Blog: Commentary from the den of a pulp super-fan

Biff Brewster Mystery Adventures

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, January 20, 2017 in Juvenile fiction
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Biff Brewster Mystery Adventures

'Brazilian Gold Mine Mystery' (Biff Brewster #1)A short-lived juvenile fiction series from the 1960s is the Biff Brewster series. Published by Grosset & Dunlap from 1960 to ’65, it was not created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Thirteen novels were put out during that five-year span, written by about four authors, under the house name of Andy Adams.

Biff is a 16-year-old boy. His father works for a mining company, which means frequent travels to various exotic locations. So on his vacations, Biff accompanies his father. There, he gets involved in some mystery, joined by a local boy that he befriends in each of these locations (luckily ones that knows English!), which considering the time period is pretty progressive. Also, because of the foreign locations, the books have an element of travelogue, giving a lot of local color to the story.

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Meet Brains Benton

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, December 16, 2016 in Juvenile fiction, Review
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Meet Brains Benton

"The Case of the Missing Message"Golden Press, an imprint of Western Publishing, put out a lot of juvenile fiction in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s. In the area of juvenile mystery/adventure series, they tried to compete with Grosset & Dunlop and Simon & Schuster with a few of their own series, including Trixie Belden, Ginny Gordon, the Power Boys, Lassie, and the Brains Benton series. Brains Benton is in many ways the last hurrah for Golden’s juvenile series.

It only lasted six volumes, from 1959-61. The first story was written (and credited) to Charles Spain Verral. Probably best known to pulp fans as a main writer for the Bill Barnes series, he later got into writing various juvenile books for Golden. He then turned the series over to another author, and the rest of the series was published under the name of “George Wyatt.” But apparently things didn’t work out, and Verral soon took back the series. He later said he pretty much wrote the whole series. All appeared in picture cover format (hardcovers with artwork part of the cover, no dust jackets). Only a couple were reprinted in paperback.

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Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, November 18, 2016 in Juvenile fiction, Review
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators

"The Mystery of the Silver Spider"Probably the last hurrah for the classic juvenile book series was the Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators series launched in 1964. Created for Random House by Robert Arthur Jr., the series ran for several years and has been kept in print until around 2003 or so.

Robert Arthur Jr. actually started as a pulp writer in the 1930s and ’40s, with stuff published in many of the major pulp magazines including Amazing Stories, Argosy, Black Mask, Detective Story Magazine, and more. He later moved into scripting TV shows.

In the ’60s he edited several anthologies aimed at kids for Random House, all under Alfred Hitchcock’s name, such as Haunted Houseful, Ghostly Gallery, Monster Museum, and more. I had several of those as a kid, and they are probably still at my parents’ house. Alfred Hitchcock was probably the only movie director who I knew of as a kid, until people like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg came along.

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Christopher Cool: T.E.E.N. agent

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, October 14, 2016 in Juvenile fiction, Review
Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Christopher Cool: T.E.E.N. agent

"Department of Danger"The ’60s spy crazy spawned a lot of things, good and bad. We had a lot of spy novels, movies, and TV shows that came out of it. It influenced other things, hence getting a novel series from Belmont and a comic-book series from Archie that made The Shadow more a spy, and a new Nick Carter series that was more a counterspy character than detective.

The juvenile book series mainly had spies and foreign agents as opponents that their heroes had to deal with. But there was one where the heroes were actual spies: Christopher Cool and his fellow teenage agents of T.E.E.N.

Created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate and published by Grosset & Dunlap, the series ran six volumes from 1967 to ’69. The series ended when I was too young to read it, and I only later discovered it through websites dedicated to various juvenile series.

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Rick Brant, science adventures

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, September 16, 2016 in Juvenile fiction, Review
Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Rick Brant, science adventures

'The Rocket's Shadow'A juvenile series that was in counterpoint to Tom Swift Jr. was Rick Brant.

Published by Grosset & Dunlap (like Tom), but owned outright by G&D and not the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the series actually pre-dated Tom, starting in 1947 and lasting until 1968 for 23 volumes. A 24th would be published in 1990.

Credited to “John Blaine,” the series was created and written by Harold Goodwin, who had a technical and scientific background (though he had assistance on the first three). He wrote the series books as a sideline to his work for the government in various scientific roles. In addition, he wrote several popular science works aimed at kids, as well as some other juvenile fiction works. Even for the Rick Brant series he did a non-fiction book on science projects (what would have been a whole series of such works that never happened).

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Tom Swift: boy inventor(s)

Posted by at 10:00 am Friday, August 5, 2016 in Juvenile fiction, Review
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Tom Swift: boy inventor(s)
"Tom Swift and His Motorcycle" (1910)

Tom Swift and His Motorcycle (1910)

The main boy inventor/adventure juvenile series is that of Tom Swift. Of which there have been five series over the years, with atleast two different Tom Swifts. Created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, it’s one of their more successful ones, but owing to the changes in science and technology, they basically had to relaunch the character rather then just do minor tweaks to the stories like their mystery series Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

As a boy, I got many of the Tom Swift Jr. books. They were in hardcover, with what is known as “picture covers,” where the artwork is incorporated into the cover rather than on a dust jacket. The spines were an orange/yellow, contrasting with the blue of the Hardy Boys and the yellow of Nancy Drew. I found the science a bit over the top, more fantastical than realistic, but enjoyed them, and have been working to complete my collection of them. I soon found out that my dad had read the original Tom Swift series, and have been trying to collect those stories, either original or reprints.

As noted, over the years there have been five Tom Swift series.

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