You've never heard of The Three Investigators? Well now, you are in for a treat! Let's briefly cover the basics:
The Three Investigators Mystery Series is a juvenile book series that was created by Robert Arthur, Jr. in the early 1960's. The series consists of 59 individual titles in the U.S. There were 43 titles in the original series published between 1964 and 1987, the Book of Mystery Puzzles was published in 1982, four Find-Your-Fate books were published between 1985 and 1987 and, finally, eleven titles in a spin-off series, The 3 Investigators Crimebusters, were published in 1989 and 1990. The books have been published in a variety of editions and formats over the years but the series is currently out of print in the U.S. These books had enormous worldwide appeal and appear to have been published in more languages and countries than any other U.S. juvenile series. In Germany the series still lives with dozens of new titles and several spin-off series being written by German authors, several of which have been translated into English. The popularity of The Three Investigators in Germany is unparalleled and in 2007 Studio Hamburg will begin releasing, worldwide, a series of Three Investigators movies filmed in English starring American actors.
Robert Arthur's idea was to write a series that was similar in some ways to the Hardy Boys and other popular juvenile fiction of the day but which exhibited a higher quality of writing along with some extremely unusual and perplexing mysteries. The cover art and detailed internal illustrations initially provided by talented artists Harry Kane and Ed Vebell were also strong factors which helped with the success of this series. While the mysteries are often incredible, The Three Investigators themselves are, for the most part, simply your everyday, average, resourceful, American boys which makes this series more realistic and appealing than most. The unusually lengthy introduction to the fourth book in the series, The Mystery of the Green Ghost, in many ways reads as though it originally served as the 'bible' for this series. Using excerpts from it and the other titles penned by Robert Arthur, The Three Investigators are:
Jupiter Jones, First Investigator. Head of the firm and known for his remarkable powers of observation and deduction, he is stocky, muscular, and a bit roly-poly. He has a round face which often looks stupid but which hides a sharp intelligence. Jupiter has an excellent mind, and he is rather proud of it. He has many good features, but undue modesty is not one of them.
Pete Crenshaw, Second Investigator. Tall and muscular, sturdy and courageous, he excels at athletics. Inclined to nervousness before anything happens, but a tower of strength in any kind of trouble. He is Jupiter's right-hand man when it comes to trailing suspects and other dangerous activities. Pete's father is a special-effects man who works at one of the movie studios in Hollywood.
Bob Andrews, Records and Research. Slight of build, small but wiry. Studious in nature, he is something of a scholarly type with an adventurous spirit. He has great nerve and the courage of a lion. Adept at research, he works part-time at the local library which enables him to hunt up information needed for their investigations. Bob's father is a feature writer for a big newspaper in Los Angeles.
The three boys make an excellent team. Having formed the firm of The Three Investigators, they use their spare time to solve any riddles, enigmas and mysteries that come their way. Their motto is "We Investigate Anything". They live in Rocky Beach, California, a small municipality on the shore of the Pacific Ocean a few miles from Hollywood. Pete and Bob live with their parents. Jupiter lives with his uncle, Titus Jones, and aunt, Mathilda Jones, who own and operate The Jones Salvage Yard, a fabulous junkyard where one can find almost anything.
Headquarters for The Three Investigators is a damaged 30-foot mobile home trailer within the salvage yard which has been cleverly hidden from view by stacks of junk which surround it. It is accessible only by several secret passages and hidden entrances including their favorite, Tunnel Two. Headquarters contains a small laboratory, a dark room, and an office with a desk, typewriter, telephone, tape recorder and reference books. All of their equipment was rebuilt from junk that came into the salvage yard.
For travelling long distances, the boys have the use of a gold-plated Rolls Royce, complete with chauffeur. Jupiter won the use of this auto, for thirty days, in a contest. (A grateful client from the seventh book in the series, The Mystery of the Fiery Eye, indefinitely extended the time that they could make use of the Rolls.) For local travel, the boys ride their bicycles or have one of the salvage yard helpers, Hans or Konrad, drive them in one of the trucks.
Adding to this quasi-realism was the real-life movie director, Alfred Hitchcock, who appeared in the original texts of the first thirty titles. His character provided the introductory and closing remarks in each book and, acting as a mentor, he was occasionally called upon by The Three Investigators during the course of solving a mystery. The real Alfred Hitchcock had little to do with the creation of these books. He was simply paid a handsome percentage for the use of his name and character. This provided brand-name recognition and helped boost sales of the books. Indeed, the original name of this series was "The Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Series". All of his dialogue was written by the author of each book. Curiously, Mr. Hitchcock did reserve the right of approval when it came to the cover art on each book - even when his image didn't appear there! Click HERE for an example.
