About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Flavia de Luce and Tom Swift Jr.

Reading the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley has sent me back to thinking about what I was reading as an 11 year old over 50 years ago.

Flavis is a precocious child especially in her chosen field of chemistry. I would call her a prodigy.

Her knowledge of chemistry is formidable. In each of the books I have read I have learned about a practical application of chemistry of which I was unaware before reading the book.

In this book she set out how she made chloral hydrate from alcohol, lavatory cleaner and a bottle of chlorine bleach. She fed some of the mixture in an apple to a pig who became famous as "The Remarkable Sleeping Pig" as the pig took 5 days and 17 hours to sleep off the effects of the chloral hydrate.

Looking back to when I was a boy there was a series involving science and adventure that I loved greatly. I was an avid reader of the Tom Swift Jr. series.

While listed as science fiction I would describe them as science adventure fiction.

The teenage Tom Swift was a gifted inventor of machines for travel, especially but always, in outer space.

My favourite was his Flying Lab, the atomic powered jet that cruised at 1,200 mph. There is an image of it in the photo above.
Tom could work on almost any project while in his lab.

While there is no real life atomic Flying Lab there is the Super Guppy, a huge transport aircraft that is the size of the 3 story Flying Lab.

Looking up information on the series there were 33 books by Victor Appleton II, a pseudonym for several writers. I managed to get over 20 of them.

Living in rural Saskatchewan there were no bookstores in the towns near us and the series was not in the library. A trip to the city of Saskatoon might happen once a year. We would occasionally come to Melfort where there was Beeson’s Stationery and they carried some books. It was a good day if I could get a new Tom Swift Jr. adventure.

As I think about Flavia and Tom I admire their boldness. I was shy and focused on books.

Flavia and Tom are full of action. They have the spirit and inventiveness I think we all dream we had as young people.

The adventures of Tom were far away and impossible to do more than imagine.

Flavia is a character that is closer, but not close, to real life. As with many children I had a chemistry set with which I conducted experiments. Flavia has a personal lab. What 11 year old has access to all the equipment and chemicals available to Flavia.

Even if I had a laboratory as a boy I doubt I would have been a scientist. Words not chemical reactions are my strength.

I still have a box of Tom Swift Jr. books. Neither of my sons was interested in them. I guess I keep hoping someone in the family will want to read them.
Bradley, Alan - (2015) - The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie and A Postage Stamp Provides the Motive; (2016) - The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag


  1. Bill, I read Tom Swift in my early youth but I didn't read as many of them as I did The Hardy Boys. It's nice to know that many of these books are available as ebooks in public domain, legally free.

    1. Prashant: Thanks for the comment. I am glad Tom Swift Jr. books live but I do not any 21st Century kids reading them.

  2. You make such an interesting comparison here between Flavia de Luce and Tom Swift, Bill. Perhaps they're from different eras and genres, but they do have a lot in common. I think that strong, bright, inquisitive sort of character is really appealing. And the 'extra touches' (the adventures, the chemistry, etc..) make the characters all the more unique and interesting.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I do not think many authors strive for intelligent interesting children as characters. I agree Flavia and Tom Swift Jr. are unique and interesting characters.

  3. I have heard of Tom Swift without ever having read him, and I found your recollections of him fascinating.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I don't think any of the girls of my generation were reading Tom Swift. (I make a possible exception for Flavia de Luce.)