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YA Book of the Year! (The Year Is 1964)

Brian reviews The Three Investigators series. YA from your grandparents' generation.

YA Book of the Year! (The Year Is 1964)

BOOK REPORT for The Three Investigators series

Cover Story:  False Memory Syndrome
Drinking Buddy: Can I See Some ID, Guys?
Testosterone Level:  Conquest of Fort Awesome!
Talky Talk: A Kinder, Gentler YA
Bonus Factors: Hideout, It Plays In Germany
Bromance Status:  ???

Cover Story: False Memory Syndrome

My ten-year-old self used to get so annoyed with these covers, as they'd often show things that didn't really happen in the book.

Didn't happen

Not in the book

The Island was just SHAPED like a skeleton

I know they were trying to grab readers, but I was really pissed when we never got to meet that one-eyed monster up there.

The Deal:

Chubby genius Jupiter Jones, athletic everyman Pete Crenshaw, and studious researcher Bob Andrews run a detective agency along the California coast. Together, they team up to fight art smugglers, jewel smugglers, gold smugglers, and counterfieters, who all seem to hide out in haunted mines and castles. Their investigations are secretly backed up by their mentor/publisher Alfred Hitchcock (yes, the director...though when he died in real life, his character was replaced by the ficitonal Hector Sebastian). When they're not solving crimes, they're thwarting the plans of their teenage nemisis "Skinny" Norris, or having a rumble with the Hardy Boys.

Drinking Buddy: Can I See Some ID, Guys?

The boys' ages are never explicitly stated, though a safe bet would place them around thirteen or fourteen. While their youth would seem to be a detriment to crime fighting, the series manages to avoid the Lord of the Flies syndrome. Hitchcock is always there with funds or information, and while they can't drive, the investigators have convenient access to unlimitted use of an antique Rolls Royce sedan, complete with a British chauffeur (a gift from a grateful client, via Deus ex machina Rent a Car).

Still, they never rely on grown ups to solve the mysteries. It's always Jupiter's ingenuity, Pete's bull-headed muscle, and Bob's penchant for research that save the day. As a kid, I often found myself projecting onto Bob, wishing my friends were called upon to exorcise ghosts and prevent rebellions in Eastern Europe.

Testosterone Level: Conquest of Fort Awesome!

You know the feeling. You are your buddies are just about to blow those pesky Russians (or Germans, or A-rabs, or whatever the flavor of the day was) to kingdom come, when your mother calls you in for dinner. And you realize it's all just a lie, you're just a kid, and you're never going to have a life as awesome as Crocodile Dundee's.

But then again...

Yeah, there's a lot of suspension of disbelief, but was nice to think that maybe, just maybe, those adventures weren't impossible. I know I've gone nearly forty years without anyone stuffing me into a car crusher like the heroic trio, but I always held out hope.

Talky Talk: A Kinder, Gentler YA

These books were written back when teenagers were not considered young adults, but older children. It comes through in this series. They rarely dealt with murder or violence, and as for girls, forget it. Jupe, Pete, and Bob originated the bros before...girls philosophy. No dame is going to come between the fantasic three. None of the sexual tention that plagued Encyclopedia Brown and Sally Kimball.

These books are somewhat dated: Jupiter once catches a guy lying about receiving a phone call, when he points out there is no telephone line running to his house; in another story Hector introduces the boys to a strange new food called 'sushi.'  But I like the innocence. Jupiter, Pete, and Bob are the clean-cut, good living defenders of justice that we always aspired to be in our backyard battles.

Bonus Factor: Hideout

Jupiter's aunt and uncle own a salvage yard. The boys run their agency out of an abandoned RV which they buried in the junk, outfitted with everything from a telephone to a darkroom (two things which would sadly be unneeded today). They reach headquarters through a series of secret tunnels and passages. And, as I mentioned before, this takes place in a more sanitised time, so they're not down there drinking beer and reading Playboy.

And then I'd close the book and look at my sad little fort built out of sheet metal and a live thorn bush, and sigh.

Bonus Factor: It Plays in Germany

According to the never erring Wikipedia, these adventures have been released all over the world. However, they are especially big in Germany. Not only have they been translated and re-released, but the German authors have added brand new adventures in Deutsch. This invovled changing the characters somewhat. For instance, Hans and Konrad, the Bavarian brothers who work at the salvage yard, are now two Irishmen, Patrick and Kenneth. The boys also apparently have girlfriends in the European issues.

Casting Call:

At least two Three Investigators movies have been released in Austria.

You're breaking my heart, Hollywood.

Bromance Status: ???

No, I'm not questioning my love, the three question marks was the official TI symbol:

It's been thirty years, but I'm still waiting for that Rolls Royce to pull up, so we could all go off and bust up another ring of international jewel thieves.

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.