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.