Three Investigators Series

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Three Investigators Series

The Three Investigators series, a 43-volume set of mysteries for juvenile readers published by Random House between 1964 and 1987, featured three 13-year-old male amateur sleuths, Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw, and Bob Andrews. Jupiter, a former child actor, was the group's leader, Pete the impulsive athlete, and Bob the reserved, studious type. Although the sleuths were amateurs, they were portrayed handling themselves in a thoroughly professional manner, including offering business cards and maintaining scrupulous files in their office, a trailer hidden in a junkyard owned by Jupiter's aunt and uncle. The office had several secret entrances, including a tunnel which could be accessed through a loose board on the junkyard fence. The Three Investigators also used modern equipment in their investigations, including the telephone and portable tape recorders.

Film director Alfred Hitchcock served as a consultant to the Three Investigators at the beginning and end of each story. After Hitchcock's death in 1980, the series stopped using his name as a character, replacing him with a fictitious film director, Hector Sebastian, for new titles and paperback reprints of the first thirty volumes. The early volumes (1-8, 10) were written by Robert Arthur Feder (1909-1969), who served as an editor for the Alfred Hitchcock Magazine, the author of many screenplays for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and the compiler of several short-story collections bearing the director's name. The title pages of the Three Investigators books identified the authors of each volume. Some of them wrote under pen names, such as "Robert Arthur" for Robert Arthur Feder, "William Arden" for Dennis Lynds, and "Marc Brandel" for Marcus Beresford; others, such as Nick West and Mary Virginia Carey, used their real names.

The Three Investigators were too young to drive, and in the early books were chauffeured around their native Rocky Beach (near Hollywood, California) in a gold-plated limousine whose services they had won in the first volume. In later books, their chauffeur returned to help the boys during his time off. This transportation complication made the Three Investigators series more believable to readers who were just a few years younger and facing the same problems. Because of the more realistic adventures experienced by the trio, librarians preferred them over the mass-market—and oldfashioned—Hardy Boys books.

After the publication of the earlier volumes, Random House issued a new series of Three Investigators Crimebusters stories, but they were discontinued after a little more than a dozen paperback volumes were published. In these stories, written by some of the same writers as the original series, Jupe, Pete, and Bob were old enough to drive and hold down part-time jobs. The Crimebusters series had a modern theme with more action and violence, erasing the innocence of the original series. The Three Investigators have proven popular in Germany and several new stories were written specifically for that market in a series known in translation as the "Three Question Marks."

—James D. Keeline