Monday, August 31, 2015
This book opens with a lengthy hockey game that I found rather boring. This is the first book, and I believe the only one in the series, where Brad is actually briefly at the University of Toronto.
On page 11, we learn that Frank Dawson is missing in the Yucatan. The problem is that the reader hasn't learned who Frank Dawson is. These books are so fast and short that they leave out details that should have been present. We finally learn about Frank Dawson later in the book. After all, when a person is said to be missing, that person will always be found later and will be quite important to the plot of the book.
Brad, his friends, and the criminals all carry machine guns. Yes, machine guns. These guys don't mess around.
The boys find diving equipment complete with air tanks hidden underwater by the villains. The boys wish to explore the underground river, so they use the equipment! In other series books, diving safety is emphasized, and I can't imagine using someone's equipment without knowing how well it works! They assume the tanks are full, even though the tanks were found underwater in the middle of the jungle. Speaking of which, how do the villains get their tanks filled again while in the jungle? It doesn't make any sense!
On page 125 while using the diving equipment Brad "hoped the oxygen tanks were filled right to the top." Diving safety, Brad! You missed your lessons!
I greatly enjoyed this book.
This is the first book where Brad actually does newspaper work. The premise of this series is that Brad is a student at the University of Toronto who also works on his father newspaper. It's funny that Brad doesn't appear at the university until the sixth book or work for the newspaper until the seventh book.
Brad is knocked out and on page 70, Brad comes to quickly because of his "perfect health." I don't think one's health would be the reason why someone comes to quickly.
I enjoyed this book.
Friday, August 28, 2015
This is the only book in which Steve travels outside of Wisconsin to another state, when he briefly stays in Chicago. Except for this trip and for a brief passage in another book where Steve is on the Mississippi River between Iowa and Wisconsin, the entire series is set in the state of Wisconsin. I always like series books best that are set near the main character's home. This series is that type.
The boys have an acquaintance, Mr. Barton, who is in the Secret Service. He appears briefly in three of the books, including this one. On page 149, Mr. Barton is impressed with Steve's ability to solve mysteries.
I didn't say anything more.The title of this book is clever. I knew before reading the book that a prince was involved in the plot. I thought that the prince would go west, as in going towards the western part of the country. Instead, the title refers to Steve having the prince wear his old clothing, so the prince went west, as in dressing in a western fashion.
Mr. Barton didn't either, but from time to time I caught him looking at me with a twinkle in his eye and a barely concealed smile.
When we drove in toward the landing, he said, "If you should ever consider a career in the Secret Service, let me know."
"No danger," I said. "I'm going to be a writer."
"What a waste!" he said.
I greatly enjoyed this book.
On page 41, I learned that Steve doesn't know how to ride a bicycle. Back when he had tried to learn, he kept falling off, so he decided not to bother. I had wondered earlier in the series why Steve and Sim never ride on bicycles, and this explains it. Since Derleth modeled Steve after himself, I wonder if Derleth never learned how to ride a bicycle.
The title of this book is also clever. On page 142, Grandfather Adams explains that the culprits "kept on making mistakes to cover up the first ones. They thought they were iron men, but they were only made of strawjust three straw men who made a career of fooling the village."
Grandfather Adams is one of my favorite characters in this series. He is full of wisdom, and he comes to Steve's rescue rather often. He always has faith in Steve and knows that regardless of how a situation looks that Steve is honest. Grandfather Adams also enjoys hearing about Steve and Sim's escapades.
I greatly enjoyed reading about Steve and Sim. As I have already stated, this series is, to me, most similar to the Brains Benton books by Charles Morgan, III, and to the Roger Baxter series. There is a magic that all three series have.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
This is a very good book. I like it the best of the four I have read so far. While some things don't completely make sense, nothing comes across as wacky like in the other books. The idea of searching for the Abominable Snowman may seem silly, but I found it plausible. Jason is searching for evidence of the snowman because he is writing his doctoral thesis on the legend of the snowman. Now that is an odd idea for a thesis, but if the reader accepts that idea, then it makes sense for James to research the snowman and look for evidence of it near Calgary.
I enjoyed this book as much as I did the better Biff Brewster books.
On page 38, Mr. Forrest expresses concern for Brad's safety. This is interesting, since Mr. Forrest has not been at all worried about Brad's safety in the previous books, despite how dangerous Brad's adventures are.
On page 144, Brad must swim 14 miles to shore, and the reader is told that "the few miles to shore should be nothing for him." Brad must be quite an athlete.
This book is a little wacky but is approximately as good as the average Biff Brewster book. I enjoyed the story.
Saturday, August 22, 2015
Once the boys reach Prairie du Chien on the Mississippi, they spot an old house on the shore of the river. The house appears to be empty, but the cellar is unlocked. Steve insists on exploring, against Sim's better judgment. As always, Steve's impulse uncovers a mystery and gets the boys into trouble.
