Hear an Interview with the Real “Jerry West”!

The last week of September is Banned Books Week, which always reminds us how The Happy Hollisters and other Stratemeyer Syndicate children’s mystery series (like the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Bobbsey Twins) have been shunned over the years (if not completely banned) by many librarians and book reviewers. Can you imagine these squeaky clean stories being rejected by librarians?

The Wall Street Journal ran a story on January 15, 1975, explaining how the Stratemeyer Syndicate’s children’s series were surviving quite well despite the objections of librarians. Many librarians had felt that these series books did not meet their standards for literary quality, and they would not grant them space on their shelves.

Excerpt: Wall Street Journal January 15 1975 Page 1

Later, on January 24, 1975, Stratemeyer partner and author Andrew Svenson (aka Jerry West, Franklin W. Dixon, and Laura Lee Hope), was interviewed by Bob Hardy on KMOX in St. Louis and explained why he wasn’t terribly concerned about the issue. He and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams knew that their children’s books appealed to millions of youngsters who then grew up and shared the same books with their children and grandchildren, providing a built-in, nostalgic durability. Despite the librarians’ hesitance to stock the books, children and their parents continued to buy the books, and sales stayed very healthy indeed!

It is fascinating to hear the voice of Andrew Svenson (aka Jerry West) as he addresses this topic and more. He also answers several call-in questions and explains why the Stratemeyer Syndicate used pseudonyms; his method of on-the-spot research for educational value; and even some advice for wannabe writers! Listen to the recording below, and let us know what you think!


Never Seen Before! Original Outline for First Happy Hollisters Book

Here is a very keen look into the mind of Andrew E. Svenson, who as Jerry West created The Happy Hollisters for the Stratemeyer Syndicate. This handwritten outline is undated, but we estimate that it was written in the very late 1940s or early 1950s.

Early Book Outline by Andrew E. Svenson aka Jerry West

Early Book Outline by Andrew E. Svenson aka Jerry West

The proposed title at the bottom is “Hollisters New Home” but this outline evidently led to the creation of the first two volumes in the series. It combines elements from both The Happy Hollisters (volume 1) and The Happy Hollisters on a River Trip (volume 2): the Hollisters’ arrival at their new home, which appears to be haunted, and a big fishing contest at The Trading Post. There are also several details in the outline that didn’t make it into the final manuscript for either of the first two volumes, for example, the mention of a very loud whistle invented by Mr. Hollister.

It is also interesting to note that this outline shows 22 chapters. At some point it was decided that all volumes in The Happy Hollisters series should be of uniform length and later outlines, synopses, and completed manuscripts that we have found almost always include 18 chapters.

The handwriting is occasionally difficult to decipher, so we’ve provided a transcription below for additional detail.

