REID, Charles

Author Tags: Kidlit & Young Adult

Charles Reid was born in London, England's East End and immigrated to Canada in 1975. A longstanding interest in heroes and military subjects inspired many of the articles he has written for newspapers and military magazines.

He published his first young adult novel, Hurricanes over London [See review below] followed by the first young adult novel about the Avro Arrow project of the late 1950s, Chasing the Arrow (Beach Holme, 2004). It's the story of the top-secret attempts to build a new fighter jet from the perspective of a boy whose single-parent mother is an engineer for the manufacturer. The novel wasn't released until 2005.

Reid lives in Lantzville on the east coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

Ghost of Heroes Past. (Ronsdale, 2010). 978-1-55380-102-3 : $10.95.

Chasing the Arrow. (Beach Holme, 2004). 0888784392 : $9.95.

Hurricanes over London. (Ronsdale, 2001). 0921870825 : $8.95

[BCBW 2010] "Kidlit" "Aviation"

Hurricanes over London (Ronsdale $8.95)

Calgary flying ace Willie McKnight won two DFCs (Distinguished Flying Crosses) during WWII, the first while flying over France and the second fighting the Germans in the Battle of Britain.

By all accounts McKnight was a dashing figure, on or off the ground. At Crescent Heights High in Calgary, he’d quarterbacked the football team and shown a rebellious streak, once crashing his father’s car into a neighbour’s fence while trying to impress a new girlfriend.

Leaving behind a turbulent romance at the University of Alberta—where he was on the verge of expulsion anyway—he enlisted as a prospective fighter pilot when the British sent a recruiting mission to Canada in 1939.

War was imminent. McKnight became one of the first members of the first all-Canadian fighter squadron in WW II, the 242 Squadron. He was ‘off to fight the Hun’ in Hawker Hurricanes, before and after the fall of Dunkirk.

The Hurricanes were first ordered by the RAF in 1936. They were the first RAF fighter monoplanes and were the first fighter aircraft capable of exceeding 300 mph at level flight. A total of 14,233 Hurricanes were built, with a reputation for being sturdy, reliable and easy to produce in quantity. Most were allotted the task of attacking German bombers during the Battle of Britain.

During his one year in combat, McKnight three times brought down three enemy planes during one action—the equivalent of three aerial hat tricks—and continued his romantic approach to life.

While his squadron was stationed in Chateaudun, France, he met a young Parisienne fleeing from the Germans. He ‘stole a few romantic hours,’ according to the Calgary Aerospace Museum, and then tried to smuggle her back to England on a transport plane. He was caught and threatened with a court martial.

Born and raised in London’s East End during World War II, Charles Reid had Willie McKnight as one of his boyhood heroes. McKnight died young, at age 21—in the tradition of many romantic figures—after he took off on a sortie over France on January 12, 1941 and never returned.

Upon emigrating to Canada in 1975, Charles Reid was surprised to learn McKnight—unlisted in the Canadian Junior Encylopedia—was virtually unknown in his hometown, even though a boulevard was named in his honour.

Determined to bring McKnight’s name back into print, Reid, now a resident of Nanaimo, has produced an historical novel for ages nine to 16, Hurricanes over London (Ronsdale $8.95), in which a young Canadian boy’s interest in McKnight is piqued by his accidental discovery of his grandfather’s notebook entitled ‘This Was My War.’

The protagonist, Jamie, attempts to learn about the ‘Billy Bishop of Alberta,’ McKnight, by visiting the Calgary Aerospace Museum. At the museum he gets involved in an adventure to find missing parts to complete the reconstruction of a Hurricane aircraft. Jamie discovers the Hurricanes were more effective than the better-known Spitfires in air combat.

With Americans looking for scapegoats to explain the devastating attacks of September 11th, it has become commonplace to suggest that Canada’s ‘porous’ borders were responsible for allowing Arab terrorists—without criminal records—to enter the United States where they took flying lessons. The integrity of Canada has been questioned, by some Canadians as well as by the American media networks, as if Canada has not been willing to ‘do its share’ in the so-called war against terrorism. Reid’s work recalls conflicts when death tolls were higher and the untelevised devastation of other cities, such as Dresden and London and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, was far more extensive.



Chasing the Arrow
Press Release

Robbie Carter is adjusting to his new life in late-1950s Toronto with his single mother, an engineer with the airplane manufacturer A. V. Roe. One night, waking to the buzz of voices, Robbie creeps downstairs and makes an astonishing discovery. His mother and her colleagues are working on plans for the Avro Arrow, a new fighter jet capable of unheard-of speeds! Determined not to miss a word, Robbie continues to spy on their meetings.

Soon his happy family life changes for the worse when he’s forced to enter a new school. Plagued by the unwanted attention of Rollie Briggs, the school bully who insults his mother, Robbie longs for escape in the form of proof of her involvement in the top-secret Arrow project. But from the worried murmurs he hears late at night, he knows all is not well.

Something is in the wind, and Robbie has a front-row seat on the political in-fighting and controversy swirling around the Arrow. The question is: Can any of the project be saved? What’s more, will Robbie confront Rollie Briggs once and for all?

5.25 X 8.25 Trade paperback 160 pp ISBN 0-88878-439-2 $9.95 CDN $6.95 US