The Biggless books


James Bigglesworth, known as “Biggles”

started in short stories as a World War

One fighter pilot. These early stories

were originally written for an adult readership and featured swearing (“Biggles

cursed tersely”) and the drinking of alcohol. When THE MODERN BOY decided to

publish Johns´ flying stories, these were

toned down for the younger readership.

This reached a nadir in the mid-1950s

when stories of Biggles risking his life

for a crate of whisky, republished by the

Thames Publishing Company and Dean &

Son, were changed to him risking his life

for lemonade (!).



Johns´ flying stories were very popular. He initially finished them with

Biggles being promoted to the rank of Major and being shot down on

11th November 1918, the day of the armistice. Demand for more flying

stories meant that he then restarted them again with “BIGGLES LEARNS

TO FLY” and he wrote about Biggles as a young recruit and how he increased in experience to become the Air Ace he was. These short stories

were collected in various early volumes.

In 1933, Johns had a go at his first full length Biggles adventure novel,

called “THE CRUISE OF THE CONDOR”. This story was very much an adventure in the style of Indiana Jones (Or should I say that the Indiana

Jones films very much relied on the style of those type of adventure stories!). Johns´ first five Biggles books were published by John Hamilton,

but he was poorly paid for these early books. He then moved to Oxford

Publishing, and they would publish the next 20 Biggles adventures from

August 1935 to July 1943. The Oxford books are undoubtedly amongst the

best Biggles stories due to their originality. Only two of the full-length

books were World War One flying stories, but one of these, “BIGGLES

FLIES EAST”, is generally considered by fans to be the best Biggles book.

Johns has Biggles be recruited by an enemy agent and work for the

Germans. Of course, he is really a double agent and working for the British, but the book is very tense and cleverly plotted. It is this book that

introduced Biggles´ arch enemy, Erich von Stalhein. He was to appear

in numerous books over the years, working for the Germans, and then

INFO Eduard - October 2021