Tuesday, July 27, 2010

100 Days of Fantasy: Day 4

This is the fourth part in an ongoing series looking at books that have influenced me as a writer.

The Mystery of the Sinister Scarecrow
by M.V. Carey

A lot of avid readers started reading as a kid, and many of them often have a favorite book or series from their childhood.

Mine was The Three Investigators series. In this series of books, three boys in their early teens went about solving mysteries. In most of the novels there were supernatural elements, elements that eventually were explained away. This should sound familiar to you Scooby Doo fans, because the plots were somewhat similar but without the crazy antics of the likes of Scooby and Shaggy.

A lot of young readers back in the day went for the Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys mysteries, but those never did much for me. I always preferred The Three Investigators.

What initially drew me to The Three Investigators series was this book, specifically the cover. I can remember in fourth grade going to my school library and randomly pulling this book, The Mystery of the Sinister Scarecrow, off the shelves. The artwork by Robert Adragna blew me away. I had to read that book. And I did. Followed up by 20 or so of the other books in the series, all with fantastic artwork and great stories that kept me interested throughout.

One strong element about The Three Investigators books that has stuck with me was the notion that the characters had to solve their own problems. As the three main characters in this series were only 13 or so years old, they had a lot of limitations compared to an adult. They couldn't drive. Adults had a tendency not to believe them. Things like that. But the characters always persevered, despite the many setbacks and dangers they faced in each novel. As a young reader, I picked up on this, and I believe it affects my writing even to this day. It taught me to never let the characters off easy, to have them solve their own problems; anything else strikes of deus ex machina and can seem silly to the reader.

That being said, eventually I grew older and moved on to other reading material, but still today I have a fondness for this series.

Up next: The Fellowship of the Ring


Charles Gramlich said...

Oh yes, I remember the three investigators with great fondness. I actually have a couple of those books around here. The mystery of the silver spider. I rememer they often had cool colors in them. I found out when I was an adult that there were a bunch more in that series than our little library had owned and I was upset I hadn't been able to get them when I'd most enjoyed them.

Ty Johnston said...

Weird thing, there haven't been any new Three Investigators books in the U.S. in more than 20 years, but new novels still come out in Germany from time to time. It seems the series is extremely popular there.