Wednesday, September 25, 2013

1973-The N American oil crisis, and the 1st McGurk book! Oh, and a couple years before i was born

    Without further ado, i will start talking about a most exciting book-the opener for the series!

     The first book, "The Nose Knows" is where everything is set up. Best friends Joey Rockaway and Jack McGurk befriend a new kid moving into town, Willie Sandowsky. Willie is a champion sniffer, and he is using his talent to try to find a catcher's mitt his mom says she packed by sniffing all the empty boxes his family used to cart their things in when moving to their new house.

    McGurk is so impressed with Willie's rare talent that he decides to open up a detective agency! With his ability to think logically, Joey's book smarts, and Willie's ability to sniff out the clues, he thinks there's no case they can't crack.

    The first one will be the missing mitt. You see, Willie's wealthy aunt bought that mitt for him. As Willie explains, she is VERY generous with spending money on her nephew's hobbies and interests, but if he loses one of her gifts, that's it! The flow of presents will instantly dry up! (A bit mean, i say!) McGurk (seeing a bright shiny $10 bill to be used for detective things (like a fingerprint kit) in the balance) pulls all the stops on hunting the clues.

     When Willie smells the box the mitt was packed in (proving his mom did indeed pack it), the trio logically think about who had opportunity to pinch it. Willie remembers a "welcome wagon" of neighbours who greeted the Sandowskys including a few kids who may be the nabbers. As they interview the kids (with Willie smelling their hands), one of them, a girl named Wanda Grieg asks to join the organization. McGurk agrees once she shows them how they can get away with smelling all the ladies' hands who were a part of the welcome wagon (this includes a hilarious scene of the three boys dressing as the Three Musketeers and going around bowing at the ladies, with Willie kissing their hands (and smelling them too))

     After a time, it is shown that a neighbourhood dog was along too, and he is the one who took the glove. A funny chase thru the area, (with McGurk in his best suit to "make the arrest") later, and the quartet get the glove back!

     Ok, my thoughts-this is quite an interesting book! Even now, at 37, i enjoyed reading it again. And as a child, i was absolutely drawn in to McGurk's world. This may be a bit dated in places (the kids are actually RESPECTFUL to adults, there are no double entrendres, or anything indecent in the books), but still quite a fun read. Note: this first book was only sold in the UK and Canada i believe, so it is hard to find. But perhaps not-ebay and amazon let you find almost ANYTHING (hey, there may be some redeeming qualities of 21st century living!)

The McGurk Organization

     Hey guys, sorry for the long absence. Also, i guess i'm just too ADD to start one series, finish it, and go to the next. So, i'm going to embrace my inner child, and dash off to another series! This one is the McGurk mysteries by E W Hildick. He started the series of books around 1973, and ended around 1996 with about 2 dozen titles. Unlike the New Bobbsey Twins which started off with real crimes and continued to kiddie crimes (stealing cookies, etc), Hildick did the opposite. But even the solving of the kiddie crimes were interesting enough to keep the series always fresh. That and the fact that he only wrote roughly a book a year (*an ETERNITY for a kid) made his newest volume always welcome.

     Well, a bit of a character and plot overview. Red-head, 10 year old (at series beginning-over the 23 years of the series, the kids aged about 2 years-meaning that every 10 years in the real world was about a year in the series) McGurk is a natural leader and despite being bossy, an all around good guy. His best friend, Joey Rockaway (the "author" of the series) grew up together. When book 1 "The Nose Knows" opens, Willie Sandowsky moves in to the neighbourhood. Turns out, Willie has an extra sensitive sense of smell, and it is because of this, McGurk decides that he can finally open up a detective business like he always wanted! The trio are joined by Wanda Grieg, a tomboy and tree-climber to round out the organisation.

     A few books later, they are joined by Gerald "Brains" Bellingham-a kid scientist who is a genius with gadjets. By the 1980s (about halfway thru the series), Mari Yoshimura, a youngster originally from Japan joins the group. She is a "voice expert". In addition to being able to imitate any voice she hears, she can tell if a person is lying, and usually tell where they are from, and other characteristics about them without even seeing them!

    Towards the end of the series, the stories go from realistic to pure fantasy with Brains inventing walkie-talkie time machines that let our heroes go back to the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages. To me this is about when the series "jumped the shark". I mean even though this was the early 90s, and i was already a teenager, i think it's the radical change of plot that threw me rather than just outgrowing the series.  And i don't think i was the only one since the series ended soon after (or possibly Mr Hildick was just getting tired-he died that many years later)

   Another strange thing is that in the US, the first book "The Nose Knows" was not sold. I don't know why. In fact, i have paperback copies of some of the books in the US editions, and the second book is labelled #1, the third #2 and so on. Interesting!

    Another thing which i find funny is that Hildick's characters are young tweens living in typical US suburbia, and yet Mr Hildick is British! Hehe-although to my eye at least, he does a good job of painting American life for youngsters back then (but what do i know-i was in Canada!)

     Well, i will probably write my synopsis and thoughts on the first book soon, so please stay tuned!