What starts a person reading? What makes a young child believe that sitting down with some printed pages and a cardboard cover and quietly reading can be an enjoyable way to spend a few hours?
For me, it was the Hardy Boys books. I’m not sure when I first read one of the Hardy Boys books, but I’m pretty sure I immediately became hooked. Who wouldn’t be interested in the exploits of Frank and Joe Hardy? After all, they were two all-American, clean cut lads who lived with their wise, grey-haired Dad, who was a famous private detective, their Mom, and their Aunt Gertrude. For some unknown reason, they were improbably wealthy — heck, they even owned a motorboat — and they had girlfriends, lots of other friends, and countless adventures. I religiously collected the Hardy Boys novels, and tried to read every one that had ever been written. My favorite was Hunting For Hidden Gold, where Frank and Joe were pictured on the front cover digging up a sack of gold coins by flashlight as some bad guy lurked dangerously in the background.
What was it about these books that spurred my imagination? I’m not sure, exactly. Maybe it was that the books used old-fashioned words, like “chum,” “sleuthing,” and “jalopy,” and that Frank and Joe had friends with weird names, like “Chet” and “Biff.” Maybe it was that Bayport, where Frank and Joe lived, seemed to generate mystery about once a week. Maybe it was that Frank and Joe always were impeccably coiffed and wore v-neck sweaters, no matter what season it was. Maybe it was that their simple adventures, bravery, pluck, and nerve were just enough to trigger my imagination, but not overwhelm it.
Whatever the reason, the Hardy Boys got me in the habit of reading, and it is a habit that has lasted to this day. For that, I am grateful to Franklin W. Dixon (and therefore all of the writers who created the imaginary world of the Hardy Boys under that durable pen name).