Tom Slade, Motorcycle Dispatch Bearer

September 15, 2017

So, Tom Slade, Motorcycle Dispatch Bearer, is kind of great. It picks up some time after Tom Slade with the Boys Over There ends, and since we last saw him, Tom has become a motorcycle messenger.

There are no significant plot developments in this book–Tom is a very good dispatch bearer at the beginning and a very good dispatch bearer at the end–but it doesn’t need them. Instead we get some episodic adventures as Tom joins some of the fighting at the front lines, gets captured — sort of — along with a sniper, and races a ship to port on his motorcycle. He meets two old friends and impresses them both thoroughly, and one of his adventures is so genuinely tense that it was uncomfortable to read.

I feel like Percy Keese Fitzhugh was experimenting over the course of the WWI Tom Slade books, of which this is the last one. The first, Tom Slade with the Colors, is structured very much like the prewar books, and so is the second. But that one (Tom Slade on a Transport) end with a clear setup for the next book. And Tom Slade with the Boys Over There is self contained in a way none of the previous books have been. And then this one is, in a way, the most normal of them all — but that’s not normal for Fitzhugh, and I felt like there was an experimental quality to it.


  1. I wonder when in 1918 this book was written? It’s entirely possible PKF couldn’t know what came next for old Tom because he was running out of war. If it was written in the autumn, so much the better: that’s when Spanish Flu would’ve made Tom’s future — and PKF’s — a lot more questionable! Of course you can’t kill off the hero of a children’s series, or you couldn’t then, but you could leave him in a satisfying place without promising more.

    • I’m guessing late in the year, because the three preceding books were also published in 1918. And yeah, probably if the war had continued for a few more years, we would have gotten a lot more of these episodic books.

  2. Okay, I was resisting because the last sample from a “series for boys” that I read was *terrible* (incidentally, The Iron Boys in the Steel Mills; their near-overnight recoveries from should-have-been-fatal injuries got tiring after a while) – but I give up, your reviews have convinced me. I’ll start reading these from the first of the series once I finish my current Laura Richards book in progress…

    • I obviously approve of this idea, but be aware that the first book is the least good.

      • I’ll keep that in mind and aim to stick it out. I’m not super-excited about a rock-throwing protagonist, but it sounds like he at least ends up awesome, so there’s that. (I assume one can’t just start with the second book?)

        (Incidentally, do you think that the Alger overlapping-characters books count as a boy’s series? I think of them as their own genre [with other writers contributing to the genre in some cases, provided they include the basics of rags-to-riches via bizarre luck and persistence], but that may be a unique categorization method.)

        • Well, I started with the second book, and it doesn’t seem to have done me any harm, but I do recommend going in order. Later books are always referring back to stuff about Tom’s dad.

          Calling the Alger books more of a genre that a series seems pretty reasonable to me. There are a few actual short series among them, though.

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