By John Blaine
Rick Brant Web Page
There were many series of "boys books" (as YA novels were called back then) as people tried to find the next Hardy Boys or Tom Swift. I was a fan of both, first starting with Tom Swift, Jr. and moving on to Frank and Joe Hardy. I read extensively in them, but my favorite book of this genre was in neither series. It was a book I inherited from my cousin, who outgrew it: The Whispering Box Mystery, featuring Rick Brant.
The Rick Brant series leaned toward a hard science version of Tom Swift, Jr., with elements of the Hardy Boys. Rick Brant was the son of scientist Hartson Brant, who ran his own personal research facility on Spindrift Island, just off the New Jersey coast. Brant went off on various adventures, sometimes on the island and other times in exotic places around the world.* He had the usual entourage of friends and family that was typical of the genre.
The Whispering Box Mystery was truly top-notch. The concept was that a device was created that used ultrasound to paralyze. Brant and friends have to stop a gang of crooks who use it to steal government secrets. The concept of the whispering box really captured my imagination.
The author, as was standard for this type of book, was a house name, though all the books were written by Harold L. Goodwin.** Goodwin was a scientist himself and eventually became a high-ranking official for NASA. He wanted to keep the stories as scientifically accurate as possible. While there were some elements that pushed the envelope on what was known,*** the stories tried to avoid the more fantastic elements of SF**** and tried to accurately describe the work in the lab.
There were 23 books in the series over twenty years. A 24th was never published until it came out in a limited edition about 20 years ago. And by the time I discovered The Whispering Box Mystery, the series was beginning to wind down, and was being pushed off the shelves by the more popular Hardy Boys/Tom Swift books. I wish I could have found more.
*There are certain similarities between the series and the TV show Jonny Quest. While Hanna-Barbara is well-known for ripping off concepts for their cartoons from other sources, the similarities are not conclusive enough to prove they used it as an inspiration.
**In the first three, he shared writing chores with Peter J. Harkins.
***Like the Whispering Box.
****Compared to Tom Swift, Jr., who was using antigravity and meeting aliens.