Tom Swift Circling The Globe
or, The Daring Cruise of The Air Monarch
By Victor Appleton ©1927 Book #30
Review by JP Karenko, October 2005
Note: some of the language, references & attitudes, while acceptable at the time they were written, are not Politically Correct, today.
No official summary was ever provided with any of the old Tom Swift books. However, without giving too much away, the plot can be summed up as follows:
Too concentrated cigar smoke has made Barton Swift reckless. He starts out this tale betting the then princely sum of $20,000 that Tom can make a 'round the world trip in under 20 days time'. This task is to be in a contrivance that is only half-designed and as yet, untested. There is also a time limit. The craft must be built and the voyage must be completed before 6 months have gone by.
To add spice, another $100k prize is added when a New York newspaper hears of the feat and organizes a race to provide some competition for Tom. The Air Monarch, a luxurious but speedy "triple traveler," is completed in record time in spite of the evil machinations of rival Red Arrow Aeroplane Company. This machine is a flying boat with powered wheels that will let it cruise in the air and on sea & land, too. The basis for the future movie Those Magnificent Men In Their Flying Machines is born. They go uppity-up-up...
Hazards abound: They are animal, vegetable, mineral and man-made but how these problems are resolved, you will have to locate a hard cover copy of the book to find out.
I have been unable to find this story on line. Sorry.
Cast of Characters (More or less in order of appearance)
Barton "Bart" Swift- On the dust jacket of Chest of Secrets his appearance is remarkably like that of Robert E. Lee but with glasses. Widower. Wealthy and conservative. Inventor, master machinist and holder of numerous patents. In this episode, he has whipsawed back to being "my son can do anything" enthusiastic about Tom's endeavors. Willing to risk $20k on a whim. He had, for many episodes, been doom and gloom pessimistic about Tom's future as an inventor. Mr. Swift, has enjoyed improved health of late, and is now working on a book about inventing.
Thornton "Thorny" Burch-No description, but assumed to be a cigar-smokin' fatcat high roller. Retired auto manufacturing executive.
Medwell Trace- No description, but assumed to be another cigar-smokin' high roller. Business associate of Burch, above.
Mr. Wakefield Damon-Elderly & eccentric adventurer whose main purpose in life seems to be blessing everybody and everything near his person. Never fully described, except as "portly" with a moustache and "tortoise-shell glasses." Appears to be quite wealthy. Previously back to his old hobby of crashing things, again, in this tome, he remains safely out of travel conveyance trouble.
Eradicate Andrew Jackson Abraham Lincoln Sampson, A.K.A. Rad-Aged stereotypical Negro manservant. "Eradicates dirt." Eradicate has now "become too old to do much," As described, he now has "white hair in a fringe and is bald on top..." He remains faithful to Tom and helps out where he can. Constant rival and antagonist of giant Koku. In this tale, he is relegated to the role of gofer and watchman.
Koku-Giant manservant of Tom. Devoted, loyal, and possessed of great strength, but apparently somewhat limited cognitive facilities. Described as "savage and only half-tame," he is antagonist and rival of Eradicate. In this episode, he is comic relief and watchman/armed guard at Swift Construction. Continues his other chore of antagonizing and scrapping with Rad.
Tom Swift-Intrepid inventor & mechanic. Plucky, lively, resourceful, brave and clever. Home-schooled at a college level by his father, Barton Swift. Athlete and hunter. Familiar with how to stalk game and firearms. Loves all things mechanical.
Ned Newton-Chum & companion of Tom. His description is never given. He continues in his position as Swifts' financial advisor and CFO (Treasurer) of Swift Construction Company. In this tale, he continues residing at the Swift manse.
Miss Mary Nestor-Betrothed love interest of Tom who lives on the east side of Shopton. Described as a "very pretty young woman with flashing brown eyes, and a sweet trilling laugh." Blushes easily, especially around Tom. In this tale, she continues to use her ability to stop the motors of airplanes, instigating a crash into a cranberry bog.
