Biggles and the Black Mask by W. E. Johns was first published in 1964 by Hodder and Stoughton. There have been 4 subsequent editions in the English language. The events in the book take place in the early 1960s in Britain and the French riviera. The story is also included in the 1985 omnibus volume The Best of Biggles.
Starting from Biggles and the Plane That Disappeared, this is the third novel in a row where Algy does not appear at all.
"I have the old-fashioned notion that once a man starts swindling ... in most cases he goes on doing it...."
So, when Biggles notices that an ex-R.A.F. pilot with a track record for dishonesty is granted a licence to operate an air charter company, he decides to take a closer look.
Note: The sections below contain spoilers. In particular, the plot subpage (click here) has an extended summary of the narrative in the book
The Special Air Police/Scotland YardEdit
- Air Commodore Raymond
- Ginger Hebblethwaite
- Bertie Lissie
Friends and alliesEdit
- Hotel Ruhl
- Jardin du Roi Albert
- Place Messina
- Nice Old Town
- Ruelle Francois Leroux
- Rue Baldini
- Quai des Etats Unis
- Cap d'Antibes
- In Biggles and the Plane That Disappeared it was mentioned that Algy was away in India assisting with a gold smuggling case. In this book, he is not mentioned at all and his absence is not explained.
- Nice is described in some detail. This was likely to be a place which Johns liked and knew well. There is a complete section describing the history of the old town of Nice. Some street names are fictional, though, or have changed. Almost to excuse this, he states that: "In France it is a custom to name streets after persons; but as these are sometimes changed, it can be confusing."
References to the pastEdit
- The mention of a British Airways early morning flight to Nice from London (Chapter 14 para. 1) is possibly anachronistic. British Airways only came into being in 1974 whilst the book was first published in 1964. The airline which would have flown that route would have been British European Airways. If Johns meant the prewar British Airways Ltd, this company was merged into B.O.A.C. in 1940 and ceased to exist. This detail comes from a 1974 Knight Books edition. Perhaps this is the result of an editorial change from the 1964 1st ed. in order to modernize the setting. Or else it was simply an abbreviated way to refer to B.E.A.