Book First Published in hardback in August 1933 - 256 pages
This story was first published, in twelve parts, as THE SPY-FLYERS in The Gem, issues 1309 to 1320, dated 18th March 1933 to 3rd June 1933
Also published as 'The Spy Flyers' by ‘The Boys’ Friends Library’ in issue number 625 – dated 2nd June 1938
Republished in paperback by Norman Wright in 2002 - 190 pages
NB - This book was Johns' ONLY First World War Flying novel that did NOT feature 'Biggles'
Strangely, on the outside cover of the first edition and on the spine, the title of the book is "The Spyflyers" (with no gap) but inside the book, it is called "The Spy Flyers" (with a gap).
The heroes are two characters called Captain Rex Lovell and his observer, Tony Fraser. They are old school friends who previously lived and studied in Germany and so they are both fluent German speakers. Chosen by Major Trevor of Wing Headquarters for a difficult and dangerous mission, they are sent behind enemy lines to blow up a railway tunnel. This they succeed in doing and Major Trevor then asks them if they will be willing to try to hunt down spies working for the Germans. To assist, they are given the use of a captured German 'Hannoverana' aircraft and German uniforms. After checking up on a mysterious British S.E.5 aircraft that they have seen, they discover that the plane with that number went down on the German side of the lines a month ago. The plane is seen to land on a German airfield at Varne. Rex and Tony adopt the fake German identities of Adolf Wistmann and Ernst Koepler and fly their German plane over to land on the same German airfield. A British Camel pilot shoots them up on the way and so they land with some real authenticity! Here they see a man wearing a British pilot's uniform. Returning to their own aerodrome, that night, our heroes are introduced to a guest in the mess called Captain Fairfax. Rex and Tony are stunned to see that this is the same man they had just seen over at the German aerodrome! Appraising Major Trevor of their information, he is shocked and laughs. He says that Fairfax cannot possibly be a German spy and dismisses the idea completely. The following morning, our heroes are sent on an important mission to Lille, to deliver a message to an agent there. Rex has suspicions that Fairfax may have been listening at the window. Travelling to Lille and the address given, Rex looks out of the window and sees Fairfax outside! The place is surrounded by German troops and it takes all of Rex and Tony's skill and wits to escape. Reluctant to tell Major Trevor about Fairfax without further evidence, our heroes seek it out. They return to the German aerodrome at Varne disguised as Germans again, on the pretext of losing a cigarette case. Here they see Fairfax arrive in a British S.E.5! Noticing he has important papers with him, they hold him up at gunpoint and take the papers and hastily return to the British lines. Going straight to Major Trevor's office, they walk in to find ............. Fairfax sitting waiting for them! They are astonished, does he have a double? What is going on? Fairfax acts as if nothing has happened. After Fairfax has left, Rex discovers that the papers have also disappeared again. In order to recognise the captured British machines being flown by the Germans, Rex arranges for all British machines to have a distinctive line put on them. Deciding to return to Varne and realising that they cannot land openly this time, our heroes fly out in their German disguises and land in a nearby field. They explore Varne aerodrome and find that the captured British planes also have the same distinctive markings already! Fairfax catches them and Tony knocks him unconscious. Rex takes the torch Fairfax had with him. The next day, Rex and Tony go to visit Fairfax at British HQ and find him well and again acting as if nothing has happened. Getting Fairfax to handle his cigarette case, Rex then has both the torch and the case checked for fingerprints and compared. It is the same man and also the known fingerprints of a deadly German agent. Fairfax escapes and Rex and Tony follow him back to the German lines in their German plane. This time, a British aircraft actually does shoot them down as they feel unable to shoot back. Taken to Varne aerodrome, they expect to be recognised and shot as spies but are given a friendly welcome. It's as if Fairfax has said nothing about them. Rex is then detailed for a secret German mission and has to fly a German spy to a rendezvous behind British lines! With Tony left behind, he feels he has to comply. It is here that Rex discovers the shocking and disturbing truth, which is far too good to reveal here! Suffice to say that further deadly and dangerous adventures await our heroes in this truly gripping and exciting Johns' adventure!
Publication Details - originally published in 'The Gem' magazine and then in book form by John Hamilton (full details at top of page)
John Hamilton First Edition
Click on the Dust Wrapper to enlarge it
Click on the Frontispiece to enlarge it
(Note the gap between the words “Spy” and “Flyers” that is not on the dust wrapper or outer book cover)
The Boy's Friend Library Edition – Number 625 dated 2nd June 1938
2002 Norman Wright Reprint