This is her third incident while riding the unfriendly skies with her lover.
Joe Hartman-Tall Veteran flier from "The Big Fuss" (WW1). Working in a Waterford garage as an auto mechanic. Pulls Tom & Mary out of the swamp after their plane crashes.
Bill Brinkley- Short Veteran tanker from "The Big Fuss" Working in a Waterford garage as an auto mechanic. Helps pull Tom & Mary out of a swamp after their plane crashes.
Cal Hussy, AKA "Leghold Larry"-Burly, ugly and "lowering" thug. Spy/sneak thief for Red Arrow Aeroplane Company, dresses as a mechanic and is caught in a bear trap Tom sets for burglars. Catches Tom's boot in his drawers as he escapes through a window from the Monarch's hangar.
Armenius Peltok-Comes out of nowhere. Quiet, reserved, physically strong and educated in many languages, he hires on as crew chief /mechanic and interpreter for the RTW race. (I smell a severe future need for these unique qualities in order to keep the story flowing later. We shall see.)
Jason Jacks-Old fashioned, aged, homely, toothless and ornery Shopton millionaire. Rescued by Tom in the previous episode, he provides financing when Tom could use a few shekels to get his new invention's prototype built. Has no use for modern machinery.
Convenient Cal, the Thumping Thug- Never positively identified, but may be Cal Hussy, (See above) looking for payback. Mugs Tom when the Electric Runabout runs out of juice after the batteries are sabotaged.
Mr. Goodrich-NFN or description. Cigar-smokin' neighbor of Nestors.
Dr Blake-Typical faceless medical man, used and discarded it these stories.
Jed Kimball- No description. County "Fare" race pilot at the controls of a "hydroplane" (flying boat.)
Bob Denman- No description. Rich kid, using hired commercial transport.
Professor Modby- No description. Aeronautical scientist/mad hatter, flying a swamp-gas powered dirigible named Cloud.
Dan Kilborn- No description. Loud, boastful WW1 flying ace. Cheat and sneak thief. CEO of Red Arrow Aeroplane Company. Flying hydroplane of same name.
Harry Walton- No description. At the controls of another "hydroplane"
Those Magnificent Others In Their Flying Machines- No descriptions or names. Probably as they never were serious competition.
Mr. Elliot- No description. Managing Editor of New York Illustrated Star. Organizer and MC of Round the World (RTW) Race.
The Nocturnal No-Goodniks-
Cal Hussy-(See Leghold Larry, above.) Goes armed and is wounded by Koku during breaking and entering (B&E) at Swift Construction.
B&E Bob- Never identified. Stranger and accomplice of Hussy, above.
Garrett Jackson-No description given, but is spry and fit for his age. (Original volumes described him as "aged.") Swift Construction Shop Manager/General Foreman.
Mr. (Amos) Nestor-Mary's father. In spite of major roles in several of these adventures, his description is never given, and his first name was only mentioned in passing, in episodes #1 and #6. Walk-on part in this tale.
Mrs. Wakefield Damon-NFN or description given. While she was routinely nearly always willing to let her husband do as he liked, in this tale she has tightened his leash. Says Mr. D "is too old to go traveling with Tom Swift," any more.
Helen Morton-No description. Future love interest of Ned Newton introduced in the previous episode, does not show up even to see Ned off, but is sent mail and souvenirs anyway.
The Trigger-Happy Turkish Tribesmen-Cast of numerous horsemen who use Air Monarch (AM) for target practice. Wound Tom and puncture AM's radiator. Nasty, dirty and vicious.
Yelling Yellow Gypsies-Wild and evil looking tribesmen, dressed in "gay, but fantastic" clothing. Located in Persia, the may be related to today's Kurds. Nastier, dirtier and more vicious than the Turks, above, at least in this tale.
