DR. VANE ANSWERS THE CALL
First Published in November 1950 - 205 pages
The first two “Dr. Vane” stories appeared in “Pearson’s Magazine” in October 1939 and November 1939 (but November 1939 was the last issue of that magazine due to paper shortages)
Then seven stories appeared in “20-Story Magazine” between February 1940 and September 1940 before that magazine also folded with the last issue being October 1940
Find out the details of the mysterious ELEVENTH story – NOT in the book - written in red text towards the end of this page.
Republished in paperback by Norman Wright in 2005 - 182 pages
This contains ten stories set just prior to, and during, the Second World War.
THE AFFAIR AT DULWICH
THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN “PEARSON’S MAGAZINE” DATED OCTOBER 1939
The narrator, Major Ludlow, who is a senior officer in the counter-espionage branch of the Intelligence Service, meets Doctor Augustus Vane who is offering his services to his country during the Second World War. Educated at Eton, Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Heidelberg, Paris and Rome, he speaks seven languages fluently, with a good knowledge of fifteen and can read twenty-three. Dr. Vane is a criminologist, who has devoted his life to the study of criminality in all its applications, and also an inventor. The Major is particularly impressed when Dr. Vane opens his safe in around ten minutes. Dr. Vane is immediately asked to help recover the stolen plans for an advanced aero-engine. It is believed that they are in the safe of a known person but there may be diplomatic repercussions if the man is arrested. Major Ludlow meets Dr. Vane at his home address and is impressed by his house and its contents. They drive to Dulwich to visit the home of the man in question and after opening the main safe without finding anything, Dr. Vane realises that the plans are more likely to be in a bedroom safe. He enters the bedroom of the sleeping man, removes a gun from under his pillow and opens his bedroom safe while the man sleeps. The plans are recovered safely.
THE AFFAIR OF THE EGYPTIAN SORCERER
THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN “PEARSON’S MAGAZINE” DATED NOVEMBER 1939
Helping Major Ludlow with a problem relating to unrest in Egypt, Dr. Vane shows he has quite knowledge of Egyptian history. A new religious movement has started in Egypt following the finding of an ancient artefact and now rumour has it that open revolt will break out following the receipt of something from England. Visiting the British Museum and speaking to the assistant curator of Egyptian antiquities they discover that an ancient scarab has been stolen and replaced with a forgery. Dr. Vane realises that the item the Egyptians are awaiting is the coffin of the necromancer Semensert, containing his mummified remains. Expecting the coffin to be stolen, Dr. Vane comes up with an unusual and unexpected way of defeating the thieves and deterring them from trying again.
THE AFFAIR AT DAWKINS' WHARF
THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN “20-STORY MAGAZINE” DATED FEBRUARY 1940
Major Ludlow is contacted by his former Commanding Officer, Colonel Clinton-Barr who has been the victim of a burglary. Stolen was an inscribed gold watch that Ludlow himself had presented to the Colonel. The Colonel now seeks the Major's help in getting the watch back and Ludlow puts Dr. Vane on the case. Dr. Vane recovers the watch overnight. By studying the burglar's entry method, Vane was able to identify him and it was just a question of taking the watch from the safe of the 'fence', called Carnella, to whom the watch was sold. In the safe, Dr. Vane makes a discovery that may have an important effect on National Security. Dr. Vane takes Major Ludlow to the Blue Horseshoe Club, where it is clear that Vane is well known to the local villains as one of them. Dr. Vane has befriended a number of villains in his study of crime. Various conversations make Vane suspicious of the Delecto Ice Cream Company and both he and the Major pay a night time visit to their premises at Dawkins' Wharf. The picture on the cover of the dust jacket is of their arrival via the Thames. Here they discover large amounts of Gelignite, which will be sent out in ice cream vans to blow up strategic points. Various villains arrive and before the night is out, Carnella ends up dead and the Ice Cream Company gets burned down.
THE AFFAIR AT DANEHOLT CASTLE
THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN “20-STORY MAGAZINE” DATED MARCH 1940
Major Ludlow is suspicious of the new owner of Daneholt castle, a man called Blomfield. The place has been turned into a fortress, with wild animals to deter all visitors. Studying aerial photographs, Dr. Vane suspects that gun emplacements have been built that would be able to support a landing by German forces, as the castle is at a suitable coastal location. The Major and the Doctor penetrate the castle's defences in order to confirm the theories and needless to say they are correct.
THE AFFAIR OF THE BARRAGE BALLOONS
THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN “20-STORY MAGAZINE” DATED APRIL 1940
Dr. Vane has noticed barrage balloons breaking free from their moorings when there is a westerly wind blowing. With Major Ludlow, he investigates what is happening and discovers that a bogus Air Commodore is inspecting various balloon sections and placing acid at the top of the cables when they are winched down. The balloon eventually breaks free from the cable and is blown out to sea where it is later collected. The guilty parties are arrested and Dr. Vane uses an invention of his on another barrage balloon so that when it breaks free and is collected (and presumably stored with the others), it will catch fire and destroy all of them. A few days later there is a conflagration at an important central European military aerodrome.
THE AFFAIR OF THE BLONDE IN BLUE
THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN “20-STORY MAGAZINE” DATED MAY 1940
Following the outbreak of the Second World War, one of Major Ludlow's agents is shot dead. The only clue is a 1919 French centime piece which Dr. Vane recognises as one used as a gambling chip at an illegal gambling club he knows. At the club, Dr. Vane is suspicious of a blonde woman playing roulette and realises that she is sending messages via the numbers she is betting on. Decoding the message, Dr. Vane realises that a meeting is being set up for spies who don't know each other. Posing as one of the spies, Dr. Vane is able to infiltrate the group and find their headquarters where he then disables everybody with a gas bomb. A sophisticated system of getting messages back to Germany via a submarine is discovered. Needless to say, the submarine is soon destroyed and all the spies arrested.
