A brief guide to the 8 weird 'Happy Days' novels
Did you read this epic saga filled with motorcycles, romance, carnivals and city corruption?
Happy Days was known to get a little creative, especially in its later seasons. There was, of course, the infamous shark-jumping scene. Less remembered, but far more eccentric, was the musical about American history, including a song about famine. That episode hit in 1981.
Before that point, however, the Happy Days "expanded universe," so to speak, included many strange side stories and narrative detours. There were comic book tales of shady characters like Dick Fixx, who framed the Fonz for stealing valuables. There was a cartoon involving time travel and a dog named Mr. Cool. And, naturally, there was a series of tie-in novels.
William Johnston was the king of the TV tie-in novel, having penned ancillary stories about Maxwell Smart, the Monkees, F Troop and Dr. Kildare. He cranked out eight Happy Days books in the 1970s. The first six of them were collected in a box — perhaps you had it on your bookshelf?
The printed page featured colorful characters you would probably never catch in primetime, and Johnston, like all tie-in novelists, takes some creative license. Here is a brief rundown of the enjoyably camp Happy Days novels.
1. Ready to Go Steady
The forgotten Chuck Cunningham gets some page time here, while the Fonz is largely, surprisingly, absent. He is off hitchhiking across America. The book takes place during summer vacation, when Ritchie, working at a grocery distributor, falls in love with a girl named Emma. They get engaged, but everything falls back to the status quo by the time school comes around again.
2. Fonzie Drops In
The second installment in the literary series shares its title with episode seven of season one, and indeed it is a loose novelization of that plot. The Fonz heads back to high school, shaking up the hallways of Jefferson High.
3. The Invaders
Fonzie and the Happy Days Gang confront a gang of motocycle tuffs! A dozen bikers dubbed Bull and the Dozers roll into town. The last time Bull met the Fonz, he ended up with a broken leg. Potsie foolishly plays tough. Though it's hard to see how tough the Fonz could be at this point, considering he was still sporting that windbreaker on the cover.
4. Fonzie, Fonzie Superstar
The kids show off their talents in the hopes of winning $100 on the radio program Dr. Fortune’s Amateur Hour. Ralph plays bagpipes. Potsie sings. Joanie twirls a baton. On the radio. Fonzie, the cover boy, performs a percussion piece on hubcaps — and wins, of course. Who knew he invented Stomp? Anyway, there's also a love affair with an opera singer who shatters glass with her voice and a talent agent named Phil Phillips shows up, but it turns out he's an escaped mental patient. So, yeah, this has nothing in common with the season three episode "Fonzie the Superstar." Like we said, the books are pretty weird.
This one does feature the sharpest cover, with no text or title, just the cool vision of the Fonz.
5. The Fonz & La Zonga
Dig this description: "The carnival comes to town and the Fonz has a problem — how to date all the fine hoochie-coochie dancers before they leave town." Our hero must deal with eccentric baddies like Madame La Zonga and the Muskogee Mauler.
6. The Bike Tycoon
Can Fonzie and the Happy Days Gang win the Battle of the Bikes?! As with The Invaders, motorcycles feature heavily in this sixth volume of the epic Happy Days saga. However, this time, the Fonz has teamed up with Howard to start a used cycle business, "The Biketaria." The endeavor gets into a heated price war with Friendly Foster that includes dirty tricks like the "sexy saboteur" Magda and a riding contest. The Fonz tries to ride a motorcycle across a lake? Is there a shark in it?
7. Dear Fonzie…
"The Happy Days Gang uncovers corruption in the local city government." Ooh, a political thriller! (Probably not.)
8. Fonzie Goes to College
Fonzie does not exactly seem like the University of Wisconsin type, and indeed he takes an unconventional approach to secondary education. The hip jukebox kicker heads to Speedy U., an institution promising a degree in a matter of weeks. He studies auto mechanics. According to one Amazon reviewer, the colorful characters include "a clumsy-chemist who's trying to invent coffee-flavored toothpaste; a would-be brain surgeon who practices on a head of cauliflower; and the beautiful Gisele, who seems to care more for her chicken than she does for the Fonz." You were expecting a climactic conclusion to the series?