review: The House on the Point

The House on the Point by Benjamin Hoff, St. Martins 2002 hardcover with demi-jacket, mystery

As it says on the half jacket (really a bit of heavy paper folded over the cloth cover), this is a tribute to Franklin W. Dixon and the Hardy Boys. Dixon was, of course, a house name of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, publishers which used ghost writers for it’s various series including the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

Here, Hoff has rewritten The House on the Cliff, the second in the Hardy Boys series, for the more grown up reader. I loved then and still occasionally read and enjoy a Hardy Boys book. I have two versions of The House on the Cliff, the 1929 original in a reprint and the mid-1950s rewrite. I read them both before reading this one to have a good comparison.

While this book does some of what the author intended, it’s not completely successful. The author, in an effort to update the book, made so many changes to the plot, removing and adding characters, changing personalities, locations and motivations, deleting and adding whole scenes, that compared especially to the 1929 version, except for the character names, this is almost unrecognizable as the same book. It’s a little closer to the 1958 rewrite, but still a ways away.

That’s not to say it’s a bad book, or that it’s not enjoyable, but I question some of the things the author did in his effort to make the original “better”. Without giving spoilers, examples are adding the character of Aunt Gertrude, Fenton Hardy’s sister, who in the original series didn’t appear until several books later, seemingly on whim changing the hair color of the boys, having their friend Tony speak in dialect (“we’ll just hav’ ‘ta see ’bout that”), emphasizing the importance of looking at tire tracks (several times) over other more straight forward ways of determining who was where when, and adding complicated mechanical elements to the hideout of the bad guys.

None of this kept me from liking the book, which Hoff choose to set in 1947, though he used some language not yet known then, and for the most part it works. If I hadn’t read the original and the revised Dixon versions immediately before, I would have enjoyed it more, I think, though some of the omissions may have stopped me, wondering where those scenes went. Over all, worth reading, though maybe not worth buying unless, like me, you have all the revised editions and the first dozen or so originals as re-published by Applewood Press and thus want to have this on that same shelf.

Oh, one last thing: That painting on the demi-jacket? It’s nice, I like it, but the point, or cliff or whatever the house is on? It’s higher than that, a lot higher.

About Rick Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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11 Responses to review: The House on the Point

  1. Bill Crider says:

    Very interesting. Sort of a “re-imagining,” I guess, in the way that Scalzi’s new Fuzzy book reworks Piper’s.

  2. I’ll pick up THE HOUSE ON THE POINT if I run across it at a Library Book Sale or in one of our few surviving used bookstores. But, I’m not going to order it. I’m not a big fan of “re-imagining.”

  3. Richard says:

    You might enjoy it, George, but for the reasons I give don’t read the original versions first.

    Bill, I haven’t read the Scalzi, but plan on doing the same thing with it: reading Little Fuzzy first, then Fuzzy Nation. One of these days, probably within a month or so.

  4. I can’t disagree with anything you wrote. My reaction might have been the same had I read either/or both of the early versions. I don’t have them and it’s been a good many years since I read the original, i believe it was. Don’t think I ever came across the rewritten one. One thing that has always stood out in those I remember from my early years were the cars with running boards. Pick-up trucks were the only vehicles I remember having them when I was a kid.

  5. I forgot to add “just before I read this one either time” after early versions. My fingers were ahead of my brain.

  6. Drongo says:

    I read the 1929 version a few years ago, the only Hardy Boys I’ve read. As I remember, there was an expression involving a woodpile that probably wouldn’t fly in today’s kid lit.

  7. Richard says:

    Randy, I’d guess you did enjoy this more for not having read the earlier versions first. When I was a kid there were still a lot of cars with running boards, most of them popular with high school kids and hot rodders, such as my older brother’s 1940 Ford Sedan.

    Drongo, it must have really hit you, as it is the one and only, single line in the entire book that is in any way offensive. It was a common expression for “something out of place” back then and was still in the 1950 decade, with no malice intended, just an expression, though I also recall some people used “A Dutchman in the wood pile” instead. They changed it in the 1957 version.

  8. Drongo says:

    It was just something I didn’t expect from a Hardy Boys book.
    And apparently you also noticed it.

  9. Steve Lewis says:

    Like George says, I’m not a big fan of “re-imagining.” Was that Huff’s only purpose in this otherwise pointless exercise? I’m not going to read the Scalzi book either. While it’s nice to know about, I have plenty to read without regurgitated and revamped material like this. (I obviously have my grouchy shoes on tonight.)

  10. Richard says:

    Drongo, yes I noticed it, but in passing. I’d already forgotten it until you reminded me.

    Steve, nice to see you visiting. Hoff says in his introduction that he had occasion to reread the book, a childhood favorite, and thought “gee, someone should redo this for a more contemporary and mature audience”. So he did. As for the Scalzi, it’s not the same thing. He also really liked the original, but decided to write it from a different point of view while bringing the earlier work the attention he thought it deserved. I have read several very positive reviews of the Scalzi, and am looking forward to reading it, as he is a very good writer.

  11. Oops. Added an A to Wakes. Sorry about that.

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