|The book that started it all for me - |
Collins hardback first edition (first printed 1968, last reprinted 1970) with cover art by Roger Hall
|Robert Arthur at work|
By then, Arthur was writing for the pulp magazines which flourished in the early thirties, as well as writing and editing pulp western, detective, and screen magazines for Dell Publishing, was the associate editor of Photo-Story, and created and edited Pocket Detective Magazine (the first pocket-sized, all-fiction magazine). Following a failed marriage, he met David Kogan in 1943 and they became writing and producing partners in radio (whilst Arthur also worked for Parade and continued to publish in most of the story magazines of the time, including Weird Tales, Astounding Science Fiction, Detective Tales, Astounding Science-Fiction, Baffling Detective Mysteries, Dime Mystery, and others).
From 1944 to 1952, he and Kogan co-wrote and produced for the Mutual Broadcasting System programme Dark Destiny as well as their own show, The Mysterious Traveler, which was re-aired as Adventure Into Fear, and syndicated among other radio stations. The Mysterious Traveler consistently outranked shows from the CBS and NBC networks and Arthur and Kogan were awarded the Edgar for Best Mystery Radio Show of the Year by the Mystery Writers of America.
In the early forties, Arthur met Joan Vaczek, a fiction writer and daughter of a Hungarian diplomat and they married in December 1946, moving to Yorktown Heights in New York where they had two children - Robert Andrew Arthur in 1948 (which means that Bob Andrews was a nice nod to his son) and Elizabeth Ann Arthur in 1953 (who is now a writer herself).
The Mysterious Traveller was cancelled in 1953 as part of the McCarthy investigatons (they believed, Kogan said later, that the Radio Writers Guild was leading writers “down the path to Moscow”), by which time Arthur had written and produced over five hundred radio scripts. Following his divorce, in 1959 he moved to Hollywood and began writing for television, namely with Alfred Hitchcock Presents, for which he also served as story editor.
The success of the anthologies led Arthur to suggest creating a new juvenile series for Random House, under the editor-ship of Walter Retan. This would have as its basis other successful American series (though be “better written than The Hardy Boys”), such as the Andy Blake and Jerry Todd books (both written by Edward Edson Lee) and The Bobbsey Twins, crucially pegging them as slightly younger (the boys aren’t quite old enough to drive or be interested in girls). In keeping with this, the books continued proven tradition with interesting mysteries (he realised kids would respond to spooky tales), humour coming out of the repartee between the boys and three distinct characters who would share attributes with the youthful readers.
|Armada format b, cover art by Peter Archer|
By June 1964, in addition to “The Mystery Of The Stuttering Parrot”, Arthur also had plans for “The Mystery Of Phantom Island” and “The Case Of The Whispering Mummy” plus another called “The Mystery Of The Lost Wagon Train”. As publication crept closer, the final contracts were settled with Alfred Hitchcock - who only lent his name - contracted to receive 80% of all foreign sales royalties. He later agreed to share this 50/50 with Arthur whose original contract allowed no income from this market,
The first book in the series, “The Secret Of Terror Castle”, was published on 24th September, 1964, along with the second "The Mystery Of The Stuttering Parrot".
From 1963, Robert Arthur wrote two Three Investigator titles a year and the books quickly became successful, both in America and abroad (there was a publication lag of a couple of years to the UK). In 1968, with his health failing, he recruited Dennis Lynds to help write the series and the first non-Arthur book, “The Mystery Of The Moaning Cave”, was published under Lynds’ pseudonym of William Arden. At this point, Jenny Fanelli took over as the series editor, a job she held until her retirement in the early 1990’s.
Robert Arthur died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 2nd, 1969, at the age of fifty-nine. Walter Retan, the series original editor, died in 1998.
|The Collins hardcovers end papers (artwork by Harry Kane)|
As I started reading the series, the books were available as Collins hardbacks (the small format) which could be found in libraries and Armada were moving out of the format a paperbacks into format b. At that time, Rothwell library was housed in the old Market Square building, up a stone, spiral staircase and into a room with plenty of shelves, dark wood floors and high old windows. The kids section was at the back, to the right and I spent a lot of time in there, flicking through the books, searching out the latest adventure. For my home library, I started picking up the Armada paperbacks, unwittingly setting my love for the format b artwork and design firmly into place. Back then, you could pick up the books pretty much anywhere - good haunts were W H Smith, John Menzies and Boots - and the series became something my family bought me for birthday and Christmas presents (my parents bought me the box-set for Christmas 1981).
