I remember reading at least a dozen of the books, which had such great titles as The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot, The Secret of Phantom Lake, The Mystery of the Coughing Dragon and The Mystery of the Screaming Clock.2 In retrospect, some books in the series were a lot like high-brow Scooby-Doo, with criminals attempting to cover their tracks by deploying paranormal diversions. Jupiter Jones, with his sharp and skeptical mind, rarely fell for it. I enjoyed the heck out of these books. And I wanted my own secret base in a junkyard.
The series kicked off with The Secret of Terror Castle, written by Robert Arthur Jr. and published in 1964. Earlier this year, I bought a cheap, beat-up copy of the 1964 Random House hardcover edition. The nifty cover artwork is by Edward Vebell.
This book is not, however, part of the first printing. According to the amazingly comprehensive website, www.threeinvestigatorsbooks.com, which was created and is maintained by Seth T. Smolinske, the first printing of The Secret of Terror Castle has the following identifiers:
- No list of other volumes in the series on the back cover.
- Text error on page 47 (two lines flip-flopped).
- A stitched textblock consisting of 6 signatures.
- Uncut blue graveyard endpapers (not slit down the center at the hinges).
My copy has a list of six titles in The Three Investigators series on the back cover and and there is no text error page 47. But I didn't buy it because it's a first printing and I rarely collect books for their first-edition or first-printing status. I acquire book because I want to read them and/or they are cool. This book is just cool. And different from Random House's Hitchcock Cover paperbacks from the late 1970s and early 1980s that I grew up reading.
One of the cool things is the aforementioned "blue graveyard endpapers."3 Here's a look at a portion of them, by artist Harry Kane.
Also, this book has a cool bookplate indicating that it was once owned by Carol Downs. Given my fondness for vintage bookplates, it's what pretty much clinched this purchase.
Did you read The Three Investigators series when you were younger? If so, share your memories in the comments section. And be sure to check out Smolinske's amazing website.
1. Specifically and for the record, I have mentioned The Three Investigators in these posts:
- The Rover Boys at Big Horn Ranch (2011)
- You never know what you'll find in the "FREE" boxes (2012)
- Scholastic Fest: #17, Mystery of The Haunted Pool (2014)
3. Here are some other Papergreat posts that feature the artistry of endpapers:
- Curious artistic endpapers from the 1912 novel "Corporal Cameron"
- Dubble Bubble Quiz tucked away inside an old schoolbook
- Birds wearing clothes to help children learn to read in 1930
- Sheep featured on endpapers of Elson Junior Literature book
- 1936's "Albanian Wonder Tales": Frontispiece and endpapers
- Cool map featured on endpapers of "At Camp Kee Tov"