Vantage point

Thursday, August 22, 2002


Remember that magic period of your life called pre-teens? In fact the years 13 and 14, at least in the case of boys, can also be called pre-teens, because they still think in 'that' way.

Among the many many many things that make those years special, are the books you read. Remember that school library with all those story-books? The exchanging and borrowing of books between clases, and often, during clases? If I had followed Polonius' advice from Hamlet - "Neither a Borrower nor a Lender be!", I would probably have read just 1 % of the books I eventually read. So ole William was wrong there.

Do you remember those book exchanging times ? If you are a guy, do you remember hunting for a "Hardy Boys"? Those two intrepid boy sleuths who could crack any mystery under the sun? Remember the thrill you felt when you read about them solving a case?

Well, I don't!!!!

In my opinion, "The Hardy Boys" was a cleverly disguised and well marketed version of bullshit. I read one book of their's sometime in class 4 or 5. I said to myself, "Ok, these dudes are promising". Then I read another book. At the end of it, I was like "Hullo, Wasn't this identical to the first book?". But I put it down to a confused and immature mind that comes with the territory when you enter the double digits of age. So I read a third Hardy Boys book, and was disgusted halfway through.

I thought "I may be 10, but does this Franklin W Dixon dude think he can take me for a ride?" (By the way, I later learnt that this dude didn't exist. It was a big group of writers who created this hogwash under a common name. Ditto Carolyn Keene.) I lost hope. Maybe I was destined not to read a story book. By the time I was 10, I had finished the whole "Famous Five" series and eaten up "Tintin". I thought of taking up an alternate hobby like white-water rafting or body-piercing, when someone said "Let there be light"!

Satyen was reading this curious book with a few question marks on it. Three to be precise. I asked him about it, and he told me it was his favourite series. Intrigued about what the Brain of the class read, I leafed through another book with the same cover. And I loved it!!

The name of this book was "The Three Investigators", and it was about these three boys Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews. They are detectives. But do not think them to be the Hardy boys kind himbos. They are a class apart. They operate out of headquarters built in a trailer van in a junkyard. No one knows about these headquarters. There are all sorts of secret passages to enter the HQ which very few people know about. Their mode of transport is a rented Rolls Royce, services of which Jupiter won when he cracked a puzzle. And they ferquently consult a dude called Alfred Hitchcock. In fact the series is titled "Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators", but Al is present only in guest roles in the final chapter. At the age of 10, I had no idea who Hitchcock was and so in my mind, he will always be the "guy from Three Investigators who made many thrillers and horror movies".

Their 'visiting card' had these three question marks which symbolized "unsolved mysteries, uncracked puzzles and unanswered questions" which they were ready to take on.

Each case of their was unique, and it required a great deal of brainwork to solve it. It was a very enjoyable series, and surprisingly, very little known. In fact, fans of the Three Investigators in my school were so few, that Satyen, myself and a handful of others had no problem getting one every week from the school library. Perhaps a little selfishly, we weren't too fullsome in our praise of the books, lest their popularity catch on and the competition for the books increase. We let the 'plebians' wallow in the shallow delight of 'Hardy Boys' and 'Nancy Drew'.

It's been about 7 or 8 years since I read a "Three Investigators". The topic suddenly came up during an MSN chat with Ira, who said her favourite childhood series was "The Five Findouters". I did a google and found a great deal of info about the Three Investigators here

The creator of this series was Robert Arthur, about whom very little is known. Most people lived under the misconception that Hitchcock wrote the books.

But the man, who gave me so much delight in my pre-teen life, is a near non-entity, who got lost in the whirlwind of the Dixons and the Keenes.

I feel like reading a Three Investigators book again. Anyone have one to lend me?