Here is a little literary puzzle for our devoted readers. A century ago, the book trade was inundated with what today’s marketers would call “high-concept” boys’ adventure books. Without resorting to a search engine, can you tell which of the titles in the list that follows were actually published and which ones were made up by Dr. Boli this morning? (A big hint: Dr. Boli made up three of them.) The answer will appear in this space tomorrow.

The Motor Boys Overland
The Brighton Boys in the Trenches
Motor Boat Boys’ River Chase
The Go Ahead Boys and the Mysterious Old House
The Iron Boys on the Ore Boats
The Ranger Boys Outwit the Timber Thieves
The Unicycle Boys’ Great Mustard-Gas Adventure
The Radio Boys on Secret Service Duty
The Bungalow Boys Along the Yukon
The All Right Boys at the World’s Fair
The River Motor Boat Boys on the St. Lawrence
The Auto Boys’ Quest
The Railroad Boys in the Outback
The Boy Aviators’ Flight for a Fortune


  1. Clay Potts says:

    I am slightly younger than Dr. Boli, but, I’ll give it the Old Boy Scout try: Dr Boli’s = “The Iron Boys on the Ore Boats”, “The Unicycle Boys’ Great Mustard-Gas Adventure” & “The Brighton Boys in the Trenches”. My first guess sounds like a Boliism, and I don’t think mustard-gas and trenches would have been common vernacular prior to WWI (assuming a century ago means 1913?). Can’t wait to tune in tomorrow for the correct answers!

  2. Dr. Boli says:

    To be clearer, Dr. Boli meant “a century ago” in the vague sense of the period from just before 1900 to just after 1920. Fortunately for the boys of the era, the books of this sort did not all appear in exactly the same year.

  3. Jared says:

    Agreed on The Unicycle Boys. One certainly hopes that no such gang of ruffians ever graced the pages of a novel. But my other guesses would be “The All Right Boys at the World’s Fair” (what gang of youthful adventurers consider themselves merely all right?) and “The Go Ahead Boys and the Mysterious Old House.”

  4. Dies Irae says:

    I am going to name as imposter titles:
    –The Unicycle Boys’ Great Mustard-Gas Adventure (sounds too, if any WWI vets will excuse the phrase, over the top)
    –The Auto Boys’ Quest (I am not a great linguist, but I believe that term for the horseless carriage would not have been in Edwardian usage)
    –Motor Boat Boys’ River Chase (are you telling me a book in this genre would start a title without the word “The”? Exception: titles that start with “Tarzan”)

  5. Ann Tiquity says:

    I lost while it was still in Beta.

  6. Agreed that the Unicycle Boys might well be real, but their mustard-gas adventure is likely made up. I’m sure that books of the era were hyperpatriotic enough to include glorious tales of WW1 derring-do and going over the top (Brighton Boys in the Trenches is likely a real title), but even I can’t see how one would have a glorious mustard gas adventure.

    The River Motor Boat Boys on the St. Lawrence is a bit too specific to be real. River boys, sure. Motor boys, definitely. Motor boat boys, why not. But river motor boat boys? As distinguished from the Oceanic or Lakeshore motor boat boys series they were spun off from? That’s a bit much.

    However, I have no clear third candidate to suggest. The good doctor stumps me again.

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