Herbert Strang, that writer of rousing books for boys, is a phantom of the ilk of Carolyn Keene, and Franklin W. Dixon.
Just in case you didn’t grow to adolescence on a steady diet of Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, Carolyn Keene and Franklin W. Dixon were pseudonyms for a team of writers hired by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. I was very disillusioned, later in my reading career, to find two of my favourite childhood “standby” authors were not, actually, two authors.
So before I begin extolling the virtues of Herbert Strang, I will undeceive you as to that character’s true identity. George Herbert Ely (1866–1958) and Charles James L’Estrange (1867–1947) were members of staff at Oxford University Press, and put their hand to the task of writing adventure stories for boys, under the nom de plume, Herbert Strang.
With that shocking revelation out of the way, I will share with you some of the newspaper reviews of the time:
“Boys who read Mr Strang’s works have not merely the advantage of pursuing enthralling and wholesome tales, but they are also absorbing sound and trustworthy information of the men and times about which they are reading.” _ Daily Telegraph.
“He has won for himself a reputation at least as high as that of Mr Henty by work far more earnest and sincere”. _ Speaker, Dec. 8, 1906
“Herbert Strang tells a story as well as Henty told it, and his style is much more finished”. _ Saturday Review, Dec 8, 1906
How does he compare to Henty? Not being a boy, I am perhaps not the best judge. However, there were no passages I felt compelled to glaze over, and I confess that Henty’s tendency to describe in detail the strategies of war are sometimes trying to me. In fairness, none of the five stories I have read of Mr Strang’s were about war, so it hardly seems a fair remark, though true.
The main characters, in line with Henty’s, are stout hearted, honourable boys of courage and daring, and I have found nothing in the stories to make a conservative, homeschooling mama flinch.
While there is historical detail to pick up in any story written during a different time period to our own, I believe Henty wrote more to the purpose of education than what I have so far sampled of Strang. Still, if you are after an out and out adventure story, with arresting language and no boring bits, Stang is worth hunting up.
Before you do a used book search, you may want to visit project Gutenberg and have a read online to see if the writing style is to your taste, but if you have a boy who is a confident reader, and has enjoyed Treasure Island, or Henty, or that style, then these books should be appreciated.
After reading several of Strang’s tales back to back, entertaining as they were, I am so ready for a girl-themed book. It might be time to dig out a copy of Pride and Prejudice, and leave the buccaneers, freebooters, shipwrecks and cannibals for another day..