Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Dynamite Flynns by Leslie McFarlane

The "Iron Mick" was well past sixty, but he hadn't forgotten how to skate.

Finding Leslie McFarlane books is not so easy these days. This one I found in a ratty pile of books at a laundry mat, and rather than offering to buy it and risk being refused, I simply took it. This book is about hockey. The opening line introduces a character who is interesting from a hockey point of view. An old man who can still skate and presumably still play. The nickname of Iron Mick is revealing too and with that one line, I think we get a pretty good first impression of this character. However, there is no conflict yet and even though the opening begins with a scene it is merely of some kids playing some old school hockey.

First thing said:

"I'm coming lads!"

Verdict: Pass (barely)


A howling November snowstorm swept the prairies.

So begins another hockey book.This one begins with weather, but it's weather that establishes setting, that of wild and cold Saskatchewan or thereabouts. It reminds me of the times before global warming when there were snowstorms in November in Canada. Nevertheless, there are better ways to begin a book. Indeed, beginning just about any other way other than with the weather is a better way.

First things said:

"Can't I have the car tonight, Uncle Simon?"

Verdict: Fail

The Tower Treasure

"After the help we gave dad on that forgery case I guess he'll begin to think we could be detectives when we grow up."

Some of you may be wondering why I added this book to a review of Leslie McFarlane's work, but I have for a good reason as it was Mr. McFarlane who wrote the first several Hardy Boys books back in the 20's, 30's and 40's. Although the general ideas and outlines came from Edward Stratemeyer's company, it was McFarlane who wrote the books and though there were guidelines in place, he had a wide measure of freedom to write them as he saw fit.

So the first Hardy Boys book opens with dialogue. A bit of a no-no these days, especially in this case as there is no dialogue tag to identify the speaker. It could be Tom Swift for all we know.

The next paragraph is of another unidentified person speaking.

"Why shouldn't we? Isn't he one of the most famous detectives in the country? And aren't we his sons?"

Why is this kid asking his brother these (hopefully) rhetorical questions? It's redundant. However, the author has a reason: to clumsily insert back story.

Of course, one must assume that these are the Hardy Boys talking to each other, but which one is saying what? As I have read a few of these books in the past, I declare that Joe the younger speaks first in the series and Frank the elder second. But there have been fist fights at conventions and an attempted murder over this very question, which goes to show how passionate old men are, who were fans of the books growing up as kids fifty or more years ago. Sadly, all this could have been avoided had this been better written.

This opening goes on to describe the boys as both being bright-eyed and having the same firm mouths. In general not the kind of opening that would succeed in today's market. No wonder some of these books were edited. The "new" version of The Tower Treasure, edited in 1959 by Harriet Adams, which you'll find today in the bookstores begins thus:

Frank and Joe Hardy clutched the grips of their motorcycles and stared in horror at the oncoming car. It was careening from side to side on the narrow road. 

"He'll hit us! We'd better climb this hillside- and fast!" Frank exclaimed, as the boys brought their motorcycles to a screeching halt and leaped off. 

It the edited version Frank speaks first, which is as it should be as he is the oldest, and both boys are clearly identified at the beginning of the scene. Plus, there's conflict. On the down side, in the edited version the language is a little melodramatic; thus, some of the charm of the original is lost.

You be the judge as to which one hooks more. Although, good luck finding a copy of the original text.

Verdict: Fail

Theodore Moracht

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