THE AFFAIR OF THE SECRET WEAPON
I CAN’T FIND WHERE THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED AT ALL! I WOULD HAVE EXPECTED IT IN “20-STORY MAGAZINE” DATED JUNE 1940 BUT IT WASN’T IN THAT ISSUE FOR SOME REASON!
Important and key personnel in the security and other services are dying mysteriously. Investigating the latest death of a man called Leverside, Major Ludlow calls in Dr. Vane. He soon establishes that a rare poison killed Leverside. Further investigations reveal how it was administered. It was done via a book sent as a parcel in the post, but delivered slightly after the normal post. The book had had a small piece of liver placed within its spine. This liver had been impregnated with deadly spider poison and then fleas had been placed on the liver to feed on it. When the book was opened, the fleas dropped out and a bite from one of them was fatal. Major Ludlow sets up a friend as another target and in due course he is sent a deadly parcel. The "postman" is followed back to his base and the poison factory is discovered.
THE AFFAIR OF THE SILENT WINGS
THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN “20-STORY MAGAZINE” DATED JULY 1940
Major Ludlow asks Dr. Vane's opinion as to how spies could get messages back to Germany from England. All wireless transmissions are monitored so it couldn't be done by that method. Dr. Vane speculates it could be done by using homing pigeons and as a result, aircraft observers on the East Coast are asked to keep a watch out for pigeons flying out towards the North Sea. As homing pigeons fly in straight lines, it is possible to plot their line of flight. An aerial recognisance along the line of flight reveals a possible landing zone and a raid is mounted on a suspected remote farm house. Needless, to say, Dr. Vane is right. The pigeons had been bought in by glider and the glider dismantled. British Intelligence now had the ability to send false reports to the Germans via their own homing pigeons.
THE AFFAIR OF THE FIFTH COLUMN
THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN “20-STORY MAGAZINE” DATED AUGUST 1940 AS “THE AFFAIR OF THE HAUNTED PRIORY”
Major Ludlow decides to take a short holiday and Dr. Vane suggests Cornwall. The Doctor wants to go and investigate several mystery deaths that have been taking place near the village of Torlington and asks to accompany Ludlow. Dr. Vane's investigations soon uncover a small unit of 22 German soldiers hidden in an old tin mine. They are an advance guard preparing the way for more troops to sent ashore to assist with an invasion of Britain.
THE AFFAIR OF THE MYSTERY BALLOONS
THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN “20-STORY MAGAZINE” DATED SEPTEMBER 1940 AS “THE AFFAIR OF THE TRANSPARENT INVADERS”
Dr. Vane is asked to assist with an enquiry taking place in both France and Britain. Transparent balloons have been found with empty cellophane boxes underneath. The Doctor establishes that the boxes contained potatoes and the potatoes were food for Colorado Beetles. These have been sent over in special spring loaded boxes in order to destroy the potato crops of the two countries. The areas where the balloons are found are disinfected and then it is a question of hunting down the source of the balloons. This turns out to be a Dutch ship, which is boarded and seized.
THE AFFAIR OF THE SCARLET BAND
THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN “BRITANNIA AND EVE” MAGAZINE DATED APRIL 1941
There is in fact an ELEVENTH story by W. E. Johns about Doctor Vane that does not appear in this book. It was called THE AFFAIR OF THE SCARLET BAND and it was originally published in the April 1941 edition of ‘Britannia and Eve’ magazine (click that title to follow the link). It was missed when this collection was put together. I have a letter dated 5th October 1950 from Peter Watt to Captain W. E. Johns where Peter Watt acknowledges the corrected page proofs of DR. VANE ANSWERS THE CALL that Johns has returned to him and says that he will ask Latimer House (the publishers) for an explanation of the disappearance of THE AFFAIR OF THE SCARLET BAND. That explanation is dealt with in a letter dated 9th October 1950 when Latimer House say the story was never part of the original copy sent to them. Efforts to get the missing story typed up and included in the book failed as Latimer House wanted to get the book out for the Christmas market – it was published in November 1950. If you want to read this missing story, then it can be found in two different Biggles Fan magazines. Firstly, an excellent Australian fan magazine (now sadly defunct) called “Biggles’ Friend Magazine” – Number 13 – dated 1st September 2006. It can also be found in two parts in “Biggles Flies Again Magazine” (This is the W. E. Johns Appreciation Society Magazine) – Volume 3 Issue 4 which is dated July 2010 and Volume 3 Issue 5 which is dated October 2010.
THE AFFAIR OF THE MISSING 12th STORY???
I believe there could be a TWELFTH “Doctor Vane” story. This is because W. E. Johns says there is! In my archive of W. E. Johns’ correspondence, I have a copy of a letter from him to Martin Lewis at Lutterworths, dated 23rd September 1946, which you can read HERE FOR PAGE 1 and HERE FOR PAGE 2. Johns is offering Lutterworths the Doctor Vane book and clearly states there are 12 stories …..! Johns would later fall out with Martin Lewis at Lutterworths and hence the book ended up being published by Latimer House ………..
Dr. Vane Answers the Call
Subtitle - none
Publication Details - originally published by Latimer House