The Three Investigators always operated as a team and had distinct roles to play.
|The boys, as shown on the back covers of the Armada format b|
paperbacks - c.1983 (artwork by Peter Archer)
Peter “Pete” Crenshaw is “Second Investigator”, athletic and dependable, though reluctant to get involved in dangerous situations but always at the forefront when there’s action. Pete is often Jupe’s partner on stake-outs and explorations (especially in the early books when Bob’s injury sidelines him) and whilst he doesn’t have the same intellectual ability, he’s never ignored and can always be relied on to point out Jupe’s errors, often using humour (Pete gets the bulk of the best lines in the series). A key member of the team, with an excellent sense of direction (they often get lost in caves or other strange places), he has some great phrases (“Gleeps!” and “Skullbuster” are but two) and his dad is a special effects man at a Hollywood studio which helps them out on some mysteries and puts them into the path of others.
Robert “Bob” Andrews is “Records and Research”, who writes up the cases and works part-time at the Rocky Beach library, giving him excellent access to whatever research tools he might need. Studious and meticulous, his dad works for the LA Times and occasionally helps Bob and the team out. Although he’s the smaller of the boys, he “has the courage of a lion” and suffered a fall before the series began, breaking his leg which necessitated him wearing a leg brace (it was removed before the start of “The Mystery Of The Green Ghost”). Although not as intellectual as Jupe, he is able to hold his own with his friend and often ends up explaining to Pete what it was that Jupiter has said.
The boys operated from The Jones Salvage Yard, in the coastal town of Rocky Beach a few miles from Hollywood. Some of the stories take place there but for those going further afield - across ‘the vast distances in California’ - they have use of a gold-plated Rolls Royce, complete with Worthington, a dignified, English chauffeur (a great character, who later helps the boys out on his own time). Jupiter won the Rolls, for “thirty days of 24 hours each” just prior to “The Secret Of Terror Castle” and those ran out during “The Mystery Of The Fiery Eye” (though their client on that case gratefully extended the time indefinitely). Otherwise they bike everywhere or one of the salvage yard helpers - Bavarian brothers Hans and Konrad - drive them in one of the trucks.
|This illustration, by Roger Hall, from "The|
Mystery Of The Vanishing Treasure" shows
Tunnel Two in operation
Emergency One - a skylight that was, to my knowledge, only used in “The Mystery Of The Vanishing Treasure”
Green Gate One and Red Gate Rover - secret entrances built into the fence that surrounded the junkyard, opened by poking a finger through a knothole and releasing a catch.
Tunnel Two - a corrugated iron pipe, padded with old carpet, that runs from the workshop and under the trailer to a trapdoor. The most commonly used entrance.
Door Four - a large door, apparently leaning but in actual use.
Although the stories are written for children and follow a general formula, the level of writing and invention is superb and highlights the quality of the writers chosen for the series. Most of the books open with the mystery being brought to the team and the boys often encountered baffling clues and plenty of danger before they resolved everything. The series was organised around one major theme (hence the superb titles) which could be strange, supernatural or mystical, though most were down to human hand (apart from a couple of M. V. Carey’s editions, which never really confirmed one way or the other). The boys solved their mysteries with the same resources the readers had at their displosal - telephones, walkie-talkies, chalk, bicycles and access to a library (Worthington and the Rolls was a great resource, if somewhat unlikely to a kid in the Midlands in the 70s, but I loved it and wanted one.) - which made identification stronger. The final chapter of each book had the boys visiting Hitchcock so the great director could review the mystery and reveal the deduction and clues Jupiter had worked on throughout.
|My favourite book of the series, in its first three UK editions|
l to r - Collins hardback (printed 1976), Armada format a (printed 1979 - 1980), Armada format b (printed 1981 - 1982)
Hardback cover art by Roger Hall, paperback art by Peter Archer
A prolific pen-for-hire, he also created private detectives Paul Shaw (written as Mark Sadler) and Kane Jackson (written as William Arden) as well as continuing adventures (under various ‘house names’) of Charlie Chan, The Shadow, Nick Carter and Mike Shayne. A good friend of the mystery writer Ross Macdonald, he was handpicked to continue the Three Investigators series by Robert Arthur himself.
