The mystery of the Hardy Boys’ author is finally solved

The mystery of the Hardy Boys' author is finally solved

Finally, the truth can be told. If you grew up in North America. At some point, you came into contact with a Hardy Boys book in your youth. You might be surprised to find out that the book series was not written by Franklin W. Dixon but by a ghostwriter. The true writer of the popular boy series was Leslie McFarlane who used the pseudonym of Franklin W. Dixon with other writers. This American sleuth boy series was written not by a true blood American but by a Canadian. The Hardy Boys, a project on which Leslie was the main contributor, wrote 19 of the first 25 books between 1927 and 1946, and 21 overall. Just who was Leslie McFarlane? This seems like a mystery that only the Hardy Boys can solve. Ghost of the Hardy Boys: The Writer Behind the World’s Most Famous Boy Detectives explores the true origins of the writings of the Hardy Boys series.

In 1926, 23-year-old cub newspaper reporter Leslie McFarlane responded to an ad: “Experienced Fiction Writer Wanted to Work from Publisher’s Outlines.” The ad was signed by Edward Stratemeyer, whose syndicate effectively invented mass-market children’s book publishing in America. McFarlane, who had a few published adventure stories to his name, was hired and his first job was to write Dave Fearless Under the Ocean as Roy Rockwood—for a flat fee of $100, no royalties. His pay increased to $125 when Stratemeyer proposed a new series of detective stories for kids involving two high school-aged brothers who would solve mysteries. The title of the series was The Hardy Boys. McFarlane’s pseudonym would be Franklin W. Dixon.

McFarlane went on to write twenty-one Hardy Boys adventures. From The Tower Treasure in 1927 to The Phantom Freighter in 1947, into full-fledged classics filled with perilous scrapes, loyal chums, and breakneck races to solve the mystery. McFarlane kept his ghostwriting gig secret until late in life when his son urged him to share the story of being the real Franklin W. Dixon. By the time McFarlane died in 1977, unofficial sales estimates of The Hardy Boys series already topped 50 million copies.

Ghost of the Hardy Boys is a fascinating, funny, and always charming look back at a vanished era of journalism, writing, and book publishing. It is for anyone who loves a great story and who’s curious about solving the mystery of the fascinating man behind one of the most widely read and enduring children’s book series in history.

Leslie McFarlane was a Canadian journalist and author who, under the famous pseudonym, Franklin W. Dixon, wrote the original Hardy Boys mysteries for the Stratemeyer Syndicate (also the creators of Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, and the Bobbsey Twins). McFarlane wrote twenty-one tales of Frank and Joe Hardy, as well as many other novels under both his name and various pennames. He had a long and award-winning career with the Canadian National Film Board and Canadian Broadcasting Corporation―his script for the documentary Herring Hunt was nominated for an Academy Award. McFarlane died in 1977.

While still writing for the series for the Stratemeyer Syndicate, McFarlane returned to Canada to work for the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). As part of the NFB in Montreal, he wrote and directed documentaries and short dramas including the 1951 documentary Royal Journey, Here’s Hockey, a 1953 documentary about ice hockey featuring Montreal Canadiens star Jean Béliveau. He also wrote the documentary titled Herring Hunt, nominated for an Academy Award for Live Action Short Film. Moving to Toronto he wrote for CBC television and at the suggestion of his friend Lorne Greene. Read more >>

Of interest: Anna Smudge: Professional Shrink