Saturday, January 31, 2015

Ken Holt Series Introduction and Overview

Usually I publish this type of post after I publish my reviews, but this time I'm publishing it first. 

When I read the Ken Holt series 4 1/2 years ago, I was a bit disappointed.  I recall that I enjoyed many of the books but that I felt a sense of letdown.  As best I can recall, I was disappointed because I had always heard such wonderful things about the Ken Holt series, which caused the books to be destined to fall short of my high expectations.  I have never been much of a boys' series fan, so that was also a large part of why I was destined to be disappointed.  I can't appreciate a boys' series like Ken Holt in the way that boys' series enthusiasts can.

Since I read the Rick Brant series last month and actually enjoyed them a lot, I wanted to read the Ken Holt books again just to see if my perspective had changed any.  This time I couldn't be disappointed no matter what, since I had already experienced that disappointment. 

I found that this time that I still struggled with the great detail, particularly the detail with which the boys knock ideas back and forth about what to do and the detail with which their attempts to escape are described.  I found that I had to skim the text at times in order to avoid becoming bored. 

I don't like several of the earlier titles in the series as much as later titles.  This is what derailed me over 4 1/2 years ago when I started to create a website section for Ken Holt.  In early July 2010, I had actually scanned the cover art for volumes 1 and 2 and had written summaries for those two books.  I created the main page of the section with the list of titles and some general information.  I had every plan to continue.  What I believe happened is that I didn't particularly care for volumes 3, 4, and 5, and by the time I finished volume 5, I wasn't interested in finishing the section.  I don't recall what I thought of the rest of the series.  All I can remember is that I was overall disappointed.  Below, see the dates on the files from my website that I captured from the file manager last month.  It shows how little I did and how abruptly I abandoned it.

I did finish reading the series in 2010.  I didn't admit until during the last year that I wasn't overwhelmingly thrilled with the Ken Holt series.  I felt so bad that I hadn't loved the series that I didn't feel comfortable admitting it to anyone.  I didn't want to upset anyone, since it seemed, according to online reviews, that every single person who has ever read the series thinks that the Ken Holt series is the best of the best.  I don't mean that in a sarcastic fashion; when I read the reviews it seemed that everyone who has reviewed the series online loves the books and thinks the series is the very best.  I didn't know what was wrong with me, so I didn't want to admit to how I felt. 

Now let's fast forward to the last month.  I wanted to read Ken Holt again to see what I thought after reading Rick Brant.  I also wanted to finish that website section for two reasons.  First, it was an unfinished project.  Second, I recently created a Rick Brant section, so I needed to create a Ken Holt section.  It wouldn't be fitting to ignore Ken Holt.

I began reading the books again.  I struggled with the first book, which I don't think was the case 4 1/2 years ago.  A few parts of it really dragged for me this time.  I liked the second and third books significantly better than I did before.  So far, so good.  I told myself that I would finish that website section.  I also enjoyed #4 better than before, although part of it bored me.  I did not care for #5.  I overall liked #6, but parts of it dragged for me.  #7 also dragged for me.  This wasn't going well.

By this point, I wasn't sure if I could force myself to finish the website section, since the same feelings were coming over me as before.  I had started writing reviews for this blog, but by #6, I began to lose interest.  Did I really want to write reviews where I would say that parts of several books from the very best boys' series actually bored me?  I started feeling bad again.

Fortunately, I really liked all of #8, most of #9, and all of #10.  Thank goodness!  This rejuvenated me, and I began working on the website section.  It was during the reading of #10 that I wrote most of my summaries and scanned all of the books. I ended up greatly enjoying the rest of the series.

I like the second half of the series a lot, while my opinion of the first half of the series is generally lukewarm.  The second half of the series has more of the feel of the average series book.  The earlier books have a higher page count and the text size is smaller than for other Grosset and Dunlap books.  The earlier books are extremely detailed with large amounts of text devoted to sleuthing around or making deductions.

One reason I like the second half of the series better is because of some recurring characters that are not present in the first half of the series.  Two of these characters are Mort Phillips and Ramon Gonzales.  Three books are set near or in Mexico, and Phillips appears in two of those books.  Gonzales appears in all three.

Female characters are almost completely absent from this series.  Another reason I like the second half of the series better is because several of the books feature Maribelle, who writes the society section of the newspaper.  I like Maribelle.

Most all girls' series books feature a few boy characters, even if they don't add much to the story.  Boys' books often feature a few girl characters, who, needless to say, never do much.  This series does not have girl characters.  Ken and Sandy do not know any teenage girls and never encounter any girls in their travels.  The complete absence of girls makes this a strongly masculine series. 

This month I finally discovered a few scattered online comments where one or two female readers have not liked the Ken Holt books.  Unlike those readers, I do like most of the books, but as stated, I had problems with enjoying the early books in the series.  Ken Holt is a series that strongly appeals to male readers, and apparently, most all male readers love the series.  Female readers are more likely to have lukewarm feelings towards the books and might not like them as much.

This post was written as I read the last five books in the series.  I am glad that I have worked out exactly why I feel the way I do about this series.  I enjoyed the series more this time than 4 1/2 years ago, and I can thank Rick Brant for that.  Reading Rick Brant helped get me into a more receptive mindset where I could enjoy Ken Holt better.  I think before that I overall disliked the early books and had only lukewarm feelings towards the later books.  This time I liked the early books better than before, except for the parts that dragged, and I greatly enjoyed the later books.

I believe if I ever decide read the first books a third time that I would like them even more.  It's like Ken Holt is an acquired taste for me.  I have had to adjust to them, because they a bit different than other series books.

Next up are my reviews, most of which were written before I wrote this post.  The first review will start out a little strange coming right after this post that was written a few weeks later, but I want to leave it as originally written.

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