Creator of The Three Investigators
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
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
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
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.