I really like the cover art for this book. A house by a river is guaranteed to provide a great mystery.
This is an excellent book.
This is just an outstanding story from start to finish. I can't really get into why without spoiling it; you just have to read it to understand why. The book gets deep into discussions of what justice really is, and how justice might be served differently from what one expects. There's no clear cut answer.
The climax of this book is so funny. I ended up reading that part slowly, because I kept laughing uncontrollably, and one can't keep reading while laughing hard.
Derleth's descriptions are so wonderful. From page 113:
The June sunlight slanted into the harness shop from low in the west at this hour, filling it with mellow warmth. Both doors were open, and a fragrant wind came in at the front, pungent with the musk of the river, and drifted through the shop and out the back, carrying along with it the smell of leather and of the oil dip, and the dusty binder aprons which hand been brought into the shop for repairs.While reading this book, I finally determined that this series most reminds me of the Brains Benton books by Charles Morgan, III, and the Roger Baxter series.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Mr. Forrest's yacht is named the SVAAP. What the heck kind of name is that? As I continued reading, I realized that there must be an explanation. Apparently Svaap is the name of a type of yacht. At least Mr. Forrest hasn't lost his mind.
Brad meets Colonel Le May on page 24. On page 25, Brad is told that Sergeant Terez has disappeared while doing undercover work. Brad asks about the kind of work, and the Colonel tells him the specifics, despite having just met Brad. If an agent has been doing undercover work, why would his superior officer reveal his mission?
On page 100, Brad announces that he can fly a helicopter. Normally in series books, the adults ask a few questions to make certain, but not these adults! Just moments later, Brad is flying the helicopter. These books move fast. The reader has very little time to get bored.
"Come on" is spelled "common" in the Brad Forrest books. I'm beginning to get used to it, but it's weird. Here's an example from page 119.
Brad had seen nothing but Terez cried, "Common! Somebody just ducked around that corner."The characters "snapped" at each other all the time. It took me aback until I realized that the word was often being used in a positive rather than a negative sense. Another oddity is that "okay" is given as "OKay" throughout all of these books. That's an odd combination of "OK" and "okay."
This book also has amazing scenes that are not believable. Brad is flying a plane, and he needs to let down his passenger without landing. He faces into the wind and flies at just the speed to hold the plane steady near the ground so that his passenger can jump off.
This book reminds me of the Biff Brewster book, Mystery of the Mexican Treasure. The plots are not the same, but the stories have some obvious similarities.
This is a good book. The plot isn't convoluted like the first two books, and it isn't nearly as wacky. The book is roughly as good as the average Biff Brewster story.
Monday, August 17, 2015
I don't have much to say about this particular title, but I greatly enjoyed it. I enjoyed #4 in the series more than #2 and #3. I enjoyed #5 more than #4. The series gets better and better with each title.
In the Mill Creek Irregulars #6, The Irregulars Strike Again, Steve and Sim return to Great-uncle Joe's farm for a short vacation between Christmas and New Year's. Steve's real plan is to camp in a cabin, much to Sim's dismay. Steve gets his way as usual, and the boys get settled in the cabin. They soon notice that Sepple Bollinger is pretending to fish in the creek. Steve decides that Sepple is a lookout for a group of poachers, so he drags Sim, protesting all the way, into another mystery.
Even though Sim complains all the time, I realized, even in the first book in the series, that he genuinely likes Steve. Derleth does not come out and state it in the earlier books, but I had pegged Sim as someone who is too cautious and just loves to complain. By this point in the series, Derleth makes clear how Sim really feels, despite his complaints.
On page 58, Sim does his usual complaining, claiming that he won't go.
"Stay here," I said. "Go on. Stay. The fact is they couldn't pay you to keep away from Ferry Bluff."And on page 72.
Sim grinned a little sheepishly. He knew it was true. He knew that for all the bucking and kicking he did, it was second nature for him to do it, and he meant to stick by me. He always did. Oh, I had to suffer for it, hearing his complaints, but he always stuck.
Sim grunted. "I got the feeling you're heading me into trouble again."Steve's other friend, Pete, has a knack for looking stupid while obtaining information. Pete is described as follows on page 137.
I had to grin. Always going on about getting into trouble. Always griping about what I got him into, and sure to be angrier than a wet cat if he missed out on anything.
No one would have suspected, looking at him, that Pete was sharp enough for even rudimentary thinking. He had one of those bland, expressionless faces that persuade people to believe their owners have rooms for rent between their ears. Pete's rooms were highly organized, even if he didn't advertise it.This is another excellent entry in the series.
Friday, August 14, 2015
I was not at all surprised that Brad has a double, since the same happens to Biff Brewster in Mystery of the Caribbean Pearls. The first Brad Forrest book seems to have been partially modeled after that book, and this one was as well.
