Andrew E. Svenson aka Jerry West (1910-1975)
NEW: SEE BOTTOM OF PAGE FOR 1975 RADIO INTERVIEW!
The Happy Hollisters by Jerry West was actually written by Andrew E. Svenson, a prolific yet somewhat anonymous, writer of books for children. Jerry West was the pen name assigned to Svenson when he started writing The Happy Hollisters for the Stratemeyer Syndicate. The Stratemeyer Syndicate was a book packager, well-known for its development of children’s book series including Tom Swift, The Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew. Many of these series were intended to have long publishing lives, and were written by multiple authors using the same pseudonym. The Happy Hollisters, however, were all written by Andrew Svenson, whose identity as Jerry West was kept secret until several years after his death in 1975.
Andrew Svenson was born in Belleville, NJ, in 1910, and his interest in writing started early. He was editor of his high school newspaper and yearbook at Barringer High School in Newark, and then went on to study Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh. After his graduation in 1932, he worked as a reporter and editor for the Newark Star Eagle and the Newark Evening News. He also taught creative writing courses at Rutgers University and Upsala College.
Andrew Svenson was encouraged by his friend Howard Garis (author of Uncle Wiggily) to try his hand at juvenile fiction. He joined the Stratemeyer Syndicate as a writer in 1948, where he contributed to established series as Franklin W. Dixon (The Hardy Boys) and as Laura Lee Hope (The Bobbsey Twins). The first volume in his own original series, The Happy Hollisters, was published in 1953 by Doubleday & Company, and he was made a partner in the Stratemeyer Syndicate in 1961. As he wrote and developed 33 titles in The Happy Hollisters, he was also creating additional series for children under other pen names: Bret King by Dan Scott and The Tollivers by Alan Stone, one of the first series written about and for African-American children.
Under various pseudonyms, Andrew Svenson wrote more than 70 adventure and mystery novels for children, which were published in 17 languages and sold millions of copies. The Hollister family was modeled on his own family and he often used actual Svenson family events and travels as the foundation for The Happy Hollisters books. He also kept copious newspaper clippings for story ideas, and interviewed hundreds of school children and teachers for additional suggestions. These ideas were then worked into his storylines, adding an educational element that was appreciated by parents and educators alike. The children loved the stories for their elements of danger and excitement geared to their comprehension level.
After his death in 1975, the Stratemeyer Syndicate assigned all rights to The Happy Hollisters to his widow, Marian Svenson; they subsequently became the property of The Hollister Family Properties Trust. The current publication was initiated by Andrew E. Svenson III, grandson of the author, on behalf of The Hollister Family Properties Trust.
Hear the voice of Andrew Svenson (aka Jerry West) from a January 24, 1975 radio interview on KMOX radio (St Louis). The interview is about 25 minutes in length (commercials have been omitted):