The Hardy Boys are two brothers who star in a series of fictional books of the same name. Frank Hardy is 18 years old and dark-haired, while Joe Hardy is a blond and blue-eyed 17 year old. They are the sons of Fenton Hardy, a famous detective who once worked for the NYPD. They live in Bayport, New York.
Frank and Joe Hardy are both amateur detectives who want to follow in their father's footsteps. They live at home with their father, their mother Laura Hardy, and a spinster aunt, Aunt Gertrude. They are also occasionally aided in their crime-solving adventures by their friends, Chez Morton and Tony Prito.
The Hardy Boys series was created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the same organization behind other teen adventure novels such as Nancy Drew, the Bobsey Twins, and the Rover Boys. All the books in the series are credited to Franklin W. Dixon, a name invented by the syndicate. While Edward Stratemeyer conceived the first plot outlines, ghostwriters were employed to write the actual books. Leslie McFarlane was one of the first writers, authoring books #1-16 and #22-24. His books are widely regarded as some of the best in the Hardy Boys universe.
The Hardy Boys franchise was originated in 1927 and initially published by Grosset and Dunlap. As with most other books created by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, the earlier volumes of The Hardy Boys underwent a systematic revision from 1959-1973. The syndicate reasoned that they wanted to streamline the stories by updating police methods used in the books and eliminating instances of racial stereotyping. This move angered not a few fans, who complained that the new versions of the early stories had lost much of the Hardy Boys' original appeal.
In 1979, Grosset and Dunlap lost the publishing rights to all future Hardy Boys books to Simon and Schuster. Grosset and Dunlap, however, retained the rights to publish volumes 1-58 in hardcover format. They subsequently acquired the rights to publish volumes 59-85 under the same format in 2005. The Hardy Boys series ended with book #190 in the same year.
Simon and Schuster tried, with moderate success, to "modernize" the series by creating various spin-offs. The first of these was the Casefiles series, which was a bit of a departure from the more wholesome world of the original volumes. Here, the boys are confronted with death when long-time supporting character Iola Morton (Joe Hardy's girlfriend) is killed by a car bomb in the first volume), use firearms, and collaborate with shady cloak-and-dagger crime-fighting organizations.
There was also the Clues Brothers series, which was aimed at a much younger audience, and the still current Undercover Brothers, which is written in a first person context. Other books involved special collaborations with Nancy Drew and Tom Swift. There were also two television series about the boys produced in 1977 and 1995.