First Published in book form in February 1936 - 251 pages
Originally published in AIR STORIES magazine from January to March 1936 in a significantly edited version
Also published in THE THRILLER magazine on 8th and 15th August 1936 in a complete full version
with the two parts entitled ‘Calling all Cars’ and ‘Steeley Muscles In’
(although any references to phrases such as “Good God” in the book are changed to “Good Heavens” or “Good Lord” in the Thriller version)
The narrator, Eric "Tubby" Wilde, tells this story in the first person. It starts with an introduction about how he first met Deeley Montfort Delaroy (nicknamed "Steeley") in 1916 when he joined Tubby's Squadron in France and how Steeley was responsible for the death of their friend and fellow pilot, Ballantyne. Many years later, Tubby meets Steeley accidentally in London and they go for lunch to catch up on old times. Tubby is interested in knowing the secret of Steeley's apparent wealth, as he had heard he was at one stage poverty stricken (Steeley had in fact given all of his army discharge money to Ballantyne's widow). Steeley takes Tubby back to his flat to tell him in private. Before he has a chance to, a young man who wants to give him some information visits Steeley. He says that the police are on to Steeley after he gave some pound notes to an ex-RAF man who was begging. The money was stolen from a Mail plane and had been marked in advance. The mysterious man reveals that he is Brian Ballantyne, the son of the pilot killed in the First World War, and he is now a journalist investigating the mysterious Mr. X who steals money from the rich and gives it to poor ex-servicemen. Suddenly, the police raid the flat and Steeley asks both Tubby and Brian if they want to join him. On the spur of the moment, they agree and escape to the South Surrey Flying Club, set up by Steeley to cover his illegal operations. Here they are visited and questioned by Inspector Wayne of Scotland Yard. Wayne was also the former commanding officer from Tubby and Steeley's Squadron. The following morning, Steeley and Tubby fly to France to illegally import silk stockings for a chain of shops Steeley owns. On their return they find Wayne and officers of Customs and Excise waiting for them, but Steeley has been too clever for them. Steeley's next job is to pick up the Guggenmayer diamonds, which have been stolen by a thief called Dude Dale. This involves a trip to Holland. On their return to the UK, they see a similar plane to their own being pursued by a Hart aircraft. They watch the two aircraft fight and the Hart is shot down, although one of the two crew is able to bail out. The similar plane is also badly hit and goes down and crashes. Steeley lands beside it to help but they find the pilot, called Norton, dying. He explains that he was illegally selling weapons to a European country called Hertzovnia and that when the last shipment is made he will get £1000. He asks our heroes to take the last shipment for him and give the money to his wife. To comfort him, they say they will and when he dies, they feel obliged to do it. They go to Norton's isolated house and collect the last shipment, then using the maps referred to by Norton and found on his body, Steeley, Tubby and Brian fly to Hertzovnia. Here they are shot down and captured by Otto Brunheim, the man who had employed Norton. Brunheim was planning to double cross Norton but Steeley manages to get the money and our heroes escape by stealing a new plane. Chased by other aircraft, Tubby does some rear gunning and fights the other aircraft off. They just have enough fuel to reach the coast of Britain and crash land on the beach. Eventually getting back to their base at the South Surrey Flying Club, they are surprised to find Dude Dale there. Steeley is furious as Dale will have led the police to him, and he has. Things are made much worse when Dale shoots a police officer, before he himself is shot dead. With their base under siege, Steeley takes Tubby and Brian to an upstairs room that is open to the sky. Here he has a hot air balloon for a quiet escape in the dark. On an airborne journey, Steeley suggests Tubby and Brian parachute out and return to their old lives as nobody knows of their involvement with him. They shake hands and leave Steeley to drift on into the unknown. Tubby is later visited by Inspector Wayne and Assistant Commissioner of Police, Colonel Raymond (a regular character from the 'Biggles' books). They are not after Tubby, as there is no evidence against him, they are after Steeley. Tubby is pleased to hear that the policeman who was shot by Dale is likely to recover and offers to tell the complete story in exchange for a promise that his words will never be used in evidence against Steeley. Tubby explains that Steeley would never have been involved in the shooting of a policeman. The thefts were to give money to ex-servicemen who fought for their country in the war and had been left poverty-stricken. Tubby believes that Steeley's balloon would have been blown to France and that is where he is likely to remain.
Subtitle - Being the strange story of Deeley Montfort Delaroy, told by his war-time comrade and friend, Captain Eric (Tubby) Wilde
Publication Details - originally published by George Newnes