Illustration by Charles Geer.
When I was about 10 I joined the Cub Scouts, and continued into the Boy Scouts for a few years. With that, or perhaps through the Scouts but paid separately, I got a subscription to BOY’S LIFE magazine, the official Scout publication. In addition to all kinds of information, comics and factual articles, there was at least one short fiction story in each issue. A few were series, and one of my favorites of those was Brinley’s stories about the Mad Scientists’ Club of Mammoth Falls. Lead by tinkerer and scientific genius Henry Mulligan, it was a group of boys who worked together on scientific projects, plotted mischievous pranks on their home town, helped police with investigations, and tangled with a rival gang of boys who were always trying to ruin their plans. Long ago I found the first collection of Mad Scientists’ Club stories reprinted in book form. Recently I found this second collection at a book sale, and enjoyed reading the five adventures within, none of which I remembered.
The era of the stories is very 1950s, with small-town America brought to life, and the boys seem to have an endless supply of equipment, hang-outs and energy, not to mention permission to range far and wide in their territory at all hours with little or no parental supervision. The town’s police force sees more of them than their parents, seems like. The adventures are funny and fun, not to mention full of clever ideas. In one, they cash in on the then-current flying saucer reports flooding the news by creating a very believable one to panic the town, and amazingly do not get into serious trouble even when the police and the army are called in to investigate. In another, they buy a war trophy miniature German submarine and rebuild it to working condition, only to have the sub caught in their cavern hideout by a rock fall.
The hardcover edition of the book I have was reprinted by Purple House Press of Texas in 2002, and looking online, I see they’re still in business and have reprinted a number of books for children I like. It’s the second time recently I’ve found a small press doing this, and I think it’s a terrific trend. They also printed two further books about the Mad Scientists, novels rather than short stories, and also books I haven’t read or even known about. I’ve bought Kindle editions and will read them soon. Though a bit dated, I think these stories will still appeal to kids of today, but probably boys more than girls, as there’s hardly a girl in sight in them.