Nothing wargaming about this post (there's a shock) but Michael Awdry on his excellent blog has just posted about Biggles. Now, I have to confess I have never read a single Biggles book because at the age of nine or ten all I read was non-fiction (anything about space exploration, dinosaurs or ships) and science fiction. However, pretty much the first science fiction I can remember reading was some of WE Johns space adventures which I got from my school library. I remembered that the first book in a series of eleven was called Kings of Space (1954) and I was particularly taken by its atmospheric cover (technically a lack of atmosphere cover, I suppose). This not only got me to read the book and start on other SF authors in the school library but also got me interested in science fiction illustration; an interest which was later reinforced by the appearance of Science Fiction Monthly in 1974.
This was a large format, broadsheet newspaper-sized publication which often featured double spread posters of Science Fiction artists like Bruce Pennington, Tim White and my favourite, Chris Foss (who, famously did all the black and white drawings in the original The Joy of Sex). It was also the only SF magazine on sale in Britain in those days. I did have all of my copies (it only lasted until 1976) until recently and hopefully they are in the loft and I didn't lose them when my sister cleared my mother's house while I was abroad!
The Legatus' junior school
The artist for Kings of Space, Leslie Stead (1899-1966) also did many of Johns' Biggles cover paintings as well and, indeed, based the face of Biggles on himself, although he had been in the King's Royal Rifles not the RAF. The novel had dinosaurs on Venus and the inhabitants of Mars being killed off by mosquitoes and I read all of the books in pretty rapid succession; although some we had to obtain from Staines library as the school didn't have them.