Robert Arthur
Creator of The Three Investigators

The creator of the series, Robert Arthur** was a success long before The Three Investigators books sold a single copy. He was an author of many books, had lots of experience with radio and television, and had a flair for writing descriptions of people and events.

Many of the readers of the Three Investigators series identify Robert Arthur's books as the best overall in terms of quality, and I strongly agree. Perhaps because of his radio and TV background, he knew how to set up a scene to give the right atmosphere, how to move the story along, how to vary the tone between seriousness and humor, and how to leave the reader hanging at the end of a chapter. Not surprisingly, the chapter breaks in Robert Arthur's stories are written perfectly to coincide with where one would expect a commercial break to occur in a TV program. Exquisite entertainment.

One of the better things that Robert Arthur did with his books in the series was the personality development of the boys. Not only do we read about the events that lead up to the solution of the mystery, Mr. Arthur wrote the boys' characters so that you can see the distinctions between their temperaments. This is why the exchanges between Jupe and Pete (when Jupe wants to charge ahead into danger while Pete wants to pull back) are so comedic in "Terror Castle" and "Stuttering Parrot" and the other stories. In addition, Mr. Arthur gives us the boys' thoughts (particularly Jupe's) when they're working on a case instead of just narrating their outward actions. By the time the reader finishes a Robert Arthur book, they've been exposed not only to the problem-solving skills of the boys but also to the characters themselves.

Robert Arthur does not limit himself to character development of just the boys. He plays up the romance between Titus and Mathilda Jones, frequently referring to Titus giving Mathilda a hug or making some complimentary comment. And in the mystery stories, Robert Arthur usually describes the character's motivations and emotions. For instance, in "Whispering Mummy," Hamid is more than just a client with a mystery to solve; he has family honor at stake and is concerned about his family's reputation.

Robert Arthur's descriptions of the scenes that take place are also amazing. From the moment that Bob and Pete walk up to the Green mansion in "Green Ghost," the reader feels like he/she is standing beside them, and even though the reader has never physically set foot in the Green mansion, everyone probably has their own image of the layout of the house in their minds. Part of this is due no doubt to Harry Kane's phenomenal illustrations; so it's probably more proper to say that the combination of the text plus the illustrations puts the reader into the story.

Robert Arthur's stories also taught good detective skills. Whereas many mystery writers resort to contrived clues that obviously stand out and do not seem to be part of the flow of events, Robert Arthur had a knack for slipping in genuine clues. At the end of his stories, the common reaction is "I should have seen that! The clues were there all along!"

Sometimes Arthur would even call attention to clues just to see if the reader was paying attention. One of the examples of this is in "Vanishing Treasure" where near the end of the story Bob tells Jupiter that he saw a Cub Scout at the museum who had a gold tooth. Jupe (and therefore the reader) knows it's a clue (and an important one), but Jupe does not reveal the full significance of it until the end, much to the frustration of the readers, who are thinking "Now what does that gold tooth really mean?"

Probably the best element that Robert Arthur brought to the series when he created it was that the boys were of a modest background. Jupe, Bob, and Pete were not rich. They didn't have their own private airplane to travel around the country or the latest and greatest electronic gadget. What they had was a junkyard from which they could build equipment and a beat-up trailer that every serious reader of the Three Investigators would love to be in for a day.

** A special thanks goes to Elizabeth Arthur and Steven Bauer for graciously allowing me to use the photo of Robert Arthur on this page.

[Return to Authors]