Judy Bolton Days

Judy Bolton Days
First annual in 1991!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Biff Brewster #1:

A great beginning for a terrific boys adventure series!

This is the first book in the Biff Brewster series and it was written by Walter Gibson, a pulp writer famous for The Shadow series. It is believed that he actually rewrote this story from an original manuscript that G&D was not satisfied with, but the story and text bear all the hallmarks of his florid exciting style and it is very representative of his usual works. Gibson also wrote a few other books in this series, a Vicki Barr Stewardess Mystery entitled The Brass Idol Mystery, and perhaps some other series books as a ghostwriter. One that I suspect he wrote is The Ruby Ray Mystery, a Rick Brant book that seems to have Gibson's signature style all over it.

This book starts off with Biff flying down to Brazil from his home in Indiana to meet his dad for a jungle safari, a sort of 16th birthday gift for him. His dad is a field engineer for Ajax Mining Company and they will be seeking out rubber supplies in the jungle. His dad's boss, Mr. Stannart, gives Biff a letter to deliver to his dad, and Biff is told to guard it with his life. On the airplane ride down there a strange fellow tries to get too friendly with Biff, and when Biff does meet up with his dad the secret letter proves to be a warning of impending danger. The real reason for the safari is revealed to Biff; the search for a fabulous gold mine of the legendary El Dorado along a tributary of the Amazon.

All the obligatory troubles beset them. Their hotel room is ransacked. They are kidnapped and brought upriver in a boat. And it all proves out to be part of an elaborate plan to stop the safari by others who are looking for the gold mine too.  Biff meets Kamuka, an Indian boy who is his buddy in this book, and the safari finally gets under way only to be beset by more treachery and peril than even Indiana Jones ever has to deal with. Giant anaconda cobras, head-hunters, quicksand, treacherous native bearers, and every other imaginable danger of the Amazon region plague the safari as they follow jungle trails, rivers, move on, get captured, escape, and on and on.

The action literally never stops in this book and there are a lot of great escapes and a good deal of suspense. A lot of research work was put into this story and there is a great deal of interesting geography related.  The problem of the many languages spoken in the region is not skirted. It is handled well and a lot of thought was put into working it out. There is also a very good surprise twist at the end, almost a regular feature in every Biff Brewster book. Even so, I didn't expect it at all.

The Biff Brewster series was a property of Grosset & Dunlap publishers, not a Stratemeyer Syndicate property as many fans and collectors believe. Several different writers were used for the thirteen volumes in the series, and the other books that Gibson wrote are Mystery of the Mexican Treasure, Mystery of the Ambush in India, Egyptian Scarab Mystery, and Mystery of the Alpine Pass. Gibson was noted for planting clues in his books that show up in other books by him, a way for his avid fans to know that he had written books under pseudonyms. You can find many of these 'plants' in all these books.

I rate this book a 9 out of 10. It's a stellar example of what boys' adventure mysteries used to be like in the days when adventure and mystery were the focus, not high tech gadgetry and whiz-bang world-hopping. It'd be great to have books like this being written today, about real live boys who have realistic adventures  with real villains, not pseudo-human boys with silly magical powers having fantasy adventures with monsters, non-humans, and the living dead.

Will realistic books for young people ever be popular again? Or are we doomed to have to bear with books that don't use humans as heroes or villains because you just can't say anything not nice about anybody anymore without getting a finger pointed at you? The politically correct movement has gotten way out of hand when editors will not even consider books about real young people battling real human villains!