Monday, August 22, 2022

Walter R. Brooks, Freddy and the Perilous Adventure (1942)

This was one of the handful of Freddy books that were rereleased in, I guess, the eighties, which my dad got in paperback. I learned the word “perilous” from this very book, I will tell you that.

So Alice and Emma are looking to have an adventure, so Freddy suggests that they should hitch a ride in this hot-air balloon that goes up every year in Centerboro as a traditional thing. But then he himself gets roped into it as well, to his dismay. So he and Alice and Emma, along with the Webbs, go up, and the balloon malfunctions so it won't go down, and they are left adrift, and what's more, now everyone thinks Freddy stole the balloon, have to wonder. You look at the context and you think, what? How does that make sense? Why would he want to steal a balloon? This is gibberish. Well, the balloon's owner, Golcher, who habitually refers to himself in the third person, knows:

Take it from Golcher; Golcher knows. Balloons are queer; you get attached to 'em after a while. Like some folk get attached to horses or dogs. Now the way I figure it, this pig, he get attached to this balloon, and he can't bring himself to give it up.


(Also, I keep noticing this and forgetting to make a note of it, so here it is: the Webbs do the super-old-fashioned thing of him calling her “mother” and her, more rarely, calling him “father.” I'm not saying there's really anything inherently creepy in this, but BOY OH BOY does it always come off that way to a modern sensibility.)

So anyway, Freddy needs to prove his innocence, which he does with the assistance of Mr. Boomschmidt and his circus (in his first two appearances Mr. Boomschmidt had a business partner, Mr. Hackenmeyer, but he seems to have been phased out). He has a climactic wrestling match about with Golcher. It is fun.

One weird thing I should mention: in To and Again, one of the generic minor villains was a man with a black mustache who had a dirty-faced son. They were unnamed. When I read it, I thought, oh, hey, don't these guys reappear later in the series? But then I thought...can they REALLY? They're so completely generic. But, well, here they are, in an extremely brief appearance. I don't think anyone would make the connection if Brooks didn't specifically identify them as people the animals met on their way to Florida. They don't do anything or make any impression, but I'm pretty sure they'll be seen again! Why, Brooks?!?

The other important thing in this book is the first appearance of Alice's and Emma's Uncle Wesley, who'd been mentioned a bunch of times in previous books (Brooks makes a small mistake in Freddy the Detective--he says that Wesley was on Jinx's jury, which he couldn't have been at the time). The story is, he was really pompous and domineering to this nieces (this is fairly psychologically fucked up--”They had been told so often, and had it so drilled into them, that they were poor weak timid creatures, that they still kept on acting that way”), so some other animals paid an eagle to take him and drop him off a safe distance away. But now, they have drifted by balloon to his dwelling, and here he is, only now the scales fall fairly quickly from Alice's and Emma's eyes, and they realize that their much-idolized uncle is just a big ol' blowhard. So they assert themselves, in an edifying way, and finally Wesley has a moment of possibly-unpsychologically-realistic self-awareness and realizes that he's a coward and is okay with being guided by his nieces. So that's nice, although if I recall correctly, he's up to trouble again in future books.

This actually might be my favorite of the series so far. The whole business of drifting away in a balloon is cool, and, you know, our hero framed for a crime and having to prove his innocence—that always brings 'em in. Good stuff!


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