Biggles of 274
Have you ever noticed how people say that W.E. Johns wrote "around 100" Biggles books? Or "more than 100" Biggles books? or "almost 100" Biggles books? That nobody ever puts a exact figure on it?
Well I intend to put an exact figure on it. The standard lists tend to show 98 Biggles books and that seems to be the "officially" accepted figure. However I say there are 101 Biggles books. Read on as to why ..............
W. E. Johns was a terrible self-plagiarist who would often re-write and re-use stories and this makes counting Biggles books and Biggles stories very difficult! For example, “Spitfire Parade” contains World War Two stories which are re-writes of older World War One stories from “Biggles in France”. Certain short stories are also re-writes. For instance, "The Case of the Early Boy" in 'Biggles Flies to Work' is a re-write of the story "Worrals Works it Out".
The books themselves went through different versions. "Biggles Pioneer Air Fighter" is really just a reprint of the very first book "The Camels are Coming". Should it be counted as a separate book? Of course not!
"Biggles of 266" features stories from the original "Biggles in France". Is that an original book? What about the Omnibus books? They are just reprints of previous books, aren't they?
On this page you are going to find what I say is the DEFINITIVE list of ALL Biggles stories and books. W. E. Johns wrote numerous short stories featuring Biggles.
This was something I first attempted to do in an article I wrote for "Biggles Flies Again" Magazine that was published in the January 2006 issue - Volume 2 - Number 6. In that article I concluded that
there were 278 stories. I now conclude there are 274. The difference is mainly due to me not having the original individual stories from Biggles Learns to Fly. These were all originally published in
"The Modern Boy" and you can see the full details on my Biggles Learns to Fly page here - http://www.biggles.info/Details/05/. I have since collected every single issue of The Modern Boy and I am now better informed!
I thought each chapter of "Biggles Learns to Fly" was an individual story and so I counted the 17 chapters as 17 stories. In fact 5 of the stories from the Modern Boy covered two chapters in the book, so instead of 17, there were in fact 12 and that reduced the number of stories by 5. However, it has also dawned on me that I have missed out recording as a 'Biggles' story, the short Gimlet story published in 'Comrades in Arms'. This was entitled "An Oriental Assignment" in 'Comrades in Arms' when that book was published in August 1947 but the story itself was originally published in three parts in the July 1945, August 1945 and September 1945 issues of "Boy's Own" magazine when it was entitled "Seeds of Trouble". Biggles and Ginger fly Gimlet and Co. out to their mission and, with the addition of Algy, pick them up at the end of the story. Here they have a few lines, so it has to be said this is also a Biggles story!
With those amendments, I stand by the rest of my article from 2006. So how did I get to the total of 274 stories then? I reproduce my original article below ........
HOW MANY BIGGLES STORIES ARE THERE?
You would think this was an easy question to answer, but it isn't. The first question is how many Biggles books are there, but in order to answer that, you have to define exactly what you are counting.
I think a "Biggles" book has to be a book written by W. E. Johns which features the character of James Bigglesworth. As so many books have been re-issued in other formats and combinations, it is also necessary to count only the first book publications. Omnibus editions can be immediately discounted. One problem here is that Johns wrote many short stories for publication elsewhere. Indeed, Biggles started life in short stories for 'Popular Flying', a magazine edited by Johns. Those short stories were gathered up and issued in book form.
Later, Johns would write numerous short Biggles stories for various boys annuals and other publications. Most of these were gathered together and published in book form. It was not until 1999 that Norman Wright gathered the ten 'missing' Biggles stories and published a final collection of short stories as 'Biggles - Air Ace', this being the last ever Biggles book. I say we need to count these collective books as being the first publication in book form.
I say that there are 101 original Biggles books. This figure is arrived at as follows. 92 of them were published during Johns lifetime (From Camels are Coming up to and including The Boy Biggles in 1968). Four were published after his death, having already been written by Johns (Underworld, Little Green God, Noble Lord and Sees Too Much). Two more were published in the late 1990's, (Homework - the unfinished book and Air Ace - the final collection of short stories). This is a total of 98 so far.
