A lot of the stuff that you get on Facebook is worthless, but I was recently tagged by an author friend with an interesting note. "Fifteen Authors," it was called, and the point of the exercise was to list, right off the top of your head, "the fifteen authors (poets included) who have influenced you and that will always stick with you."
The rules were that I was supposed to list these fifteen authors in no more than fifteen minutes, but since I rarely have fifteen minutes at a time to devote to anything besides work or writing, I went at it over the course of a couple of days.
I posted my results on Facebook, but it occurred to me that it might be kind of cool to devote a few paragraphs to each of my "Fine Fifteen" over the next few weeks.
The first author to appear on my list is someone who doesn't really exist at all. Or, to be more precise, the name is a pseudonym representing a passel of authors who have contributed work to this ongoing series of books. The name is Franklin W. Dixon.
Franklin W. Dixon's name first appeared on a book cover in 1927, on a mystery book titled THE TOWER TREASURE. But this wasn't any mystery book. It was a mystery aimed at young readers, a category that would later become known as the "Young Adult" market. The protagonists in THE TOWER TREASURE were two brothers - the Hardy Boys - and they would go on to be featured in about a gazillion books over the better part of the next century.
Three Hardy Boys books were published in 1927, followed by three more in 1928 and two in 1929, then one more or less every year through 1979. The 1980's were a busy decade for the Hardy Boys, solving thirty-eight cases written by a number of different "Franklin W. Dixons."
The 1990's and early 2000's were the same story, with the Hardy Boys featured in dozens of adventures, the last of which, MOTOCROSS MADNESS, came out in 2005. The series apparently changed names at that time, becoming known as "Undercover Brothers."
"Franklin W. Dixon" leads off my Fine Fifteen list of authors for one very simple reason. He (they?) introduced me to the joy of reading at a young age. I discovered the Hardy Boys and was transported into a world where young boys could follow clues, outwit bad guys, have adventures and solve crimes.
The Hardy Boys didn't care how many friends I had, didn't care that I was short and skinny and too good at school for my own good, at least when it came to getting bullied in the playground. They welcomed me into their mysteries and even though they encountered danger at every turn, they never failed to get the drop on the bad guys in the end.
By the early 1970's I had outgrown the Hardy Boys and moved onto other literary fare, and although I'm quite certain I didn't read every Franklin W. Dixon novel from THE TOWER TREASURE through THE MASKED MONKEY, I made a damned good dent in them.
My mother thought I was crazy, probably for lots of reasons, but most especially because I would read three or four Hardy Boys books at a time, keeping a separate one, open to the appropriate page, in a bunch of different rooms. If I was eating breakfast in the kitchen, I would pick up my kitchen Hardy Boys book and read while I ate. Parents watching something boring on TV, like the news? No problem. I would simply pick up my living room Hardy Boys book and within seconds be hot on the trail of a diamond smuggler or counterfeiter.
I'm sure I would eventually have discovered books and the joy of the written word at some point, even if I had never heard of the Hardy Boys; I can't imagine not doing so. But he, along with another name you probably know, and who I'll get into at another time, turned me on to a lifetime's worth of pleasure, and so Franklin W. Dixon leads off my list of Fine Fifteen authors.