30 May 2006

I Want My "Fix" Back

Granted, I still have many books in waiting, but I'm beginning to get worried about Blackmask.com. (For those who don't know, Blackmask.com's webmaster is being sued by Conde Nast. He has been publishing pulp novels that he said were in public domain on the site, but it turns out Conde Nast owns the rights to a bunch of them, especially Street and Smith's most famous creation, the Shadow. I don't have the whole story, just what I read on various Usenet groups, but apparently he was told to take them down and refused, so now the whole site's down.) Combined with the disappearance of Mary's series book site, this is pretty disappointing.

It's a pity because I am enjoying those wonderful old Stratemeyer Syndicate and other series novels for kids. Not only are they a wonderful window on the mores of kids as they were (and probably a lot of what adults wanted them to be!), but they're now unintentionally funny. How can you not laugh at boys calling each other "old bean" or spouting funny epithets like "great horny toads!" in place of profanity? Right now I am concurrently reading H. Irving Hancock's saga of Dick Prescott (and Greg Holmes) at West Point and Dave Darrin (and Dan Dalzell) at Annapolis (the other members of the "Dick & Co. sextette" as they are referred to in the ubiquitous summation, formerly "the High School Boys," Tom Reade and Harry Hazelton, are off being civil engineers all over the US).

Having made it through plebe year with Dick, Greg, Dave, and Dan, I have to admit the stories haven't changed much: each pits the boys against some physical and often moral challenge, and there's always some idiot classmate with a chip on his shoulder against Our Heroes who keeps trying to get them expelled/in trouble. Over at West Point, after two years of ragging on Prescott and Holmes, fellow Gridley High School classmate Bert Dodge finally was exposed and sent packing. I'm sure some fellow Dodge-supporter is primed to take his place. In Dave Darrin's Second Year at Annapolis; or Two Midshipmen As Naval Academy Youngsters, classmate Pennington is aiming his big guns at Dave for getting him in trouble, although Dave actually saved him from getting booted from the Naval Academy by covering up the fact that Pennington stupidly smoked opium as a toothache remedy. The ethnic stereotypes are, as always, mildly distasteful—the whole opening opium den scene with its "velly evil" Chinese proprietor was pretty bad—but I find it interesting reading about the behind-the-scenes life of Army and Navy cadets: the system of hazing that is forbidden, but still exists; the grind of studies, "Flirtation Walk" along the Hudson and battleship cruises with the "middies."

Presumably everyone makes it through unscathed because Dave Darrin goes off to Vera Cruz in one book and then is mentioned as serving on a destroyer escort (along with Dan) when Dick Prescott goes off to fight the Boches in World War I. But getting there has been fun...

No comments: