Get to Know Andrew Svenson (aka Jerry West), author of The Happy Hollisters!
What do William Shakespeare, Mary Poppins, and Frank Sinatra have in common? They were all favorites of author Andrew Svenson, who wrote The Happy Hollisters series under the pseudonym Jerry West. Jerry West’s name was familiar because it appeared frequently on children’s bookshelves across the country in the 1950s and 60s, but very few people knew much about Andrew Svenson, the man behind the pen name. Some young readers, like Janet A., wanted to know more about the author and wrote him letters asking about his favorite actors, songs, and movies. Thanks for asking, Janet! Let’s get to know Andrew Svenson better and learn about a few of his favorite things.
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Big Screen Idols
If you’ve read The Happy Hollisters and The Old Clipper Ship, you may have noticed that Svenson drew inspiration from 1950s and 1960s actors for this exciting mystery starring fictional actors “Gregory Grant” and “Lisa Sarno.” Lisa Sarno was probably inspired by Svenson’s favorite actress, Sophia Loren. Dubbed “the Italian Marilyn Monroe,” her biggest hits included 1959’s Black Orchid and 1966’s Arabesque.
While creating the suave Gregory Grant for The Happy Hollisters and the Old Clipper Ship, Svenson was clearly influenced by actors Gregory Peck and Cary Grant, but his favorite actor was actually Paul Newman. Newman starred in many films throughout his long and prolific career, like Cool Hand Luke in 1967 and The Hustler in 1961. Like Svenson, who wrote and edited other classic books like The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, Newman also wore many hats: throughout his life, he was a race car driver, a philanthropist, and the creator of Newman’s Own salad dressing and other products.
Svenson’s movie tastes weren’t all serious, however! His favorite movie was 1964’s Mary Poppins, a colorful musical he enjoyed watching with his children, who were his inspiration for the characters of Pete, Pam, Ricky, Holly, and Sue Hollister. He was also a fan of the theatre and particularly liked William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
Svenson also enjoyed listening to music. One of his favorite singers was Lisa Della Casa, a Swiss soprano. Admired for her great beauty and nuanced interpretations of German operas, Della Casa starred in popular productions of Madama Butterfly, The Marriage of Figaro, and Don Giovanni.
Like many other music lovers of his generation, Svenson was a big fan of “Ol’ Blue Eyes” himself—Frank Sinatra; coincidentally, the two men were born just a few years apart and grew up in neighboring New Jersey towns. The American crooner was one of the top-selling musicians of the 20th century and churned out countless hits, including “Fly Me to the Moon,” “New York, New York,” and “That’s Life.” He is also known for his duets and collaborations with other stars of the time, such as Dean Martin and Ella Fitzgerald.
One of Svenson’s favorite songs was “September Song,” which was written by German composer Kurt Weill. Svenson was fluent in German and appreciated German literature and music, but his preferred version of September Song was—no surprise!—Frank Sinatra’s 1965 cover!
Now that you know about Andrew Svenson’s favorites from the world of entertainment, let us know if you notice any of their influences as you read The Happy Hollisters books!