1) Farewell to Crestwood. Trip in car with trailer, cat + dog in trailer. Tourist camp. Fun and humor. Run-in with boy named Joey Brill. Joey releases brake of car. It starts downhill with Holly inside. (physical) Holly
2) Pete jumps to rescue, goes after Joey Brill, but boy has left with parents. Stop for picnic at State Park – Ricky gets lost. Pam uses family whistle (tin – loud volume – invented by Mr. H.), finds boy. Arrive at Shoreham. No furniture! (worry) Ricky
3) Where to sleep. Getting dark. Holly + Pam look in house while Pete + Ricky run down to lakefront. Sue missing. Falls into water. Rescued by Zip. Pam sees shadowy figure in house. Is it real or is she imagining? (Pam)
4) Kind neighbor takes them in while Mr. H. tries to track furniture. It’s at Stony Point across the lake. Arrives next morning. Kids want to see the Trading Post. Tour of T.P. Boy enters store and pushes over a stack of cans, about to topple on kids. Physical (all)
5) Children warned by a man named Roy Tinker. Bad boy illegible. He looks familiar (Joey Brill). Watch unloading of furniture. Kids from neighborhood watch. Joey is a neighbor. Did he topple cans. Sue is lost! Sue
6) Big search. Sue is found locked in a dresser drawer. Next day children explore the house. That night they hear strange noise again. Is house haunted. Pam + Holly go out in boat. Oars lost. They drift off. Pam + Holly
7) A big wind takes them toward Blackberry Island. They are washed onto shore. Children find nobody there. They find remains of an old camp. Find a photo of their house. Word “treasure” is on it. Holly steps into quicksand as she picks up bright stones on shore. Physical
8) At home, Pete finds a drifting oar. Has the boat sunk. Mr. Hollister rushes a boat and outboard motor from the T.P. They scour the lake. Nearly hit a big rock. See Pam on shore. Rescue Holly. But motor boat is gone. Pete + Pam
9) There must be somebody on island. Walk around island. When they come back the boat is there! Rowboat is towed back to house. That night Pete hears a noise. Awakens Pam. Sounds like crying. They find a mother cat + litter of kittens in cellar. Was that the ghost. Cat hisses at children.
10) She must be a wild cat. Pam + Holly tame her. Cats claimed by Joey. Children find he had mistreated them. Cat scratches Joey who vows to get even. Pam + Joey walk to bridge. Joey trails them illegible. Pam and Ricky. Physical
11) Pam rescues brother. Pete vows to give him a black eye. Mr. H + Pete discuss plan to sell more fishing tackle. Decide to give prize for biggest fish. Tank in window. Joey brags he’d catch it. Father announces big surprise for children!
12) Picnic in State Park! They set out after church on Sunday. Drive past airport, stop of edge of turtle creek; outdoor weenie roast. Ricky catches a grandfather turtle. Sue gets a tiny one. As they are about to go home Holly + Sue are missing. Holly and Sue
13) They have wandered across bridge which is locked for night. Mr. H + Pete build a raft, shove it over. Children ride back. Testing searchlight at airport. When they arrive home they see another searchlight – trained on their house! Physical
14) Excitement. Neighbors have seen prowler, called police, searchlight. Children worry about cats. Was Joey the prowler. Find cats OK. Footprint around the fireplace in cellar. The ghost again. Pete finds a bright stone, same as on B.B. Island. Pete and Holly
15) Ghost is same one who took boat on B.B. Island? Mr. H arranges a gimmick to trap prowler. Sets up a camera. Next day it has been set off. Develops picture. All agree it is a photo of the cat. All the kids.
16) Set camera again. This time where cat can’t get at it. Fish begin to arrive at the T.P. Children have fun watching them in big tank. Sue puts finger in and gets nipped. Ricky adds a turtle. Joey cracks tank. Water starts to leak out. What to do! Physical – Pam + Ricky
17) Pam + Ricky hold hands on crack. In comes Tinker. Helps save fish, adds one of his own, a big whopper. Joey’s father pays for repairing tank. That night Holly thinks she hears ghost. False alarm? Next morning camera has been clicked. Picture shows a man’s back, stooped before fireplace. Looks familiar to Pam. Funny hat
18) Mr. H decides to investigate privately + not tell police now, another night noise. Pete is setting out catfish lines. Big fish in morning. Start a fire to cook fish. Joey comes over. Pushes little Sue dress catches fire. Pete starts to beat it out. Pete and Sue
19) Pete saves sister. Big hero. Pam + Pete decide to hunt for the prowler. Take outboard boat + go to B.B. island. Somebody is following them. Disappears around end of island. P + P find a wire fish box. Three whopping fish. Whose are they? Have little bands on tails. Find a funny hat. Like man in picture.
20) Man who owns fish is the ghost. Go back home. Find other children weeping. Cat + kittens are gone. The ghost or Joey. Follow footprints to Sunfish Cove. Cats are adrift in a big basket. Rescued. Joey denies it. Brags he’ll get biggest fish. Judging is the next day. Children on way home with cats, attacked by Joey’s dog.
21) Zip arrives + chases bad dog off. Next day everybody gathers at T.P. for judging of fish. Just as Mr. H is about to say that Tinker’s fish is winner, in comes Joey – biggest of all!
22) Fish has band on tail. Pete accuses Joey of following him to B.B. island + taking fish in pen. Denies it. What does band say. It says R. T. Roy Tinker? Yes. He admits he kept fish in pen. As he goes to get prize Pam cries out. His back is same as man’s in picture. Tinker admits he’s the ghost. Had lived in basement when place was vacant. Had secreted fishing bait in fireplace. Forgot where. Was trying to get it. Mr. H + Tinker patent bait for catching big fish. Tinker works for Mr. H promises to take children on big picnic on B.B. island.

Over 11 Million Copies Sold!

This is swell! We’re very excited to announce that we’ve just sold our 10,000th unit of The Happy Hollisters reissues! That may sound like a lot of books, but did you know that the original hard covers sold over 11,000,000 copies? In the Happy Hollisters’ “Buried Treasures” Archive, we found these very keen, very detailed sales reports. The first one shows how many copies of each volume were sold in bookstores between 1953 and 1972 — nearly 2,000,000 books in the U.S. alone! The second report shows that an additional 9,000,000 books were sold through The Happy Hollister Book Club operated by Doubleday & Company. Club sales continued for another two years after this report was prepared, adding another 500,000+ to the total.

Net Trade Sales of the Happy Hollisters Series Through 4/30/72

Net Trade Sales of the Happy Hollisters Series
Through 4/30/72

Book Club Sales -- Single Copy Units 1963 - 1971

Book Club Sales — Single Copy Units
1963 – 1971

It’s interesting to note that, for the most part, the earlier books sold more than the later books, as would be expected. But there were occasional up-ticks for certain volumes. We’re not sure exactly what caused the fluctuations, but it may be the timing – perhaps certain volumes hit the bookstore shelves just before the holidays. Or perhaps certain cover illustrations by Helen S. Hamilton appealed to more readers for some reason. For example, books with horses on the cover tended to do better than the preceding volume!

Our reissue project has a long way to go to catch up to the original sales numbers, but we’re delighted with the support and encouragement we’ve had so far. When we reissued the first volume in 2010, we weren’t sure how it would be received. Crickets, were we surprised by the outpouring of excitement that it generated! We’re very happy to report that kids today are still enjoying the books and are anxiously awaiting more volumes. Thanks to enthusiastic support from fans old and new, we have been able to reissue volumes 1-12 and 21 in paperback and eBook, and we plan to continue reissuing the remaining 20 volumes as quickly as we can.

Taylor's Letter

Recent fan mail from Taylor, a 2nd-grader from Las Vegas

Taylors Drawing