In 1967/1968 with his health in decline, Robert Arthur sought out Dennis Lynds to help continue writing Three Investigators books. Working first with editor Walter Retan on #10 Mystery of the Moaning Cave and later with Eugenia Fanelli, Dennis Lynds wrote under the pseudonym of William Arden. Robert Arthur died on May 2, 1969 and his final Three Investigators book, #11 The Mystery of the Talking Skull, was published later that year. This period also marked the transition of editorship of the series from Walter Retan to Eugenia Fanelli who remained at the helm until her retirement in 1990.
In addition to Dennis Lynds, Kin Platt writing as Nick West and Mary Carey writing as M.V. Carey were hired in the early 1970's to keep up with the two book per year pace set by Arthur. In 1971, long-time T3I artist Harry Kane quit the series citing low pay. Artist Ed Vebell briefly returned in 1972/73 but quickly turned the reins over to Jack Hearne who remained with the series until 1978. The early 1970's also marked the appearance of the first paperback editions of Three Investigators books by Scholastic and by Windward Books.
1978 was a year of vast change. This was the last year that the expensive Hardbound Trade Edition was published and the last year that internal illustrations would be created. Artist Jack Hearne worked on his final T3I book, #27 The Mystery of the Magic Circle, and artist Herb Mott worked on his one and only Three Investigators book, #28 The Mystery of the Deadly Double. Random House published twelve of the earliest titles in a new paperback edition that featured unusual cover art by Stephen Marchesi and which kept the original internal illustrations. Harry Kane put in a surprise appearance revising his cover of The Mystery of the Moaning Cave for Scholastic.
In 1979 a new paperback design was implented by Random House. Robert Adragna was hired as the cover artist (no more internal illustrations) and, along with painting cover art for the new titles being written, he gradually painted all new covers for the first 28 books in the series. He remained until the last book in the original series was published in 1987.
When Alfred Hitchcock died in 1980, Random House chose to replace him with the fictitious mystery writer Hector Sebastian and in 1981 the series became known as "The Three Investigators Mystery Series". Things just didn't seem the same without old Alfred and the changes in the plots and in the characters were noticeably different to regular readers of the series. In 1982 Random House issued a book of mystery puzzles featuring The Three Investigators. It appears to have bombed. In 1983 Marc Brandel joined the fold as a Three Investigators author. In 1984 and 1985, Random House very slightly revised the texts of the first 30 titles. In this new Revised Edition, Alfred Hitchcock was replaced by the fictitious movie director Reginald Clarke in the first book and by Hector Sebastian in books #2 - #30. This may have been the straw that broke the camel's back for the series. Between 1985 and 1987 The Three Investigators appeared in four books in the Find-Your-Fate series. In 1987 the last title in the original series, #43 The Mystery of the Cranky Collector, was published. M.V. Carey was working on #44 The Mystery of the Ghost Train at this time but it was never published. Learn more HERE.
In 1989 Jenny Fanelli and Random House attempted to revive and update The Three Investigators in the spin-off Crimebusters series which was aimed at a young adult audience. The Three Investigators are several years older, they drive cars and have girlfriends. The books were poorly marketed and didn't really click with fans of the original series. Eleven titles were issued in a two year period. Two additional stories were written but never published in the U.S.: #12 "Brain Wash" by Peter Lerangis and #13 "High Strung" by Gayle Lynds. The series editor, Jenny Fanelli, retired at this time and the plug was pulled on the series. Shortly thereafter in 1991 and 1992, a dozen titles from the original series were issued in a confusing sequence by Bullseye Knopf. The books were of a high quality with new cover art but they failed to reignite interest in the series.
Between 1998 and 2000, in an effort to keep their hold on the series, Random House reissued the first eleven titles in the series. Lackluster sales didn't warrant an issue of additional titles and all rights to the ten Robert Arthur titles reverted to his heirs. At about this same time, home computers were becoming more affordable and use of the Internet was quickly rising. Web sites and forums devoted to The Three Investigators started appearing. People researching books and other things from their childhood were - and still are - rediscovering The Three Investigators on-line.
Renewed interest and enthusiasm for the series encouraged Robert Arthur's heirs to once again consider the possibility of a movie - Hollywood had always been interested in The Three Investigators, it's just that no one there was genuinely interested in staying true to Robert Arthur's vision and the characterizations of The Three Investigators, "people won't go see a movie like that today". Fortunately, thanks in large part to the overwhelming popularity of The Three Investigators in Germany, Studio Hamburg has purchased the film rights to the series and has agreed to remain faithful to the spirit in which the series was created. Principal location filming for the first movie of a planned trilogy, The Secret of Skeleton Island, wrapped up in South Africa in May, 2006. This first movie is expected to be in theaters in the Fall of 2007.
The future of The Three Investigators looks bright! This certainly isn't the end of the story . . .