Alfred Hitchcock and ???


When I was about eleven or twelve years old I had another series of books that I adored even more than the Brains Benton Mysteries. Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators. Published by Random House, I was immediately gripped by the adventures of sturdy smart Jupiter, athletic Pete and everyman Bob.  I also loved that fact that their nemesis was a kid the same age as them, with the suitable nick name of Stinky.As soon as a new Three Investigators book came out, I took my hard earned money (I worked for my Dad and mowed a few lawns here and there) and ran down to the book store and bought it. The books never disappointed. As junior detectives these guys were even better than Brains Benton. They even had business cards with this on it: ??? – three question marks equals three investigators. I thought these guys were great.

Jupiter had the investigators headquarters in his Aunt and Uncle’s salvage yard. They had secret entrances  and the headquarters itself (if I remember correctly) was in an old mobile home. At the beginning of the series the boys  solved a mystery for Alfred Hitchcock and he repaid them by giving them access to a chauffeur driven Rolls Royce and became a confidant.  Hitch would always appear at the end of each book where the boys would explain how they had reached their conclusions. Hitch would also occasionally make a “cameo” in the book as well.

The end result of me loving these two book series, Brains Benton and the Three Investigators, was that I decided at the ripe old age of twelve that I wanted to become a writer. Preferably a mystery writer as these were my favourite books. Neither I or the world had yet discovered Stephen King yet.

I sat down and wrote my first ever “fan-boy” letter to the Random House Publishers. I asked if they could please tell the author of the Three Investigators books that I really enjoyed them. I also mentioned that the books had inspired me to start writing my own stories. I ended the letter by thanking them for their time and that I hoped one day they would publish my stories.

Quite a bit of time passed. about three months I think, when I got a letter in the post. My parents were a bit surprised that I had received a letter. I was not a huge letter writer and did not indulge in the pen pal program that the school so regularly insisted that the students partake in. My Mother said it was from Random House.

I can still remember how excited I was that they had written me back. The mists of time have shrouded who from Random House responded to my letter, but I can still remember that it had at least two paragraphs and a closing line or two. Firstly they thanked me for my letter. Then the writer explained to me about “house writers.” It seemed that the Three Investigators had been started by one writer and subsequent books in the series was written by different house writers for each one. They went on to say that they were pleased to hear that I wanted to become a writer. They also said that I should remember, when I was a bit older, to send them anything I wrote  and they would give the material serious consideration. I was amazed.

Amazed about house writers sure, but, the fact that they had taken the time and effort to write to a twelve year old boy really surprised me. But above everything else, the fact that they were encouraging me just left me in a daze.  I was so proud of that letter.

I know that if it hasn’t been lost or destroyed by the advent of time my parents still have that letter somewhere in storage. But even if it is lost, it doesn’t matter. I still have the splendid memory of opening and reading that letter. And because of that one little act of kindness and thoughtfulness I will always hold Random House in high esteem.

It would be nice to imagine that one day I might just get something published by them…If I ever write a book, that is.

Incredible Growing Purple Foam

In my last blog I mentioned the fact that I was a huge Brains Benton fan. Brains was a rich kid who was incredibly smart. His parents pretty much left him to his own devices. This included having a laboratory that would be the envy of any mad scientist. Brains with his best friend (a juvenile version of Dr Watson to his youthful Sherlock Holmes) would solve mysteries in his local neighbourhood. These mysteries were in fact crimes and the only one I can remember now with any clarity is The Case Of The Counterfeit Coins. There were only six books in the Brains Benton mystery series and I read four of them. These books with their focus on a juvenile with the brain power (and money) sufficient enough for him to scientifically solve crimes faster than the local police force inspired me.

I still remember begging my parents for a science kit for Christmas. In those days, if you were prepared to spend the money, you could get a great science kit. After an entire year of me harping endlessly about this science kit I got one. And it was a doozy. *On a side note – if you have never heard this particular word, doozy equals wildly great* This kit had a real microscope that worked on both batteries and solar power (a mirror system), glass: slides, test tubes, and beakers; a Bunsen burner and loads of chemicals. You also got a scalpel, forceps, an eye dropper, tweezers and an elemental table. Along with all this great stuff, you also were given a bunch of experiments to do. You could, for example, make a tornado in a beaker. *that is the only experiment I can remember from the kit*
Before I was even old enough to take a proper science class in High School I was doing experiments that, in school, I would not be doing until I was a sophmore taking Biology. I remember doing an “autopsy” on a frog. When I cut open the stomach I found six of the biggest beetles I had ever seen. Yet, the stomach, before it had been cut open did not appear to have been big enough to hold half the number I extracted. I was fascinated with anatomy and all chemicals period.
Then I decided to discard all the experiments that were listed in the science kit booklet. I had never been able to get the tornado experiment to work and because of that I started losing faith in it. I was going to make my own creations instead. This was how I made the “Incredible Growing Purple Foam.”
My parents knew that I “played” with my science kit constantly. My bedroom always smelled of the strange chemicals I worked with. No matter how long I left the windows open the smell remained. My folks had no problem with this at all and I was always allowed to do my experiments in my bedroom. That all changed when I concocted the purple foam.
I cannot remember what items I mixed together to make this foam. I can remember my excitement when the beaker began foaming. I can also remember my excitement when the foam changed colour from white to a dark purple. I can also remember when my excitement turned to concern and then panic when the foam started moving out of the beaker and onto my science table.
Luckily I had put my experiment on a place holder from downstairs. The idea being that if I spilt anything it would not ruin the table. Unfortunately my “Incredible Growing Purple Foam” was not content with growing out of just the beaker. This foam just kept growing. It soon outgrew the place holder and started spilling all over the table and onto the floor. And it still kept growing.
I quickly grabbed the place mat with the ever expanding purple foam on it and headed for the stairs. I ran downstairs, through the kitchen and out the pantry door into the back yard. I dumped the whole thing, place holder, beaker and foam in the space between our garage and the storm cellar. The foam kept growing for another couple of hours at least. When it finally stopped growing it made a mound of purple foam that was about one and a half feet high and two feet across. I was ecstatic.
My parents were not.
It took repeated cleaning to get the purple stain out of my bedroom carpet. The table had to be repainted because the purple colour refused to be removed. I was banished to the storm cellar for any future experimentation.  Amazingly my banishment was not because of the mess I had caused. No, my banishment was because I shared my bedroom with my younger brother. Where I was judged to be old enough to play with what was in essence a dangerous toy, my brother was way too young to be exposed to this stuff.
I did not argue about this. I meekly moved all my things into the storm cellar. The consequences of this move was gradual. I began to spend less time being a junior scientist. Not because my interest waned. No I spent less time because I did not particularly like the storm cellar. It was dark (even with the light on and the storm doors open) and it hosted a plethora of spiders. I had an almost phobic distaste and fear of spiders.
I am not in the field of science or medicine. Both of these fields were high on the list of careers that my parents thought I would eventually pursue. Nope, the world lost a creative and devoted junior scientist who could have grown into a scientific genius if not for a fear of spiders.