Life after Crimebusters
The world is always full of surprises. First I had to learn that there
was no Santa Clause, then somebody told me Alfred Hitchcock did not
invent The Three Investigators. In the 1980ies I had to accept that
my fictional childhood buddies had become 17year-old high-school investigators
who drove cars and had girlfriends.
In 1993 I found out that the new Three Investigators books were
even written by a German writer, since the Americans did not want to go
on with the series anymore. I did not like the idea, but I could not resist
to read them anyway and thus I bought »Deadly Showdown« by
Brigitte Johanna Henkel-Waidhofer.
Made in Germany
Brigitte Johanna Henkel-Waidhofer, better known as BJHW, was the first
German Three Investigators writer.
She tried to combine the concept of Crimebusters with her own
interpretation of the three boys and their fictional world, or better their
non-fictional world. »I prefer those [books] that are
based on the real world. I think the real world is so full of excitement
that you don’t need any ghosts, spooks and creepy things to create suspense«,
said the 43-year-old writer. She has visited nearly all the places she
describes and she used to work with maps, when writing her stories.
»Her books are tour guides rather than detective stories«,
some of the German fans criticise her works. »Especially when the
boys go for a trip to Europe, BJHW clutters the stories with all the sights
they visit in Italy, England, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands.
Nevertheless it was BJHW who brought Worthington back to life. She also
stopped the habit of showing Jupiter as a ridiculous freak. Thus he looses
some weight and goes steady with beautiful Lys de Kerk, who had her first
appearance in Fatal Error.
In BJHW’s stories Bob is less of a lady-killer than he had been in
Crimebusters. The only person who undergoes only minor changes,
is Pete (He actually never really was an object to change anyway), who
remains the enthusiastic sportsman and the loyal friend he has always been.
Unfortunately neither Hans and Konrad, nor Chief Reynolds reappear in
her stories. Nevertheless the boys found a reliable friend in Reynolds’
successor, Inspector Cotta.
The girlfriends (Kelly Madigan, Liz Zapata and Lys de Kerk) suddenly
develop a desire to solve cases on their own and even call themselves The
Apart from teenage problems, the development of the feminist movement
in Rocky Beach and impressive descriptions of various country sites, BJHW
seems to love environmental topics such as endangered forests and air-pollution.
After the Crimebusters and Mrs Henkel-Waidhofer’s efforts to
increase the educational level of the series, the time for another
change had come.
Out of the Dark
Some fans claim that it was André Marx who brought the ideal
of the old books back to life. Others think that the new authors (including
Marx) just started a new way of writing, that was far better than BJHW’s
but that could nonetheless not be compared to the classic series.
Generally the new stories are more or less a mixture of traditional
features and modern topics. Together with André Minninger, Ben Nevis
and Katharina Fischer, André Marx worked on a transition from the
Crimebusters and the BJHW area to contemporary crime fiction for
In Terror Castle Jupiter says: »We are prepared to solve
any puzzle, riddle, mystery, enigma or conundrum which may be brought to
us.« Marx brings mystery back to The Three Investigators. California
again becomes a home of spooks, haunted houses, dead pirates and creative
Finally, in »The Island of Death« (their 100th case) another
important feature of the classics is brought back to the world of the Three
Investigators: E. Skinner Norris.
André Minninger, on the other hand, likes to combine modern elements
with the traditional mystery concept. Strange mobile phones or vampire
games in the Internet are his speciality. (Actually the older fans could
not get used to the idea of The Three Investigators using a mobile phone
or other recently invented electronic devices). Minninger also has
a real aptitude for the development of interesting characters and complex
Ben Nevis likes adventures. Thus Jupe, Pete and Bob have to solve their
new cases in a space camp in the desert, a creepy castle or in a mysterious
valley in the mountains.
Until now, Katharina Fischer has only written two books. In both
stories the boys are faced with difficult riddles. Some fans do not like
her way of describing the investigators, since the boys appear rather childlike
I have already mentioned the return of E. Skinner Norris, but he is
not the only character we meet again: Kapitän Jason, Vladimir Contreras,
Miss Agawam and last but not least Albert Hitfield reappear
in some of the new stories.
No sex no drugs no alcohol (And by the
way: Pete is gay)
BJHW allowed Jupe to smoke one cigarette (he did not like it) and in
»Jupiter’s Parents« he is so much taken aback by a surprising
message that he orders a whisky-drink. That is about all as far as drugs
and alcohol are concerned.
The sexual part is also reduced as much as possible. The girlfriends
do not play an important role any longer. »As long as they
are not necessary for the plot, we avoid them«, says André
Minninger who is also engaged in the production of the famous The Three
Investigators audio plays.
Sexuality plays a part close to non-existence but at least one character
is still bothered by the ups and downs of teenage love-life: Bob Andrews.
In Minninger’s book »Message from the Graveyard«, Bob falls
in love with a girl named Brenda (who does not love him). Marx also cared
for Bob’s love-life and invented Jelena, a very intellectual Russian girl
in a wheelchair and Katharina Fischer arranges a romantic friendship between
»Records« and a girl who works in a book shop.
After Marx admitted that he might introduce Jeffrey - a homosexual
character- in his new stories, a rumour was spread that Pete might be gay.
Even though the authors generally laugh at such assumptions, Marx
once said with a smile: »The one thing I could imagine is Pete
breaking up with Kelly and falling in love with Jeffrey.«
Text by Billy Towne
Eventually it is not only the choice of controversial topics which
shows that the series does not play in the 1960ies anymore. The world of
The Three Investigators has changed but (at least to my mind) it has made
an important step back to the roots without going backwards…