What makes us write the books we write?
Back in the summer of 2013, after years of writing stage plays, I finally got around to finishing two novels I’d started several years before. At the time, I had no inclination to write books for adults, so those first novels (‘The Devil’s Porridge Gang‘ and ‘The Architect’s Apprentice‘) were aimed at children. Two years later, I started working on a thriller for the grown-ups, but my earlier preference made me wonder why I was so set on entertaining kids.
When I was growing up, our local library was barely two hundred yards from our house, so it made sense, in those pre-Amazon days, to utilise the books they had. Within a few years I’d read all the adventure/space/thriller/detective-themed stories the children’s section of the library had to offer, but the shelf I kept going back to was the one with all The Hardy Boys books.
My heroes Frank Hardy and his younger brother Joe were considerably older than I was, but I looked up to them – they were exciting, good-looking and they always caught the bad guys. With titles like ‘The Disappearing Floor’, ‘The Twisted Claw’ and ‘The Clue of the Screeching Owl’, I was in literary heaven! And all those great stories were written by one man. Or rather, they weren’t.
Many years later, I discovered that the author I knew as Franklin W. Dixon didn’t actually exist. In fact, FWD was the pen name of several writers who wrote under the direction of one Edward Stratemeyer. He was the brains behind the basic storylines, while his crew (known as the Stratemeyer Syndicate) authored most of the original books from 1927 onwards.
By the time I discovered The Hardy Boys in the late Sixties, the Syndicate had started re-writing the stories, changing some of the plots and, in a few cases, only the title remained of the original version. Of the 58 Hardy Boys novels produced, I don’t recall how many I actually read, but it seemed like I was immersed in their world for years on end.
That desire for adventure, the lack of restraint that children often have (haring off after the villains with no thought for their own safety), and placing young people, rather than adults, in the midst of the action to bring down the baddies, that’s what fired my imagination and that’s why, when I created a bunch of heroes of my own, they were kids.
Thanks Mister Stratemeyer.