Persian Pony Police-Mounted military forces of some unknown warlord. When the AM is attacked, they come out of nowhere and run off the Gypsies, above.
Yal, the Mongolian Mail Man-Runs the local post office in a burg named Yarkand.
Cranky Chinese Constables-Try to arrest Tom and Ned for landing AM "without a permit." ( Y'know, the kind of permits that fold and have pictures of presidents on them.)
Belligerent Beijing Bandits-Nastier, dirtier and more evil than the gypsies, above.
Ming the Mercenary-Faceless Chinese extortionist/bureaucrat who squeezes Tom for cumshaw, when a gas/oil pit-stop is needed.
Menagerie of Malay Marauders-Sea-pirates of the war-paint and feather variety. Require a white virgin to sacrifice to the local (volcano?) god. Tom declines the honor, even tho' likely well-qualified. More evil and nastier than the Beijing Bandits, above.
Hairy Head-Hunters-Bones, feathers, paint, uncouth, unwashed, unclothed. Bad news. Get the picture? At the very top of the evil and nasty scale. They eat people!
"Shipwreck" Sam Stout & "Mad" Frank Madler-No descriptions given. Sole survivors of a storm-wrecked schooner carrying lumber. Rescued by Tom & Co. Six other castaways from the wreck didn't make it and are now fish-bait.
Honolulu Harry, the Keystone Cop-Faceless gumshoe. Bungles the arrest and lets Tom escape from custody after he is accused of attempted murder by Dan Kilborn.
San Fran Sam-Faceless President of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. Wants Tom to call a time-out in the race, so he can attend a ceremonial dinner.
As is usual lately, many of these characters (especially the ones introduced late in the story) do not rate any development or even a description. They are brought forth and discarded after they do their bits to make the story flow.
In a nutshell, the Swift Air Monarch is a flying boat with powered wheels that will allow it to travel on land without using the airscrews. It is a bi-plane configuration with multiple pusher motors (See Errata) of the "V-type." The power of each engine is rated at 690hp @2700rpm, when running on a special high-octane Swift developed gasoline derivative. The Monarch has a streamlined waterproof hull, with bronze propeller for water travel and 4 powered wheels that give it limited overland capability. There are at least four main compartments: a pilot house forward, Tom & Ned's cabin/stateroom and an observation room/crew berth/galley, amidships, and equipment/motor room, aft. No mention of where stores or fuel/oil are kept was mentioned.
The specifications and engineering are typical Swift Fanciful. Air Monarch is big, heavy and luxurious, but can go twice as fast (250mph) and with (at least) twice the luxury and comfort of the then-current competition. It also sports a plate glass window in the floor for observation, a binnacle compass for navigation, a mercury tube barometer and a spoked steering wheel, possibly of the sailing ship variety.
While there are non-lethal ammonia gas dispensers fore and aft for "crowd control" in hostile territory, various firearms (including a machine-gun) are carried aboard.
Commentary on Society, Attitudes, Environment & Errata
It's amazing how much technology and society have changed. Shopton, Swift Construction and environs remain consistent, but in spite of alarms, guards and electric wires, the bad guys come and go as they please. All the literary baggage dragged out in the previous episodes (except coincidence) is discarded. We are back to an author that has filed the serial numbers off a current event (RTW trip) and is attributing it to Our Hero. He is also trying to describe a device (the Triple Traveler) that he knows little or nothing about, and is not even doing it consistently from chapter to chapter. (The number of motors on this beast varies from one to three.) In today's world, a circum-planet journey in 20 days sounds like a cheap whirlwind tourist trip. Too many countries and too-few days...
I wonder what people will be taking for granted 100 years from now, and what they will think of our "modern" society and its' mores (or lack of them...)
