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Secret Of the Hardy Boys: Leslie McFarlane &…

Secret Of the Hardy Boys: Leslie McFarlane & the Stratemeyer Syndicate

by Marilyn S. Greenwald

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It’s a fascinating look at a very interesting character – the writer Leslie McFarlane. There are a few tantalizing glimpses of Edward Stratemeyer, and those few references has inspired me to learn more about that organization! Marilyn Greenwald, the author, apparently got unprecedented access to McFarlane’s letters, family and diary, and there are some gripping diary entries. However, I think the privilege shows. The author is extremely complimentary of McFarlane and all of his decisions, even when some are clearly questionable. He and his family struggled for money, but Greenwald sites how he would rush out and buy new clothes as soon as any money came in, rather than attending to his debts. Even when describing his vices, she dismisses them as unimportant or refuses to discuss them further. In addition, I think Greenwald might have benefited from a stern editorial hand as the structure is a bit bumpy, the timeline is not chronological and she has a tendency to repeat herself.
McFarlane is a fascinating character, bent on writing the great Canadian novel, but was never able to do it. I don’t think Greenwald meant it to come across this way, but this dissertation reveals a sad man who felt himself a failure, and was bitter about his success simply because they were books for children. I suppose it was a much different climate for writers then, and writing for children couldn’t be respectable. It does make me wish that he could have lived until today when he might have found some pride in his accomplishments. If it had been 30 years later, McFarlane might have been quite the celebrity. It’s clear that he was a true writer, keeping very precise diaries for almost every year of his life. He even would write diary entries from his wife’s point of view!
There were a few juicy references to the debate about the quality or worthiness of series books and “syndicates”. Apparently, E. B White weighed in on the discussion as did George Orwell. I’m determined to track down the references and find out more. I absolutely love the debate about what an author can be and what defines a good book. The business of book packaging is such an intriguing one! ( )
  saramoohead | Mar 13, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0821415476, Hardcover)

The Secret of the Hardy Boys: Leslie McFarlane and the Stratemeyer Syndicate recounts how a newspaper reporter with dreams of becoming a serious novelist first brought to life Joe and Frank Hardy, who became two of the most famous characters in children’s literature. The author of the Hardy Boys Mysteries was, as millions of readers know, Franklin W. Dixon. Except there never was a Franklin W. Dixon. He was the creation of Edward Stratemeyer, the savvy founder of a children’s book empire that also published the Tom Swift, Bobbsey Twins, and Nancy Drew series. Embarrassed by his secret identity as the author of the Hardy Boys books, Leslie McFarlane admitted it to no one. His son pried the truth out of him years later. Having signed away all rights to the books, McFarlane never shared in the wild financial success of the series. Far from being bitter, however, late in life McFarlane took satisfaction in having helped introduce millions of children to the joys of reading. Author Marilyn Greenwald gives us the story of McFarlane’s life and career, including for the first time a compelling account of his writing life after the Hardy Boys. A talented and versatile writer, McFarlane adapted to sweeping changes in North American markets for writers, as pulp and glossy magazines made way for films, radio, and television. It is a fascinating and inspiring story of the force of talent and personality transcending narrow limits.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:01 -0400)

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