Posts Tagged ‘1910s’

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Some E. Phillips Oppenheim Stories

December 4, 2017

I’ve made the extremely belated discovery that E. Phillips Oppenheim’s short story collections are more fun than his novels. (With a few exceptions; you can pry The Great Impersonation from my cold, dead hands.) So, that’s mostly what I’ve been reading. Here’s a roundup of some of them. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Tom Slade with the Flying Corps/Captain Blood Day 2017

September 19, 2017

Look, I know it’s Captain Blood Day, and really I should be posting about a Sabatini book, but…I think Sabatini would mostly approve of Tom Slade, seeing as many of his heroes are also a) cripplingly honorable and b) super awkward. Anyway, Happy Captain Blood Day! May we all be as ready with a good comeback as Peter Blood.

Tom Slade with the Flying Corps is, honestly, kind of amazing. It’s not perfect, but it’s clever and unexpected: a mostly-successful experiment. Read the rest of this entry ?

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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.

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Tom Slade with the Boys Over There

September 14, 2017

Tom Slade with the Boys Over There has a highly inaccurate title. He is “Over There,” but there’s only one other boy: Archibald Archer, who he met in Tom Slade with the Colors.

I’ve been kind of hesitant to spoil the plots of these, but I guess it doesn’t matter, so: this book starts just after Tom and Archer escape a German POW camp, and follows them on their journey through German territory.  Unsurprisingly, his boy scout skills come in handy traveling through the Black Forest.

It’s hard to know what to write about these books if I don’t want to recount the plots in detail, and I don’t. This book is a lot more coherent than any of the others I’ve read, because it’s really just recounting one adventure, and that’s nice. But it also gives a lot of page time to Archer, who isn’t all that interesting, and doesn’t appreciate Tom in a way that satisfies me. Or maybe it’s just that Tom is less single-handedly brilliant here. Which probably makes for a better, more balanced book, but doesn’t satisfy my heart’s apparently endless need for Tom Slade a) being amazing and b) not realizing how amazing he is, c) being initially underrated by others, and d) finally being appreciated as he deserves.

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Tom Slade on a Transport

September 14, 2017

Tom Slade on a Transport feels like a do-over. Like, Tom Slade with the Colors was about Tom getting a job on a ship, and it was going to take him to Europe where he was presumably going to get more involved in the war. But then I guess Fitzhugh felt like he needed to get Tom back to Bridgeboro, for whatever reason.

In this book, Fitzhugh wastes no time in getting Tom on another ship, and one with a better mystery. One of the things I appreciate about Percy Keese Fitzhugh is that he does a really good job of adding emotional stakes to his mysteries. Here, it has the effect of changing Tom’s desire to fight from a patriotic one to an intensely personal one.

Anyway, this time Tom actually gets to Europe–and lands in grimmer circumstances than you really expect from a children’s book.

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Tom Slade with the Colors

September 13, 2017

It wasn’t clear exactly how old Tom was in the first three books, but Tom Slade with the Colors brings us into World War I, and it’s suddenly relevant. So: he’s seventeen, and anxious to enlist in the army, but Mr. Ellsworth, the Bridgeboro troop’s scoutmaster, has made him promise not to lie about his age.

In typical Tom Slade fashion, he does something fairly heroic, acts like it’s no big deal and finds that everyone’s misunderstood his actions. So he comes up with another way to serve the war effort: working on a ship carrying…weapons, I think? Anyway he does some nifty detective work, makes friends with a Secret Service type, selflessly declines to get on a lifeboat, and, eventually, gets to have nice chat with the girl in his office who he doesn’t understand that he has a crush on.

I love one (1) boy scout.

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Tom Slade on the River

September 11, 2017

Tom Slade on the River is set a year after Tom Slade at Temple Camp, but it feels like the second half of the same book, and only partly because it resolves a mystery that was set up in Temple Camp.

The first section combines most of my favorite things about Tom Slade. When the scouts arrive at Temple Camp and find a clue indicating that someone is injured and stranded on a mountain, Tom is the only one who immediately decides to try to find him. Everyone else just kind of accepts that something awful is happening, but for Tom it’s a matter of course that he has to at least try to do something. Read the rest of this entry ?