After serving in World War II (he was awarded the Bronze Star, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantry Badge and three battle stars), he worked as a chemist and began writing crime fiction in 1962. President of The Private Eye Writers of America, he received their Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998 as well as an Edgar and Marlowe Lifetime Achievement Award from the Mystery Writers of America (MWA) Association. He lived with his wife, fellow mystery writer, Gayle Lynds in Santa Barbara where they collaborated on several books, as well as a couple of Mack Bolan (The Executioner) novels, under the Don Pendleton ‘house name’.
Mr Lynds passed away on August 19th 2005, leaving behind an incredible body of work featuring some 80 novels, as many novellas and 200 shorts.
Following military service he focussed on comic work but began writing children's books and young-adult mysteries in 1961, eventually going on to publish more than 30 under various pseudonyms. He won two Edgar Awards, in 1967 and 1970.
Mr Platt passed away on November 30th, 2003.
Ms Carey is quoted in Contemporary Authors: "The 'Three Investigator' books have always seemed so very special, in part because I remember my first encounter with detective stories. By the time I was eleven I had read my way through the children's section at our local library, and our librarian - a dear lady named Gertrude Foley - permitted me to come into the adult section. There was a whole corner devoted to mysteries. I was instantly hooked, and I think I was almost completely happy for about three years."
Ms Carey passed away in 1994.
Bibliography (the first 30 books)
(my version of the official series)
1: The Secret Of Terror Castle (1964, by Robert Arthur)
2: The Mystery Of The Stuttering Parrot (1964, by Robert Arthur)
3: The Mystery Of The Whispering Mummy (1965, by Robert Arthur)
4: The Mystery Of The Green Ghost (1965, by Robert Arthur)
5: The Mystery Of The Vanishing Treasure (1966, by Robert Arthur)
6: The Secret Of Skeleton Island (1966, by Robert Arthur)
7: The Mystery Of The Fiery Eye (1967, by Robert Arthur)
8: The Mystery Of The Silver Spider (1967, by Robert Arthur)
9: The Mystery Of The Screaming Clock (1968, by Robert Arthur)
10: The Mystery Of The Moaning Cave (1968, by William Arden)
11: The Mystery Of The Talking Skull (1969, by Robert Arthur)
12: The Mystery Of The Laughing Shadow (1969, by William Arden)
13: The Secret Of The Crooked Cat (1970, by William Arden)
14: The Mystery Of The Coughing Dragon (1970, by Nick West)
15: The Mystery Of The Flaming Footprints (1971, by M. V. Carey)
16: The Mystery Of The Nervous Lion (1971, by Nick West)
17: The Mystery Of The Singing Serpent (1972, by M. V. Carey)
18: The Mystery Of The Shrinking House (1972, by William Arden)
19: Secret Of Phantom Lake (1973, by William Arden)
20: The Mystery Of Monster Mountain (1973, by M. V. Carey)
21: The Secret Of The Haunted Mirror (1974, by M. V. Carey)
22: The Mystery Of The Dead Man's Riddle (1974, by William Arden)
23: The Mystery Of The Invisible Dog (1975, by M. V. Carey)
24: The Mystery Of Death Trap Mine (1976, by M. V. Carey)
25: The Mystery Of The Dancing Devil (1976, by William Arden)
26: The Mystery Of The Headless Horse (1977, by William Arden)
27: The Mystery Of The Magic Circle (1978, by M. V. Carey)
28: The Mystery Of The Deadly Double (1978, by William Arden)
29: The Mystery Of The Sinister Scarecrow (1979, by M. V. Carey)
30: The Secret Of The Shark Reef (1979, by William Arden)
In 1984, the British company Rainbow Communications produced two audio plays, 50 minute long dramatisations of “The Secret Of Terror Castle” and “The Mystery Of The Stuttering Parrot”. I quite liked them, to be honest, though none of the boys sounded like I thought they should and huge chunks are cut out of “Stuttering Parrot” but, even worse, although “The Whispering Mummy” is teased it was never produced. Shame. Long since unavailable, you can find them on Youtube.
