A couple of weeks ago there was some discussion in the comments on one of the posts about the Hardy Boys series. I remembered that while I don’t have any of the original Hardy Boys books on hand (or any of the newer ones, either, for that matter), I do have several books in another series by “Franklin W. Dixon”, so I decided to read one of them.
The Ted Scott Flying Stories were launched about the same time as the Hardy Boys, and according to what I’ve read on the Internet, Ted Scott, dashing young aviator, was even more popular than Frank and Joe for a while, with the books about him outselling the Hardy Boys novels. Ted Scott is a pretty blatant fictionalization of Charles Lindbergh, to whom the books are rather brazenly dedicated, along with a number of other early aviators. The first book in the series, OVER THE OCEAN TO PARIS, has plucky young flier Ted Scott becoming the first man to fly the Atlantic and becoming America’s hero in the process. I don’t have that one, but I do have RESCUED IN THE CLOUDS, the second book in the series, and it picks up with Ted returning to a hero’s welcome in his Midwestern home town, only to run afoul of some old enemies.
The plot of this novel really meanders around, as Ted has a series of adventures centered around flying. He stops a train from crashing off a bridge that’s collapsed. He organizes an air show to raise money to build a hospital. He locates a witness against the con man who swindled his elderly foster parents out of a fortune. He rescues flood victims, performs a daring mid-air rescue of two men from a burning plane, and even (attention Bill Crider!) fights alligators. But no matter what the odds against him, Ted Scott never gives up and fights on with a smile on his face, because Ted Scott is nothing if not stalwart.
The writing in this book is really old-fashioned, not surprising since it was published in 1927. It’s hokey, melodramatic, and driven by incredible coincidences. And yet RESCUED IN THE CLOUDS has its moments. Some of the flying scenes, if put on film, would make spectacular stunts. There are also some nice satiric bits about the commercialization of heroes and how everybody but Ted Scott tries to cash in on his fame. According to one website, the actual author of these books was someone named Frank Duffield, whose only other publications seem to be in the field of non-fiction about coin collecting. He certainly wasn’t a polished writer, but as I said above, at times there’s some decent yarn-spinning in this book. As far as I know, Duffield didn’t write any of the Hardy Boys books as Franklin W. Dixon, but he may have done other boys’ series work for Edward Stratemeyer.
While most readers today probably wouldn’t make it very far in a book like this, those old boys’ series novels are, in their own way, historical documents. This one gives what’s probably a pretty accurate picture of the adulation that greeted Charles Lindbergh on his return to the States. And as creaky as it may be, it has a certain charm to it. I may never read another Ted Scott Flying Story, but I have to admit, I’m a little curious about what happens in the next one, OVER THE ROCKIES WITH THE AIR MAIL, OR TED SCOTT LOST IN THE WILDERNESS. Gee whillikers, I wonder if good old Ted will survive?