Attitudes and Prejudices-Some clews that were detected as to the author of this tale: This tale reeks with a string of coincidences that are required to allow the story line to progress. The story also requires extensive foreboding, bordering on clairvoyance, to prepare for travel travails. Characters are introduced and discarded in wholesale groups. The author's engineering knowledge of aircraft is minimal, but the features of the AM feel familiar. The circumstances & hazards on this trip are also very reminiscent of the Air Glider Voyage. (See Vol #12) I'd hazard that this author was the same as #12's, who I called "Frank Dixon," (The author of G&D's Hardy Boys.) The similarity in writing style and attitudes is, in my judgment, pretty conclusive. Aside, the author is also an old temperance man, as the AM gets christened with ginger ale, rather than Champagne.
Tom is working on inventing the "Mile High Club." Comment is made that "love-making cannot be conducted in shouts," while he & Mary are on a plane ride. Mary also "stops the clock" on her third airplane. (Something about this girl makes airplanes crash.) This time they fall into a cranberry bog, where she and Tom almost drown in quicksand. Since this is her third strike, I feel it's time for her to hang up her goggles.
Rad and Koku are no longer called "boy" or other denigrating terms, but the indigenes encountered during the trip are all treated at best, as ignorant savages. Speaking of Rad and Koku, they are left behind in this tale. Perhaps Tom has had it with their constant bickering? A new and well-muscled character, one Armenius Peltok, shows up. Tom hires him solely on the basis of an unsolicited written recommendation he submits. Sounds foolhardy, but his many skills are needed to make the story flow, later in the tale.
Does Ned Newton still have a girl friend? Helen Morton, introduced in the previous episode as a pretty serious love interest for Ned, didn't even show up to wish her sweetie a bon voyage. She does make an appearance at the finish line, and gets a "souvenir."
Tom has upgraded his firepower. He now keeps an "automatic" in his bedroom nightstand for repelling burglars. Koku actually shoots a nocturnal prowler, and the AM carries not only small arms, but a tripod mounted machine gun. It gets used, too, doing a "fearful slaughter" amongst some Micronesian head-hunters.
At the conclusion of the story, Tom & Ned get a reception dinner, the girls get expensive gifts, Bart wins his bet, and the Monarch's mechanics (the real heroes of the tale) get to clean up the mess that is the worn-out Triple Traveler. Some things never change...
Tom punches out both a Honolulu cop and Dan Kilborn when they try to nab him on a trumped-up attempted murder charge. I wonder if the felonious assault charge the cop would file is still on the books? Tom may have to avoid Hawaii in future voyages...
Errata-There is a running gag throughout this series. Mr. Damon's home keeps flip-flopping between Waterfield and Waterford, NY. Sometimes it is in neither, and several times in both places, at once. This is partly due to the enforced poor communication amongst the many ghostwriters at G&D that contributed to this series.
There are now 4 distinct categories. In this tome Mr. D's home flops back to Waterford.
The tally for 30 volumes, to date is:
Waterfield-14, Both places-2, Waterford-9, and Neither place-5.
Typos and malapropisms were almost nonexistent. Only one popped out, the description of Jed Kimball flying in "County Fares" (Fairs) on p72.
Factual stuff, though...Tom refers to a previous round the world trip made by Navy fliers-it was the Army (Air Corps) that did the RTW trip in 1924. See timeline, below.
When Tom & Mary crash in a bog, he has her unbuckle her seat belt and stand up in the plane "to lessen the impact." They splash down, safe, in spite of the reason for the crash being a loss of control/high-speed dive.
Turn-of-the-century Persian Boondock roads are smooth and level. (We need some of those folks to come here and design roads in Michigan...)
"Typhoons are the worst of hurricanes, but they do not last long," is Tom's wisdom. Tom & Co. fly in and out of a class 5 storm in a matter of a page or so, with clear balmy weather on both sides. I also get the feeling that anything bigger than a thunderstorm is considered a "hurricane" in these tales. Hurricanes and rogue whales seem to be course hazards on Tom's trips. He almost collides with one of those on this voyage, too, but has no Electric Rifle available to disintegrate it. (Oh, Bother!) Oh, it's also de rigueur for Tom to "rescue" someone, anyone, at least once per episode. The ocean castaways add nothing to the story, but reinforce Tom's well-known reputation for compassion.