Following Hitchock’s death in 1980, there were further entries in the series though the great director was replaced (poorly, in my opinion) by a fictional writer called Hector Sebastien. Of these, I read books 31 through to 38 and don’t really have much good to say about any of them (though “The Purple Pirate” does have a good atmosphere).
31: The Mystery Of The Scar-Faced Beggar (1981, by M. V. Carey)
32: The Mystery Of The Blazing Cliffs (1981, by M. V. Carey)
33: The Mystery Of The Purple Pirate (1982, by William Arden)
34: The Mystery Of The Wandering Cave Man (1982, by M. V. Carey)
35: The Mystery Of The Kidnapped Whale (1983, by Marc Brandel)
36: The Mystery Of The Missing Mermaid (1983,M. V. Carey)
37: The Mystery Of The Two-Toed Pigeon (1984, by Marc Brandel)
38: The Mystery Of The Smashing Glass (1984, by William Arden)
39: The Mystery Of The Trail Of Terror (1984, by M. V. Carey)
40: The Mystery Of The Rogues' Reunion (1985, by Marc Brandel)
41: The Mystery Of The Creep-Show Crooks (1985, by M. V. Carey)
42: The Mystery Of Wrecker's Rock (1986, by William Arden)
43: The Mystery Of The Cranky Collector (1987, by M. V. Carey)
There were also four “Find Your Fate Mysteries” mysteries published in the mid-80s
RH1: Case of the Weeping Coffin (1985, by Megan Stine and H. William Stine)
RH2: Case of the Dancing Dinosaur (by Rose Estes)
RH7: Case of the House Of Horrors (by Megan Stine and H. William Stine)
RH8: Case of the Savage Statue (1987, by M.V. Carey)
In the late 80s, an attempt was made to update the series under the “Crimebusters” brand and age the boys into their late teens. Again, I’ve read almost all of these and wasn’t a fan of any of them.
1: Hot Wheels (1989, by William Arden)
2: Murder To Go (1989, by Megan Stine and H. William Stine)
3: Rough Stuff (1989, by G.H. Stone)
4: Funny Business (1989, by William MacCay)
5: An Ear For Trouble (1989, by Marc Brandel
6: Thriller Diller (1989, by Megan Stine and H. William Stine)
7: Reel Trouble (1989, by G.H. Stone)
8: Shoot the Works (1990, by William McCay)
9: Foul Play (1990, by Peter Lerangis)
10: Long Shot (1990, by Megan Stine and H. William Stine)
11: Fatal Error (1990, by G.H. Stone)
a further edition, “Brain Wash”, was never published.
The books continue to sell strongly in Germany as “Die Drei ???”, with over 100 titles now in the series and two films have been made - "The Three Investigators and the Secret Of Skeleton Island” (2007) and “The Three Investigators and the Secret of Terror Castle” (2009).
(which you can find here). After deciding to try and collect the whole series in format b (which I achieved, as I blogged about here) , I have started collecting the books in format a, as well as the Collins hardback editions. For the 50th anniversary year, I’m in the process of re-reading my favourites to try and determine my all-time Top 10, quite safe in the knowledge the list is surely subject to change, but enjoying both the reading and reviewing. As it is, I have written fairly extensively on the series and all of my blogged Three Investigator posts can be found at this link.
With thanks to
* the official Three Investigators site (from Elizabeth Arthur)
* Seth Smolinske’s The Three Investigators US Editions Collector Site
* Ian Regan’s excellent Cover Art database (for the UK editions)
* Phil Fulmer’s Three Investigators Readers Site
plus Alan Pickrell's essay "The Power Of Three: Alfred Hitchcock’s Three Investigators Series” from “The Boy Detectives: Essays on the Hardy Boys and Others”, edited by Michael G. Cornelius
|Three superb Armada format b covers with artwork by Peter Archer|
(cover scans of my copies)