However, an analysis of the first 92 Biggles books shows that two of them were really reprints of earlier books. 'Biggles Pioneer Air Fighter' (published 1954) contains 13 stories but 11 of these were published in The Camels are Coming and 2 of these were published in Biggles of the Camel Squadron. 'Biggles of 266' again really contains reprints, eight stories from Biggles in France and one from Biggles Learns to Fly.
Should any other books be removed? I say no, Spitfire Parade contains stories, which although they are reworkings of old stories, feature different characters and can be called original for this reason. Biggles of the Special Air Police, reprints half a dozen old stories from 'The Camels are Coming' plus one other Biggles First World War story but it also gathers together six otherwise uncollected 'Special Air Police' stories. For this reason it has to qualify as an original Biggles book.
I therefore conclude that Biggles Pioneer Airfighter and Biggles of 266 have to be removed from the list and the 98 books I have listed so far are therefore reduced to 96. So how do I get to 101?
Simple, we have to count the four Gimlet books in which Biggles appears. You will recall that we started off with the definition that a Biggles books is a book written by W. E. Johns featuring the character of James Bigglesworth. Biggles features, albeit very briefly in four Gimlet books, 'King of the Commandos', ‘Gimlet Goes Again', 'Gimlet Mops Up' and 'Gimlet Bores In', so now we have 100 Biggles books. The last one to be added is ‘Comrades in Arms’ which features an original Biggles story not featured in any of the other books (and also a short Gimlet story in which Biggles appears!).
This gives a grand total of 101 books.
Of these 101, a number of them (18) contain short stories, namely,
1932 - THE CAMELS ARE COMING
1934 - BIGGLES OF THE CAMEL SQUADRON
1934 - BIGGLES FLIES AGAIN
1935 - BIGGLES LEARNS TO FLY
1935 - BIGGLES IN FRANCE
1941 - SPITFIRE PARADE
1943 - BIGGLES - CHARTER PILOT
1947 - COMRADES IN ARMS
1952 - BIGGLES TAKES THE CASE
1952 - BIGGLES AIR DETECTIVE
1953 - BIGGLES OF THE SPECIAL AIR POLICE
1954 - BIGGLES AND THE PIRATE TREASURE
1955 - BIGGLES' CHINESE PUZZLE
1957 - BIGGLES OF THE INTERPOL
1958 - BIGGLES PRESSES ON
1963 - BIGGLES FLIES TO WORK
1964 - BIGGLES INVESTIGATES
1999 - BIGGLES - AIR ACE
I have not counted THE BOY BIGGLES or BIGGLES GOES TO SCHOOL as short story books because the stories cover his early life and school life in various adventures and run together as complete stories. If you remove the above 18 books from the list of 101 books you are left with 83 books. It is convenient now to count how many Biggles short stories there are.
We have established that they are all collected in the 18 books I have named above, so it is just a question of listing them .....................
With regard to earlier story titles I have now elected to use the MODERN BOY original story titles as these are the titles they had on first publication. There are 191 short stories. Where possible, I have tried to identify the original publication of all short stories ............... the task is ongoing (and it seems - never ending!).
As to how many World War 1 – Royal Flying Corps - stories there are, then the answer is 65. There are 63 short stories and 2 full length books (‘Biggles Flies East’ and ‘The Rescue Flight’).
These 65 stories are all highlighted on the list. (I would love to find a previously unknown Biggles R.F.C. story as then there would be 66. Biggles Squadron was 266, so it would be most appropriate to get “to” 66!).
I have done some considerably work on trying to establish the correct order of these 65 stories. You can read my conclusions here http://www.biggles.info/Order/
I welcome comments and corrections from other fans out there.
You can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
So here is my DEFINITIVE list of the 274 BIGGLES STORIES I do hope you find it of interest!