Saturday, June 9, 2018

The Mercer Boys #1 Cruise in the Lassie and #2 Woodcrest

The Mercer Boys series consists of 10 books published originally by A. L. Burt and reprinted by World Syndicate.  The books were written by Capwell Wyckoff.

1.  The Mercer Boys' Cruise in the Lassie, 1929
2.  The Mercer Boys at Woodcrest, 1929
3.  The Mercer Boys on a Treasure Hunt,1929
4.  The Mystery Boys' Mystery Case, 1929
5.  The Mercer Boys on the Beach Patrol, 1929
6.  The Mercer Boys in Summer Camp, 1929
7.  The Mercer Boys as First Classmen, 1930
8.  The Mercer Boys and the Indian Gold, 1932
9.  The Mercer Boys with the Air Cadets, 1932
10.  The Mercer Boys and the Steamboat Riddle, 1933

The first six books were reprinted in very slightly revised editions by Falcon Books.  The titles of volumes five and six were changed for these editions.

1.  The Mercer Boys' Cruise in the Lassie, 1948
2.  The Mercer Boys at Woodcrest, 1948
3.  The Mercer Boys on a Treasure Hunt,1948
4.  The Mystery Boys' Mystery Case,
5.  The Mercer Boys with the Coast Guard, 1949
6.  The Mercer Boys in the Ghost Patrol, 1951

A. L. Burt edition
I read The Mercer Boys' Cruise on the Lassie in the Falcon Books edition in June 2017 in order to see if I should purchase the rest of the Mercer Boys books.

In The Mercer Boy's Cruise in the Lassie, Don and Jim Mercer are the sons of the owner of a lumber company.  Mr. Mercer recently gave the boy a 30-foot sloop and permission to sail it on an excursion during the summer.  The brothers are joined by their best friend, Terry Mackson. During their voyage, the boys encounter a group of marine bandits and help bring them to justice.

I overall enjoyed the book, but not enough to want to read any additional titles.  For some reason, I struggle with books that are set on the shore with sailing on boats.  I do not know why this is, but my lukewarm reaction to the first book in the set is likely due to this aversion.

That said, I still did not know if I would like the Mercer Boys series and put off reading any additional titles.

In March 2018, I read Capwell Wyckoff's Mystery Hunters series.  I greatly enjoyed them, so much that I knew that I needed to give the Mercer Boys series another try.  I decided to read the second book in the series, The Mercer Boys at Woodcrest, which I also already had on hand in the Falcon Books edition.

I started reading The Mercer Boys at Woodcrest and became immediately confused.  The book opens with a scene where the boys are about to receive a ride to the military school in a station wagon, which is described as having headlights, and the driver steps on the starter.  There is no doubt that the station wagon is a motorized vehicle.  I was confused because the boys sit on seats made from "plain board planks" with their feet dangling down.  Terry pulls a trick on the sergeant, who sits in the front seat, by pinning up his trousers.  I was so confused about the entire situation, because I had trouble understanding the scene.  Since I was reading the revised Falcon edition, I knew that my confusion had been caused by a change in the text.

I realized that I didn't want to read the Falcon books because of my confusion, but I had quite a dilemma.  I would have to purchase the Burt editions, which are extremely scarce and usually quite expensive, and I had to be certain that such an investment was wise.  Could I be certain to like the books?

I found the Mystery Hunters books to be excellent, and that told me that I probably would like the Mercer Boys.  However, I had also read at least one comment online from someone who doesn't like the Mercer Boys books as much as Wyckoff's other books.  What to do?

Meanwhile, some nice Burt editions with dust jackets were up for sale.  The clock was ticking, and I had to make a decision.  I finally decided to go for it.  I was able to acquire all 10 Mercer Boys books in Burt or World Syndicate editions in a period of just 15 days from start to finish.  That's probably some kind of record, and a good amount of both luck and money was involved.  Eight of the books are Burt editions with dust jackets in varying condition.  Two of the books are World Syndicate copies that are missing their jackets.

Since then, I have read the entire set.  Did I make the right decision?  Absolutely yes!

A. L. Burt edition
Once I had the The Mercer Boys at Woodcrest on hand, I immediately checked out the first scene in the book.  I quickly grasped the situation.  The "vehicle" is said to be a "station wagon" in the original text, but the station wagon is actually pulled by horses.  Now I understand the planks and the dangling legs since the boys ride in a wagon that is pulled by horses.  This is why revisionists should be careful what they change.

In The Mercer Boys at Woodcrest, Don and Jim Mercer begin their training at Woodcrest Military Academy.  The original building, Clanhammer Hall, is closed up and no longer used.  Terry accidentally enters it to discover that an old man lives there.  Sensing a mystery, the three boys investigate.

This is a very good to excellent book.

I have been curious about how extensive the revisions are in the Falcon books editions.  I compared part of the text of the two versions of The Mercer Boys' Cruise in the Lassie.

In the original story, Don is 20 years old while Jim is 19.  In the revision, Don is 17 while Jim is 16.  In the original books, the boys are in their middle twenties by the end of the series, even though later books do not mention their ages.

On page 26 of the original text, Terry remarks, "This is great."  On page 26 of the revised text, Terry's statement was changed to "This is swell."  Reading the text now, "great" sounds normal while "swell" is dated.  They should have just left it alone.

On page 29, "Hello" was changed to "Hey, look!"

On page 35, "causing the ice to thump around inside the ice-box" was changed to "causing the dishes to clatter inside the cupboard."

I did not check any further for text changes.  The original text has 239 pages, and the revised text has 214 pages.  While the lower page count implies that the story was shortened, the text was reformatted, and each page has more words on it in the revised text.  The Burt books have 28 lines of text per page while the Falcon books have 29 lines per page.  Also, each line of text is slightly longer in the Falcon edition. For those reasons, I believe that both versions are nearly identical with only minor text changes like the ones I mentioned.  This means that it probably doesn't matter if the original or revised text of each book is read, except for instances where minor changes would be confusing like what happened to me.

Reviews of the rest of the Mercer Boys set will follow.

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