When I hear the phrase "boy mastermind," I think more Artemis Fowl than I do Frank and Joe Hardy or Encyclopedia Brown. That's because I had never heard of Dan Taylor before.
The cover of Boy Detective #1 (May-June 1951) shows young Dan on his bicycle leading two motorcycle policemen and chasing a ne'er-do-well who is leaning out of a getaway car with a tommy gun. Each of the policemen have a gun drawn, but Dan, on his bicycle, has a gun blazing in each hand! Really? That's the boy mastermind? Seems like a pretty stupid thing to do to me, but maybe the meaning of the word has changed over the past sixty-plus years.
Although Dan Taylor is sixteen years old, he's drawn to look like twelve or thirteen, with boyish good looks and blond hair sweeping down his forehead. Three years earlier, public enemy number 1 Lefty Riccardi had killed Dan's father and another policeman shortly before Riccardi himself died in a fiery car crash. Jim Taylor's boss and best friend, Captain Ted Elliot, Chief of Detectives at the 200th Precinct, adopts the orphan Dan. Dan becomes the mascot of the homicide bureau and spends all his time study criminology at the station, becoming...you guessed it! A boy mastermind!
(Elliott calls Dan's father "Jim Tyler," which shows us that proofreading was a lost art in 1951.)
Anyway, one day at the precinct, Dan overhears wealthy broker John Billings demanding action over a stolen $50,000. Dan is startled because he recognizes Billings as Lefty Riccardi, the supposedly dead man who had killed Dan's father. The fact that none of the professional policemen at the station recognized Riccadi show us what a boy mastermind Dan is. Riccardi has had his face and fingerprints surgically altered to become the wealthy broker, under which guise he continues his criminal career. Dan investigates, gets caught, and is put in danger, and thus begins his career as a boy detective.
Boy Detective #1 follows Dan through three adventures. Also in the line-up is a story featuring brothers Rusty and Dusty Ames, two lads from a loving, good family who capture a Fagin-like character, and one very embarrassing, supposedly humorous two-pager featuring a Chinese caricature called Foo Shampoo.
Times were much simpler then. Not better, just simpler.
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