BIGGLES - AIR DETECTIVE
Book First published in May 1950 by Latimer House for Marks and Spencer* (in a large "annual" style format) - 93 pages
* This information is taken from letters from A. P. Watt & Son to W. E. Johns in my collection
These stories were serialised in either the “The Melbourne Herald” or “The Sun Pictorial” in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia between July and December 1950
Later this book was published in standard book format by Latimer House on 7th July 1952 - 142 pages
The boards of the annual like first edition – note the “Stead” signature cleverly hidden in the waves
From correspondence between Johns’ literary agent and W. E. Johns, I know that Johns agreed to write six stories EXCLUSIVELY for this publication. The six stories that Johns wrote were “THE CASE OF THE UNKNOWN AIRCRAFT”, “THE CASE OF THE BLACK SHEEP”, “THE CASE OF THE WOUNDED AGENT”, “THE CASE OF THE STOLEN AIRCRAFT”, “THE CASE OF THE UNREGISTERED OPERATOR” and “THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS GUNSHOTS”. Of these six stories, three were then sold to the BBC to be dramatised for radio. Those three stories were - “THE CASE OF THE UNKNOWN AIRCRAFT”, “THE CASE OF THE STOLEN AIRCRAFT” and “THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS GUNSHOTS”.
On 12th September 1949, the BBC broadcast “The Case of the Unknown Aircraft” on the radio and they changed Johns’ original title to “The Case of the Lump of Metal”.
Marks and Spencer then said that they didn’t want the ones which had been dramatised for radio as they wanted only original, previously unknown, stories. They were then sent two more short stories which Johns had already written - “THE CASE OF THE MURDERED APPRENTICE” and “THE CASE OF THE BRILLIANT PUPIL”. He then wrote another to make up the agreed six - “THE CASE OF THE VISITING SULTAN”. When the book was FINALLY published it included a seventh story, which had been one of the three stories initially rejected as it was on the radio - “THE CASE OF THE STOLEN AIRCRAFT”. The two missing stories were then published by Odhams Press Ltd elsewhere - “THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS GUNSHOTS” in an edited form in the “Golden Book of Comics” in 1950 and “THE CASE OF THE UNKNOWN AIRCRAFT” in “Adventure Stories for Boys” in 1956. Both of those stories were then collected together in the Biggles book BIGGLES TAKES THE CASE.
It is certainly the case that the stories in this collection were subject to change. In Biggles Follows On (published 14th June 1952), on page 119, there is reference to the story “The Case of the Mandarin’s Treasure Chest”. Johns has written a footnote saying that this story was in “Biggles – Air Detective”, when in fact, it was published in Biggles of the Special Air Police in September 1953. Clearly, that story was written well before June 1952. Was that story also destined for this book? Or did Johns recollection as to where the story was to be published just fail him? The story hadn’t even been published when Johns referred to it.
If you want to know how ENID BLYTON was partially responsible for the publication of this book, just click on her name
Biggles – Air Detective contains seven short stories. They are all Air Police stories. They are as follows:-
THE CASE OF THE BLACK SHEEP (Pages 5 to 16)
An ex-RAF Officer is using his aircraft to smuggle nylons into the UK, picking them up from a ship.
THE CASE OF THE VISITING SULTAN (Pages 17 to 28)
A notorious US gangster is planning to attack a Sultan's aircraft in order to steal his diamonds.
THE CASE OF THE UNREGISTERED OPERATOR (Pages 29 to 41)
Biggles goes to prison in order to uncover an illegal air transportation operation for criminals.
THE CASE OF THE WOUNDED AGENT (Pages 42 to 53)
Biggles is sent on a special assignment to save a secret agent, and his information, from Bulgaria.
THE CASE OF THE BRILLIANT PUPIL (Pages 54 to 64)
An excellent flying pupil, who already knows how to fly, is using his solo flights for illegal reasons.
THE CASE OF THE MURDERED APPRENTICE (Pages 65 to 80)
Biggles uncovers a smuggling operation from Holland when investigating why a man was murdered.
THE CASE OF THE STOLEN AIRCRAFT (Pages 81 to 93)
A man who has designed a new plane is stealing aircraft for the aviation fuel they contain.
(The book cover shows a portrait of Biggles in his flying gear with a seaplane behind him)
Biggles - Air Detective
Publication Details - published in the style of an annual by Marks and Spencer
Front Endpiece and Title Page
The Latimer House Reprint Edition 1952 (click to enlarge)
The cover picture is the same as the first edition and is by Leslie Stead. You can see his signature cleverly hidden in the waves!