Biggles: A Literary Adventurer (Melissa Robbins)

Movie still from Biggles:Adventures in Time
One of my favorite literary characters is Major James Bigglesworth aka Biggles.  I first discovered him in a campy 80’s movie, Biggles:  Adventures in Time when I was a kid.  I loved the movie then and since it came out the same time as Top Gun, it only fueled my pilot obsession.  I have since watched it as an adult and cringed, but who can resist a pilot? The first time I saw the movie, I had no idea that Biggles was a literary character.  The English books weren’t found on my Maryland library shelves.  With the joy of the Internet, I now have five Biggles books, three are 1940’s editions. 

Biggles was created by WW1 pilot, Captain WE Johns.  Through many, many books (101), Biggles has flown in both world wars for the Royal Air Force and any time a flyer is needed to save the day (secret air service and air police).  Many of the original stories were first published in flying magazines in the 30’s, but became so popular, they were published in book form too.      

  In every book, Biggles gets himself and his friends in some crazy and sometimes hilarious situations.  With the ones I’ve read, the bad guys are German or sympathizers, with one in particular, Biggles’ nemesis, Erick Von Stalhein.  The Germans really hate Biggles since in every book he steals one of their planes (or car or motorcycle) and uses it against them.  He’s quite fluent in German.  If Biggles isn’t rescuing his mates, they’re rescuing him!  “Biggles is facing an execution.  Let’s torpedo the sub he’s on.”

Now this being a romance blog, many of you may be wondering does Biggles breaks women’s hearts.  It’s quite the opposite.  Biggles fell madly in love with a French girl, but she turned out to be a German spy and her actions almost killed his entire squadron.  Still in love with her, he never loves again.   

Even in the most harrowing situations, there’s humor. I still laugh out loud when Biggles, Ginger, and Algy are naming their spy planes in Biggles in the Baltic.  If the scene wasn’t three pages long, I would post it here.  They call themselves the Boomerang Squadron, because a boomerang whirls out, strikes, and then whirls back home again.  This causes them to give their planes Australian names and after much debate Dingo, Didgeree-du, Willie-Willie, and Duck-billed Platypus are chosen. Sadly, the four planes don’t survive to the end of the book, but Biggles and Company destroying a plane or four is par for the course for them. 

My pilot character Connor (Cheeky Pilot) started reading the books as a teenager.  He joins the RAF because of Biggles. Connor's sister, Wren receives a Biggles book as a gift from her boyfriend and they use it to send coded messages to each other.  

This blog post made me realize that sometimes when we like a literary character that we also have to consider the supporting cast.  They give us a glimpse of how our hero reacts to things.  Where would Harry Potter be without Hermoine and Ron?