||February 3, 2007
Haileybury’s Leslie McFarlane
Archives Given to McMaster
While visiting my two daughters in Hamilton at Christmas I
noticed the news report of an exciting acquisition for the McMaster University
Archives. It was a huge and valuable collection of material on Leslie McFarlane
(1902-1977), the highly prolific writer of books, films, and television material
who is originally from Haileybury. The Northern Ontario connection got my
|Some of the hundreds of items in the McMaster University Library
McFarlane is best known now for work he was not
particularly proud of when he wrote it. Twenty one of fifty one Hardy Boys
books in the 1930s and 40s that sold millions of copies in 50 languages and
taught millions of young people to read. He also wrote other adolescent pulp
fiction books on contract while trying to survive as a writer from 1926 to
1947. He had no rights to the books but the publisher got rich.
I checked in the North Bay Library and there are dozens of
the books there – many updated by the company to make them more current and
politically correct. His contract required that he write in a pseudonym
(Franklin W. Dixon) and to not reveal he was the author. In 1976 in his
excellent biography Ghost of the Hardy Boys he admitted that he wrote the
When I decided to write about Leslie I remembered reading
his books and my kids reading his books. I was watching Corner Gas recently and
saw Davis with a Hardy Boys book. Bill Bryson in his very funny new book The
Thunderbolt Kid tells about reading the Hardy Boys books. The computer shows
that Haileybury is proud of McFarlane, has a display in their fine museum, and a
street named after him. Bruce W. Taylor has written a book about him called The
Hardy Boys’ Haileybury Connection that is on sale at the museum.
Leslie, who was born in 1902 came to Haileybury when his
dad became a school principal there in 1910. The family lived in several
different homes over the years. Leslie won a first prize for his writing in
1915 and won several others before he became a newspaper reporter for the Cobalt
Nugget (Now the North Bay Nugget) and other papers including those in Sudbury
and Welland. As a newspaper reporter in the U.S. he saw an ad for a pulp
fiction business producing children’s books and wrote several books for one
series before the Hardy Boys where he set the standard.
He married and had three children and moved back to
Haileybury where he wrote more Hardy Boys books plus some books under his own
name. He also wrote dozens of articles for publications like Maclean’s where he
became an editor. In 1929 he moved to Whitby where he lived until his death in
1977. There is a school named after him there.
Later in his career he became a producer/director for the
National Film Board and made some 50 films including one nominated for an
Academy Award. He also had a job overseeing scripts for the CBC and wrote some
70 scripts himself for radio and television. He met Lorne Green there and wrote
for Bonanza briefly.
The Hardy Boys appeared in several T.V. series – two in the
1950s, and another in 1977. A 1995 series had the brothers no longer as
teenagers – it lasted only 13 episodes.
In 2004 Marilyn Greenwald wrote a book called The Secret of
the Hardy Boys: Leslie McFarlane and the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Most of the
book is about “Les” McFarlane including his life in Haileybury – much of it from
his many diaries which are now at McMaster.
McFarlane’s author daughter Norah who with her brother
donated the material to McMaster is writing a book on her father. Brother Brian
spent 25 years on Hockey Night in Canada as a commentator and has written some
65 books primarily on hockey. Quite a remarkable family.
It is fitting that now on the 30th anniversary
of his death Leslie and his family are getting the recognition they deserve.
For more information check online where there are dozens of references. The
Haileybury Museum is open Monday-Friday from 9-4 and from June 1 to Labour Day
9-6 – seven days a week.
By the way, I called Chris Oslund, the curator of the
Museum in Haileybury to congratulate him on becoming the new President of the
Ontario Historical Society and found he has moved on to be the Clerk of the Town
of Haileybury. Congratulations Chris.
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