Brad is told to trust no one. So when a man meets him at the airport, planning to take Brad to his father, Brad goes with him, trusting that he is telling the truth. Needless to say, the man is up to no good.
Brad is accidentally abducted instead of Dick. Now why wasn't I surprised? Because that's exactly what happens in Caribbean Pearls with Biff and his double!
Brad is caught in a fire with his hands and feet bound. He sticks his hands into the fire, enduring the searing heat, to burn through the rope. Ouch! Believable, nope.
On page 120, Brad swims under Dick's boat and notices a bomb stuck to the underside. He removes the bomb, gets back on the boat, hands the bomb to Dick, and asks, "What'll we do with it?" Um... Dick then notices the timer, which moves the boys into action. They throw the bomb overboard and get the boat started as fast as they can. Whew! I thought maybe they were going to keep the bomb as a souvenir.
Brad, while in disguise (dyed hair and glasses will do the trick every time), strikes up a conversation with one of the suspects. Brad admires the suspect's Aston Martin, while the suspect prepares to leave in another vehicle. Now why does the suspect have two vehicles in the parking lot where he works? The suspect gives Brad the keys to the Aston Martin and tells him to try out the car. The suspect leaves in the other vehicle, and Brad decides to follow him... in the Aston Martin! Like, are you kidding me?! Nothing about this makes any sense at all!
A short while later, Brad and Dick leave the Aston Martin at Dick's house. We're talking about a borrowed and rather expensive car, which has now been left in a random location. Anyway, the two boys blunder onto another suspect's property. They notice on page 137 that no one is in the backyard. "Even though it was a hot day, [name withheld] and his pals seemed to prefer the air-conditioned house to the shade of the palm trees and the umbrellas around the swimming pool." Well, duh! If I have air conditioning, why would I hang around outside in the heat to discuss my schemes? Besides, someone might overhear!
This book is as big of a mess as the first book. I did overall enjoy it, however. It's weak, but decent. I did skim the last couple of chapters, since I became bored and didn't really care any longer at that point.
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
It should be noted that August Derleth published some of his work under the pseudonym, Stephen Grendon, so Steve is a semi-autobiographical character.
On page 63, Steve and Sim try to figure out why the men plan to rob the train. Sim suggests that the bank's money is the only possible reason, but Steve has an idea of his own.
"Sure. But what about something we don't know about? Like maybe somebody's last will and testament is coming in on that train, and if it's stolen, then an earlier will stands up in court, and these fellows are hired to steal the will..."Yeah, like series books!
Sim began to giggle. "I can see what your ma means when she says you read too much of the wrong kind of stuff."
The plot of this book creeps along. This book is not quite as good as the first two books, but I still very much enjoyed it. The climax is hilarious
With this book, the premise for the series falls into a pattern that continues through the rest of the books. It's like Derleth was feeling his way into a series with the first three books, and with this book, all elements come together perfectly.
Every book begins with Steve trying to convince Sim to go on a trip. Sim is overcautious and never wants to commit. Steve uses reverse psychology on Sim, and Sim always agrees to go, complaining all the way. The boys get into trouble, as predicted by Sim, and often end up in jail, since the adults don't believe their side of the story. Ending up in jail is a running gag through the series.
Page 56 has a fun exchange between Steve, Sim, and an Indian boy.
At the last minute he heard us and turned, and the moment he turned I knew why he was so dark-skinned. He was an Indian boy, about our own ageone of those Winnebago from the camp on the other side of Upham woods.Those silly white boys!
"How!" I said.
He backed out and got to his feet. He was slenderbut not as skinny as Simand there wasn't a bit of abashment on his face for having been caught snooping around our tent. Before he could say something, Sim began talking to him in sign languagea hangover from his Lone Scout days.
The Indian boy looked from me to Sim and back to me. Then he began to laugh.
"Can't you talk?" he asked Sim. And to me he just repeated, " 'How!' " and laughed all the harder.
This is an excellent book.
Saturday, August 8, 2015
The gang responsible for the abduction is known as the Crippled Dragon Tong. What kind of stupid name is that?
What's interesting about Mr. Forrest's injury is that it happened after the villains throw a bomb at the vehicle carrying Brad and his father. Somehow, Brad's father manages to sprain his ankle without getting out of the vehicle.
I find lots of things about these books make absolutely no sense, like Brad's maneuver on page 43. Actually, after reading the passage around six times, I can finally picture it. However, it is still incredible. Brad is pulling himself out of a hole by bracing his back on one side and feet on the opposite side, inching up bit by bit.
Just a step from the top his left foot jammed into the first small crevice he'd found then his right foot slipped out of control.Brad is quite an athlete.
Instantly Brad called all of his finely tuned muscles and razor-sharp reflexes into play. Twisting his body in the air, he pushed hard with his left foot
His left shoulder dropped but with his right hand he grasped the chimney's lip.
