Friday, August 29, 2014

Don Sturdy on the Desert of Mystery

by Pa Rock

My current literary passion is finding and reading boys' adventure books of the 1920's.  To that end, I have put quite a dent in the early volumes of the Hardy Boys mysteries and have begun reading The Radio Boys series by Gerald Breckenridge.  One of my more recent finds is a series of books about a fourteen-year-old adventurer by the name of Don Sturdy, and I have just finished the first book of the fifteen-book series.  It is entitled Don Sturdy and the Desert of Mystery.

The Don Sturdy series was created and owned by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the same folks who owned The Hardy Boys series.  In both cases a pseudonym was used for author credit:  Franklin W. Dixon for The Hardy Boys and Victor Appleton for Don Sturdy.  Fourteen of the eventual Don Sturdy titles were actually penned by John W Duffield, a fairly unknown writer who wrote on a salaried basis for Stratemeyer.

Don Sturdy, the fourteen-year-old hero of these tales, was depicted as being a likely orphan whose explorer father, mother, and little sister were lost in a shipwreck off of the southern coast of South America.  Don, of course, always held out hope for the ultimate survival of his family.  Meanwhile he was being raised by two uncles:  Captain Frank Sturdy, a big game hunter, who was Don's father's brother, and Professor Amos Bruce, a rare plant and antiquities collector, who was Don's mother's brother.

As  this story opened, Don and his uncles were in a hotel in Algeria preparing to go on a motorized expedition into the Sahara Desert in search of the fabled "Cemetery of Elephants," a place where old elephants reportedly went to die.  Before the trip could begin, however, Don came upon a young American teenager by the name of Teddy Allison who was being accosted by a couple a Arab muggers.   Don ran the muggers off and saved Teddy.  He soon learned that Teddy's father had been kidnapped weeks before in the desert and had either been killed or enslaved by his captors.

Don and Teddy became fast friends due to their shared concerns over missing parents, and Teddy joined in the expedition into the desert.

Teddy's father had been searching for the "Cave of Emeralds" at the time of his abduction, so that goal - and the rescue of Teddy's father - were added to the list of things that Don and his uncles were pursuing.  Not too much later they also heard stories from the "natives" of a "City of Brass," so that, too, became an objective of the expedition.  (Forgetting to add the "Ark of the Covenant" and the "Big Rock Candy Mountain" to their list of goals appears to be the only grievous oversights on the part of Mr. Appleton/Duffield!)

The story was good, with plenty of excitement to hold the reader's attention, but there were places where it felt like the author was "grinding it out" in a haphazard manner just to meet a deadline and get his check.   Teddy, for example, told Don early on that his nickname was "Brick" due to his red mop of hair.   For the remainder of the book Don generally referred to him as Brick, but sometimes as Teddy.  The other characters also seemed to experience trouble keeping poor Teddy's name straight - as did the author who once referred to him as "Teddie."

Bloodshed was minimal, and the good guys won every battle and achieved all of their goals - just like in real life.

And Don Sturdy came away looking every bit as bright, handsome, and dependably sturdy as Frank and Joe Hardy - just like in real life!

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