Friday, April 3, 2015

The Melted Coins (Franklin W. Dixon) (Original 1944 Edition)

The plot of this Hardy Boys mystery is as complicated and difficult to summarize as Dickens's Little Dorrit, and like that great novel, lends itself readily to a Marxist interpretation, since everything in it revolves around the theme of money - old coins, rare coins, counterfeit coins, buried coins, stolen coins, hidden coins, and of course the melted coins of the title. Freudians could also have a fun time with such episodes as the revelation of Aunt Gertrude's (clearly fetishistic) secret, and the homoerotic scene in which a maniac sailor captures Joe Hardy and starts to tattoo him on the chest.

In fact, the latter bizarre quasi-rape scene is worth quoting at length. A 1944 children's book, remember.

...Blackbeard was strong and powerful. 

"I'll tattoo you if it's the last thing I do!..." 

...Joe tried to shout, but the pirate's heavy hand was across his mouth, stifling any outcry...In a few minutes he was bound, gagged, and thrust onto a table. 

"Get the needle, Lopez!" ordered Blackbeard. 

...The pirate, his heavy arms folded, looked at Joe with a satisfied air. Then he reached down and ripped open the boy's shirt. 

"Give me the needle, Lopez!" he shouted. 

Joe was utterly helpless, yet he struggled grimly against the ropes that bound him. Lopez stood by, handed Blackbeard a long, sharp needle in a holder. Joe felt a stab of pain as the tattoo artist crouched over him and the needle pricked the skin on his chest. 

"You'll get a design you maybe never heard of before," grunted Blackbeard. "First, I prick the design. Then comes the dye." 

The sharp needle stabbed Joe's skin once more....

"The mark will stay with you for life," cried the pirate.

Insist on the original 1944 edition, instead of the 1970 revision. That holds true for all Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and other children's series books that were re-tooled from the late 1950s on. The later texts are invariably much less interesting.

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