The (Original) Tower Treasure by Franklin W. Dixon

The Tower Treasure - Franklin W. Dixon, Leslie McFarlane

Almost a year to the day I read the 1959 'The Tower Treasure' I came across this facsimile edition of the original 1927 novel. What makes the difference? In a word:

Bowdlerize: To remove material that is considered improper or offensive from (a text or account), especially with the result that the text becomes weaker or less effective. - Oxford Living Dictionary

The Strathmeyer Syndicate under Harriet Strathmeyer Adams revised the Hardy Boys and the Nancy Drew series in the late 1950s. This was intended to update language and address some legitimate complaints about racist characterizations and, less legitimate, behavioral issues with the young detectives. The Hardy Boys, all-American and daring, became toadies to American institutions and any youthful impertinence of theirs towards authority and each other was scrubbed away. Nancy Drew fared worse, her yachtish, upper crust background was toned down, but so was much of her independent spirit.

'The Tower Treasure' as it appeared in 1927 is a very different novel. There was a loss of some 40-odd pages and many aspects of the plot were completely rewritten. The Hardy Boys are still the two sons of famed detective Fenton Hardy and on an errand for him, they witness a reckless driver who turns out to have stolen a car from their friend Chet. Later, a robbery is reported at the Tower Mansion and a friend's father is implicated. They get involved in the case, track down the thief and discover where the treasure is hidden. The 1959 version shortens the direct involvement of the boys in some more dangerous elements of the case and demonstrates almost a mania for wigs. Wigs are important to the case, but the 1927 version understandably doesn't have the boys going immediately to one of Bayport's three male wig shops. That's a leap that should occur later in a case.

Along with plot elements being condensed, descriptive language was cut. The 1959 story begins with the boys being chased down on their motorcycles by a speeding car. The original takes some time to introduce the boys and their hometown. Mealtimes are important, and 'Redwall'-worthy descriptions of tables groaning with food. Characterization was different, too. The wealthy Adelia Applegate is played for laughs because of her eccentric fashion, but it seems kinder in 1927, even if she is more sympathetic, providing an 'honorable alibi', in the revised version. Women don't play a significant role at all in either of them, mostly being providers of food.

There was one objectionable piece in the original book. This was, at the suggestion of their friend Tony Prito, to use the fears of an Italian immigrant to provide cover for a distraction to keep the Chief of Police out of the case. Threatened by 'the Black Hand', Rocco is too-ready to believe a ticking box on his farm stand is a bomb. The revised version has the boys kindly offer to watch a grocer's store and pretended a fire in the backyard incinerator was out of control and thus kept a buffoon private eye (can't have the police look ridiculous) away from the case.

I have no argument for the value of that particular scene, but the overall effect of the change to the books was a reduction of quality. There is no rich language left in the Hardy Boys series after the changes were made, and Frank and Joe themselves became indistinguishable from each other apart from their hair and ages. This was such a revelation that I've begun actively collecting the early books with their original text.

Next: The House on the Cliff