The Hardy Boys is a popular series of detective/adventure books for boys chronicling the fictional adventures of teenage brothers Frank and Joe Hardy. The original Hardy Boys series was produced between 1927 and 1979 by a group of authors under the pen name Franklin W. Dixon.
The Hardy Boys is a creation of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the creators of dozens of successful book series such as the Rover Boys, the Bobbsey Twins and Tom Swift, and later, Nancy Drew. Edward Stratemeyer conceived of the Hardy Boys in 1926 with the creation of plot outlines that would become the first volume of the series. Various ghostwriters were employed, under contract of secrecy, to pen the actual stories. The first author was Leslie McFarlane, whose writing defined the literary style of the series, as well as the personalities and nuances of its characters. McFarlane authored volumes 1—16 and 22—24, which are generally regarded as the best works of the series. His 1976 autobiography, Ghost of the Hardy Boys, provides substantial background information on the series, as well as the Stratemeyer Syndicate as a whole.
From 1959 to the mid-70s, substantial revisions to the first 38 titles were made. This was done to modernize outdated vernacular, reduce story length, age the characters and remove the ethnic and racial stereotypes prevalent in many of the early books. The result of this process varied widely, with some books being changed only slightly while others had their entire plot and storyline thrown out. At any rate, the revised versions are those that are commonly found and are available here at Exodus.
The first 58 stories and the 38 revisions, along with the Detective Handbook and its revision, are considered by many collectors to form the Hardy Boys "canon."
These are decidedly not classics. The storylines are formulaic, with the two boys and their chums having all sorts of adventures—usually catapulted into a mystery by some crime or catastrophe. They track down clues, threatening the villain(s) with exposure. Eventually, they are usually captured and threatened with death. But the villain usually boasts about how the felony was committed before they somehow manage to escape and bring the police to their aid. (This is an area we appreciate: while many books have kids solving mysteries while rebelling against authority, the Hardy boys have the full support and assistance of their father and the police force.) While the books do include crimes like murder and theft, and occasionally dabble with occultic symbols, we are not too concerned about the content being dangerous for kids (for instance, occultic images are usually meant to be a scare tactic and can be explained scientifically). What we are concerned with is the triviality of the books. They are fun to read, but they are fluff, and little—either in terms of knowledge or in worldview—can be gained from them. Although we don't think it's necessary to prevent kids from reading these, we would recommend that parents keep the time spent reading them to a minimum!