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Biggles and the Black Raider by W. E. Johns was first published in 1953 by Hodder & Stoughton. There have been seven subsequent editions in the English language, with the most recent being the 1978 paperback edition by Armada. The events in the book take place in the early 1950s in East Africa.

SynopsisEdit

A wave of terror is spreading across Africa. A gang of bandits led by someone who calls himself "The Black Elephant" is attacking farmsteads, murdering the farmers and pillaging them off their cattle. Biggles and the Air Police are called in to help. But the gang is well-organised and ranges over a vast area of more than half a million square miles across most of the eastern side of Africa. To bring the gang to justice will take the entire staff of the Air Police, three aircraft, numerous allies on the ground, and some good luck.

PlotEdit

Note: The sections below contain spoilers. In particular, the plot subpage (click here) has an extended summary of the narrative in the book

CharactersEdit

The Special Air PoliceEdit

  • Air Commodore Raymond
  • Biggles
  • Algy Lacey
  • Ginger Hebblethwaite
  • Bertie Lissie

Friends and alliesEdit

OthersEdit

AircraftEdit

PlacesEdit

VisitedEdit

  • Uganda
    • Kampala - the capital. Biggles' base of operations.
    • Lake Victoria - navigation landmark in Ginger's flight to the Illumbwa Reserve.
    • Latonga - in Northern Uganda, a village with a government landing ground and rest-house. Ginger flies Mishu here. A lot of the subsequent events in the book take place in and around here.
    • Ruwenzori massif - range of mountains on the border between Uganda and Belgian Congo. Ginger crashes the Auster here while coming back from Latonga. 
    • Lake Albert - border between Northern Uganda and Belgian Congo. Biggles thought the Black Elephant was moving through the area between the Lake and the Blue Mountains to the West and Lake Albert where the thick cover made air reconnaissance useless.
  • Tanganyika (now Tanzania)
    • Lake Tanganyika - Lake which forms the western border between Tanganyika and its neighbour, Belgian Congo. Longest Lake in the world.
    • Illumbwa Reserve - area where part of Mishu's tribe have a village, near the northern end of Lake Tanganyika.
  • Kenya
    • Lake Rudolf - Biggles patrols here and finds an encampment of Brounnou's cattle drivers.

MentionedEdit

  • Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia)
    • Ulunga - fictitious place at the foot of Lake Tanganyika where the Black Elephant killed a safari party.
    • Kasama - capital of the Northern Province. A survivor of the attack made it here.
  • Rwanda
    • Mount Karisimbi - navigation landmark in Ginger's flight to the Illumbwa Reserve.
  • Nyasaland (now Malawi) - Southern limit of the Black Elephant's operating area.
  • Belgian Congo - part of the Black Elephant's operating area. It formed the western limit of Biggles' search area. Biggles believed the Black Elephant was moving north in the Belgian territory between the Blue Mountains and Lake Albert.
  • French Equitorial Africa - Northwest limit of the Black Elephant's operating area.
  • Sudan
    • Juba - headquarters of Lieutenant Haynes of the Kings African Rifles. Biggles considers moving his base here as the Black Elephant moves north.

Other Research NotesEdit

References to the pastEdit

IncongruitiesEdit

  • Bamboo forests play a big part in the story. They are common on the mountain slopes of East Africa but typically grow between altitudes of 8,000 to 11,000 feet. The book sets the bamboo belt too low--Ginger crashes at about 6000 feet and walks downslope before encountering the bamboo.

ChronologyEdit

EditionsEdit

Biggles and the Black Raider-1953

The illustrator seems to have picked a good moment for this cover of the 1st edition.

  • London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1953. 192 pages, 8 colour illustrations by Stead. Map of Central and South Africa on front and back. Red boards with vignette of a Percival Proctor on the front, spine in black letters. Title page also has a drawing of the same Percival Proctor.
    • full colour dustwrapper shows a red Auster taking off with a warrior trying to spear it with his assegai. This is the scene described in Chapter 3.
    • Ebay prices from GBP 10-40.


Biggles and the Black Raider-1953 Childrens Book Club

Another exciting scene, this time from Chapter 7. This is also the same picture as one of Stead's illustrations in the 1st edition.

  • London: Children's Book Club, 1953. 192 pages, no illustrations. Cream boards, black letters, no vignette.
    • Full colour dustjacket shows Algy and Bertie holding up the tail of the Mosquito and slewing it while Biggles fires the guns--the scene is described in Chapter 7.


  • London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1959. 2nd impression. 192 pages, 8 colour illustrations by Stead. Map of Central and South African on front and back. Red boards with black letters, no vignette.
    • full colour dustwrapper shows a red Auster taking off with a warrior trying to spear it with his assegai. Same as in 1st edition but now there is a number 37 on the spine.


Biggles and the Black Raider-1970

It is known that the 1970, 74 and 78 editions have the same cover. The 1976 and 1980 ones probably have too.

  • London: Armada Books, 1970. Paperback. 127 pages, no illustrations. Cover art by Peter Archer. C327 on spine, price at the back cover shows 3/6.
    • Cover depicts Ginger being attacked by a gorilla, as described in Chapter 6.
    • On back of cover, a small illustration of Bronnou flanked by his African porters. Bronnou is holding a rifle--probably the scene where Haynes confronts him in Chapter 11.
  • London: Armada Books, 1974. Paperback. Reprint.
  • London: Armada Books, no date, believed 1976. Paperback.
  • London: Armada Books, 1978. Paperback.
  • London: Armada Books, no date, believed 1980. Paperback.

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