Engineering and Science, Fact vs. Fantasy-
Tom's octane boosted gasoline is considered to "supercharge" the motors, a la Popeye's Spinach. I'd think a Rootes blower would be needed to really boost the horsepower in the AM. Octane by itself is pretty much wasted without a compression ratio increase.
The AM uses a system of external oil lines, in a wasteful but typical feed and leak configuration. Recirculating lubrication systems were a few years away, yet.
The author's lack of familiarity with airplanes bit him again, when he described a takeoff run with the elevating planes being moved in a direction that would have caused an instant crash. More likely, he got confused (or forgot) about the elevator being in the rear of the craft. Had it been up front, like on the Wright Flyer, the description would have been accurate. The bit about standing up during a crash was a stitch, too.
RTW Timeline-Around The World in 80 Days...or was that in minutes?
1873 Phileas Fogg and Passepartout circumnavigate the globe in 80 days, traveling in a balloon.
Le sac d'air chaud de Phileas Fogg
1913 John Mears' record of 'round-the-world in 36 days was set without the benefit of flying machines.
1924 From April 6 to Sept. 28, United States Army aviators Lts. Lowell Smith & Leslie Arnold, made a 'round-the-world flight. Actual flying time was 15 days, 11 hours, and 11 minutes, but it was over a period of 175 days, so it doesn't really count.
1927 Tom Swift, Ned Newton and crew go 'round the world in 19 days, 11 hours, 15 minutes and 11 seconds.
Tartar Travelers' Aid Society
1929 The Graf Zeppelin, LZ-127, made a world flight. It took 21 days, 7 hours, 34 minutes. I presume it was by a longer route, with fewer stops to fight off "indians."
The Graf Zeppelin LZ-21
1931 Wiley Post and navigator Harold Gatty circled the globe in the Winnie Mae, a Lockheed Vega. Traveling over 15,000 miles, the pair didn't sleep for 8 days and 16 hours.
Wiley Post and Winnie Mae
1938 Howard Hughes circumnavigated the globe in record time, 3 days, 19 hours, and 8 minutes. He averaged the 250+mph that Tom had hoped to go during his trip.
Howard Hughes at Bennet Airport July 10, 1938
1949 Capt. James Gallagher and USAF crew of 13 flew 23,452 mi in 3 days, 22 hr., 1 min. This time is longer than Hughes' flight, but the military flight was over a longer distance.
1957 Maj. Gen. Archie J. Old, Jr., USAF, led a flight of three Boeing B-52 bombers, around the world in 3 days, 9 hr., 19 min; a distance of 24,325 mi; average speed 525 mph. They flew a route closer to the Equator than the "40th parallel."
1961 On April 12, aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to orbit the planet, a feat accomplished by his space capsule in 89 minutes. He still holds the record today.
Comrade Yuri "Speedy Slav" Gagarin
A more extensive timeline can be found at http://www.wingnet.org/rtw/rtw001.htm
Geography- Tom Swift's 'round the world route: Long Island NY, Lisbon Portugal, Spainish Mediterranean, Lower Italy, Northern Turkey, Northern Persia, Yarkand Turkistan, Southern Gobi Desert, Somewhere in China, Sea of Japan, Philippines/Malay Sea, New Guinea, Honolulu HI, San Francisco, Pittsburg & Long Island NY.
The author has mislaid Shopton. It is now "in one of our Eastern states." The local topography is again described in more detail. A new landmark, Jamison's Cranberry Bog, is said to be located inland, away from Lake Carlopa. It is full of Hollywood style quicksand. ( -and one very soggy airplane.)
JP Karenko 10/10/05
Tom Swift and his Airline Express | Tom Swift and his Talking Pictures | Index