Published in 1927, The Tower Treasure is the book that introduced the teenage heroes, Frank and Joe Hardy, and which also began the series that would introduce generations of young boys to the world of crime fiction. The series ran until 2005 and consists of one hundred and ninety volumes, although some purists insist that only the first fifty-eight novels constitute the real Hardy Boy Mysteries. The books were written by "Franklin W. Dixon," the pen name used by a stable of writers who worked for the publisher that produced the books. This first volume was written by a Canadian author, Leslie McFarlane.
As the book opens, Frank and Joe, sixteen and fifteen respectively, are riding their motorcycles down a narrow road, when a speeding car nearly runs them off the road. Later, the car is found wrecked and the driver has apparently stolen a yellow roadster belonging to one of the Hardy boys' chums. (There are a lot of "chums" and "lads" in these books.)
The first mystery to be resolved in the book then, involves finding the stolen car. But soon, another more serious crime is committed when the house of one of the town's wealthy families is robbed. the caretaker, who is the father of one of Frank and Joe's sons, is the prime suspect. He's fired and later arrested, with devastating consequences for his family. The Hardy boys are the sons of the famous detective, Fenton Hardy, who agrees to look into the case. But when he can't come up with a solution, it appears that only his sons may be able to solve the crime and save the family of their friend.
This is the sort of tale, along with others like it, that prompted many a young lad to race home from the third or fourth grade on a winter afternoon, grab a couple of cookies and a glass of Kool-Aid, and curl up with a book for the rest of the day, sometimes ignoring his own chums who were outside playing at one thing or another.
Later that lad might get to be eleven or twelve years old and discover in his father's library Erle Stanley Gardner's The Case Of The Vagabond Virgin. And sadly, once a lad has moved on to books with titles like that, there's no going back to the Hardy Boys. One can only move forward to Raymond Chandler, Lawrence Block, John D. MacDonald, John Sandford, Michael Connelly, and a host of other writers that might well tempt a man in his thirties or forties to bag work early in the afternoon, pour himself a beer or two, and settle in with a good book. But whatever his age, he'll always owe a debt of gratitude to those authors who got him started.