Posts Tagged ‘Tom Swift’

Another vintage book review. I just wish this book was in better condition. It’s been well-loved.

I remember reading this when I was a pre-teen. The damage to it might have been caused by me, or my siblings. Some of it is just age and poor binding.

The book was published in 1926 and has my grandfather’s stamp inside of it, plus an inscription to my father, making it a Christmas gift from Santa Claus. I’m not sure why Gramps had to stamp his name in it when the book was clearly Dad’s. But, that would be my Gramps. He was just making sure everything was marked as belonging to the family, in case it ever was lent out.

I want to digress here: a friend of mine has been searching for a particular Hardy Boys edition. I searched all of my vintage books, but – alas- not a single Hardy Boys. And I have only this one Tom Swift. Most of my vintage Young Adult mysteries are “girl” books: Brenda Starr, the Curlytops, and the like.

So – the story. Oh, if only we were still so innocent as we were in 1926, when Tom Swift was written! The Great War was over. The Second World War was silently brewing, but we Americans were naively unaware of the winds of war. The Great Depression was still years off.  Young men in novels were still gallant and honorable. Tom Swift was coming of age at the same time as the young Indiana Jones, but without the aid of cinematic special effects.

Tom was an inventor, and in this book, he invents a coast-to-coast air transport system to carry packages from the Atlantic to the Pacific under 18 hours. Given the technology available at the time, that’s pretty astounding. The author imagines an improbable car that attaches to, and detaches from, the belly of the airplane.

Of course, there’s adversity, but Tom’s enemies are always a bit bumbling and Tom always manages to be a bit like MacGyver (escaping with just a paper clip and personal will), and the conversations are so… out-dated. But to credit the author, Tom’s love, Mary, is not portrayed as a dumb girl, but as a steady and thoughtful young woman who stays calm in a crisis and often comes up with a solution on her own.

The racism… Well, it’s just there. I can’t do anything about the casting of either “faithful servant”: Koku, who is described only as a giant, and who has a singular lack of English; and Eradicate, the Black servant who is portrayed as slightly off-center and jealous of Koku. I suppose that it was meant to be an “inclusive” novel, giving small parts to other nationalities. It’s kind of offensive in its betrayal of minor characters, but (I guess) at least they were given roles. Kind of Orphan Annie supporting roles, I think.

If I flash back to my father’s childhood: the Tom Swift books were no doubt exciting and innovating.

If I flash back to my childhood: Tom Swift was fun, and I was too naive to understand the subtleties.

For my grandchildren: the book is a white elephant.

It isn’t worth anything in the condition it is in, unless my father’s hand-written signature somewhere inside counts for something.

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