Stratemeyer Syndicate, the company responsible for the Bobbsey Twins (see entry under 1940s—Print Culture in volume 3) and Nancy Drew (see entry under 1930s—Print Culture in volume 2) series. Readers of the first Hardy Boys stories learned that brothers Joe and Frank Hardy were amateur detectives. They tracked down criminals using "up-to-the-minute" technologies like shortwave radio and chased them on motorbikes, planes, and trains. They even had their own laboratory where they examined clues with microscopes and fingerprinting kits. Combining detective mystery with fast-paced adventure, the Hardy boys and their friends were a big hit. They survived the retirement after twenty years of their original writer Leslie McFarlane (1902–1977) and seem likely to remain in print well into the twenty-first century.

The Hardy Boys have long lived up to Stratemeyer's original idea of making them "exciting but clean." The boys never used weapons when fighting crooks and their contact with girls was limited. By the 1950s, they had become ridiculously pure and—as with the Nancy Drew series—a process of updating began at the end of the decade. Even so, in the 1960s the straight-arrow Hardy Boys became the target of cruel parodies (humorous imitations).

Over the years, the Hardy Boys have gone from 1920s boys' adventure heroes to television veterans. They appeared on The Mickey Mouse Club (see entry under 1950s—TV and Radio in volume 3) and in cartoon form on the ABC television network. The 1969 cartoon actually featured the boys as members of a rock group, and merchandising for the series included two spinoff albums. In 1977, Universal ran The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries television series in a prime-time slot that ended with the brothers working for the U.S. Justice Department. In the 1990s, as children's mystery fiction became more violent and graphic, the Hardy Boys began to lose popularity. A strong market for Hardy Boys memorabilia remains, however. The Hardy Boys are both the first and the most successful boy detective series. Their fans say they are the greatest teen detectives ever.

—Chris Routledge

For More Information

Kismaric, Carole, and Marvin Heiferman. The Mysterious Case of NancyDrew and the Hardy Boys. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998.

McFarlane, Leslie. Ghost of the Hardy Boys. Toronto: Methuen/Two Continents, 1976.

The Unofficial Hardy Boys Home Page.http://fwdixon.tripod.com/hb0.htm (accessed January 24, 2002).