S-m-a-c-k! Brad's left hand joined his right and he was hanging full length from the top.
Then as easily as chinning himself on a bar Brad pulled up his weight and wiggled out on the edge.
Later in the story, two Chinese officials come aboard the junk and conveniently speak about their private plans in English. Right...
Brad pulls a Biff Brewster. Brad decides to go ashore to be captured on purpose so that he can find out where Mr. Hays is held. This is assuming that Brad will be taken to the same place. Like Biff, Brad ends up regretting that he let himself get captured.
Brad is almost executed by firing squad in this story. How many series book characters can you think of who have nearly been executed by firing squad?
The Chinese names chosen are distracting. Soon and How are two such names which happen to be both English words, so when the names were used in the middle of sentences, I sometimes misunderstood and had to read the sentence again. Another Chinese name used is Pi, which is also a Greek letter. The odd choice of names, as well as the strangeness of the plot, causes this book to read like a crazy, campy spy story.
I didn't really care for this book. It's similar to the Biff Brewster book Mystery of the Chinese Ring, which I also found hard to believe at times. The Biff Brewster book is better. I assume that whoever wrote this book read the Biff Brewster books, which were published first, and copied ideas from them. Unfortunately, the ideas copied were not the best ones to choose.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
August Derleth frequently mentions the titles of books, and he mentions Tom Swift on page 17.
This book doesn't have a mystery, aside from the idea of searching for a treasure. However, the treasure hunt does not go as the reader might expect. In the typical series book, the boys would go after the treasure, find it, and return triumphant. That's not what happens.
I appreciate that Derleth does not throw names at us constantly. Characters are introduced gradually, and the story is kept simple and easy to follow. The descriptions of the setting, including sounds and smells, is outstanding. The humor is fabulous. The plot moves slowly, but the writing is so good that the reader is engaged. The reader is able to experience what the boys do exactly as they experience it. The book is meant to be read slowly and savored.
This book is unusual in that the adults recruit the boys to do detective work for them. Normally in series books, the children investigate without the knowledge of the adults. In this book, the adults insist that the boys get involved, not that Steve minds at all. Sim, of course, is reluctant.
On page 11, Fred tells the boys how country life is different from town life. "You town boys think you have to go to a movie every other night, or watch a parade, or go in and out of the stores." He tells them that they should spend time learning about the country. I found this perspective interesting, because the town in which Steve and Sim live is quite small. In the 2010 census, the two towns that were used as the basis for Sac Prairie in these books had a combined population of 7,444. That's small, and the population would have been smaller in 1922. But still, boys who live in a small town do have a different lifestyle and more to do than boys who live on a farm in the country.
The mystery is, in my opinion, quite lame in this book, but the book does show a gradual development from the adventure story of the first book towards what the series will become, which is a mystery series.
As I read this book, I tried to figure out how to describe what these books are like so that others will have an idea. I already mentioned how rich the descriptions are, which is what makes these books so charming. I first thought of the early Trixie Belden books, because they take place close to Trixie's home. These books are of the same type with adventures close to Steve's home.
I also thought of Charles Dickens because of how Derleth describes his characters. I was delighted later, as I was reading the fifth book, The Tent Show Summer, when on page 62, a character is described as "hard to believe in. I mean, he looked like some kind of character that had stepped out of a book by, say, Dickens or somebody like that." Perfect! Even Derleth knew that he had created characters similar to Dickensian characters.
This book is very similar in quality to the first book. I enjoyed it just slightly less, but it is still a very good book.
Sunday, August 2, 2015
During the race when it begins snowing, the dogs slow down. Sandy gets the bright idea that he and Jerry should get off the sled and run behind it to give the dogs a rest. Charley, the driver, agrees and runs in front of the sled to break the trail. What could go wrong? Everything! Sandy and Jerry get tired, fall behind, and are hopelessly lost in a blizzard.
The portion of the book that deals with the sled race is very exciting. After the sled race, the boys go hunting in a brief interlude. I did not enjoy that part, mainly because I'm not interested in hunting. The hunting subplot is distracting, although it was placed in the book as a means to force a confrontation with the villains.
The book is excellent up to the end of the sled race and good to very good for the rest of the story.
The explanation of different kinds of sails and how to use them was not of interest to me. The information was quite detailed to the point of being overwhelming, so I skimmed that part. It probably would have interested a reader who already knew about different sails.
I was kind of surprised when the criminals immediately confess to their crime as soon as they first encounter Sandy and Jerry. This is only on page 90, with much of the book left. This was done to set up the rest of the story, so it ends up logical, but it is a bit different.
I greatly enjoyed this story.
I ended up enjoying volumes two through six in the Sandy Steele series so much that I felt lost after I finished this book. I wanted to read more of them, but I was done.