Willard Price’s Adventure Series, With Hal And Roger Hunt

Willard Price’s Adventure Series

Oh happy days! Well not quite, but forgive a brief moment of satisfaction following the discovery of the name – and author – of a literary series that had been torturing my mind for years. Around the age of nine or ten my mother bought me several second-hand books recounting the adventures of two teenage brothers who travelled the world collecting rare animals for their father’s zoo back in the United States. They were terribly old fashioned, and undoubtedly would fail to stand up to contemporary scrutiny, but in my memory they were wonderful, exciting stories that enthralled me over the course of one long, childhood summer. I lost them somewhere along the course of life, though heaven knows where and how since it is not like me to discard books – even bad books (unfortunately). However I could never quite get them out of my head, even as the particulars of names and characters slipped away.

Reading this fascinating article examining the role of ghost writers and “book-factories” in modern publishing by the Atlantic, specifically the Hardy Boys’ mysteries, I was reminded of those old books and did a quick (actually, quite long) search via Google and lo and behold I found them: Willard Price’s “Adventure” series, featuring Hal and Roger Hunt. Ah-hah! It turns out they were first written in the 1940s, with new books being produced all the way into the early ‘80s when the Canadian-born American author died. Apparently they have been recently revived for a new generation under the hand of the British children’s writer Anthony McGowan, though they seem to have made little impact. However at least I have the satisfaction of clearing up that mystery.

Meanwhile rummaging through thoughts of my childhood has made me sorely tempted to go on a spending splurge with several TinTin and Asterix books in sight. Truly Amazon is the modern Siren upon whose financial rocks my credit card shall surely break… 😉

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4 comments

  1. Ah, An Sionnach, if only you realised the hours I whiled away on Willard Price in the 70s. Essential reading. And the Hardy Boys. Loved them.
    But no mention of The Three Investigators nor The Secret Seven! They were better, in my view, than The Hardy Boys.
    Ar fheabhas.

    1. The Willard Price books were a surprise to me at the time, not really the kind of stuff I read at that age, but I really enjoyed them. In my memory they had a powerful impact. They certainly gave me a strong touch of wanderlust that never left me (though unfortunately life had other plans for me). I was plagued by a half-memory of them for years so it was great to finally track them down.

      At least Willard wrote his own books. Book factories with scores of writers turning out stories under brand or author names where they never interact with editors or publishers was a surprise to me. My concept of ghost writers was quite different.

  2. As a child in the 60s and70s toys and books were acquired at Christmas and birthdays and maybe when a relative gave us two shillings or a half crown The anticipation of buying comics was something else . Purchases would be shared and whoever received the money got first choice. Bunty stands out in my mind. My five brothers always wanted war / soldiers/ superheroes etc and basically I didn’t mind which probably accounts for my being one of few females that I know of who would read something like THE BAND OF BROTHERS and Ernest Jünger ‘s Storm of Steel.
    There was The Hardy Boys, who must have consumed the same elixer of youth as Nancy Drew because my friend was given a collection of old ones with cover illustrations that would suggest that the Nancy in the mysteries we were devouring was now quite a mature woman . By the time the stories reached TV she was amazingly young yet savvy – the Nancy I remember was always getting it to a scrape.Think there was more than one ghost writer involved in the Carolyn Keene creation and I think that Nancy came originally from the creator of the early Hardy Boys( who apparently sported short trousers) making them”hardy” for sure.
    My daughter came across Nancy Drew in a varied collection of books and folowing this she collected them in any second hand shop we passed .I remember coming out of Charlie Byrnes in Galway and every one was carrying some of my daughters purchases in our bags and all for little money. Charlie Byrnes is still one of the best shops for second hand books for children The more recent versions of Nancy Drew had given a bit more consideration to polical correctness. In general second hand book shops are a bit expensive for what is often a ” well used ” item and Amazon etc is better value but I love the experience of bookshops even sometimes the chaotic ones like charity shops.Hold on to your old comics and books and with the passing of time there could be a demand for them as as collector items( generally not lucrative)

    1. The Book Depository was my favourite online retailer for second-hand books. Unfortunately it was gobbled up by Amazon some time ago and is now merely a “store-front” for the Amazon system.

      I’ve always read, and as far back as I can remember I have had books around me. My siblings are more mixed on that front. For some odd reason I cannot read fiction any more, or at least I struggle. Most of my reading is factual stuff, which is the complete inverse of how it used to be. I suspect it is the pressure/stress of my day-to-day job which makes it difficult to find the after-work headspace to enjoy imaginative works. Facts and figures are easier to intellectually digest. Sad to say.

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