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THE FLYING BEETLE

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Full Name: Harry Davies
Codename: The Flying Beetle
Nationality: British
Organization: British Secret Service
Occupation Agent

Creator: George E. Rochester
Time Span: 1926 - 1947

ABOUT THE SERIES

Harry Davies, aka the Flying Beetle, is an agent with the British Secret Service.

The period of time we are able to follow Davies is just shy of a decade after the end of the First World War, though we will be able later to read about several of the man's extraordinary exploits during that horrendous conflict. In the mid-to-late 20s, the power of the British Empire is still tremendous but the number of dangers arising to challenge the Crown is growing. While none of the forces which would go to war with the Allies are the foes that Davies will have to confront during his adventures described here, the international nature of Davies's opposition is telling.

The interesting moniker that Davies enjoys comes to him self-made in that for reasons I have quite grasped, he chose to have painted on the side of the planes he flew during WWI the "replica of a flying beetle" and we are told "it was as the Flying Beetle that this grim-faced lad with thirty-four German machines to his credit was known the whole length of the battle-line, from the Swiss frontier to the sea". Note that the number of enemy planes downed was stated fairly early on in his military career.

Harry Davies' service in the Air Corps, holding the rank of Captain, is noteworthy in view of his young age, mentioned several times as being "little more than a boy in years", though of course in the period we first start watching, he is a decade older. He is also referred to as "one of the cleverest agents the British Secret Service possessed" and that his "bored expression and almost weedy frame belied the alert and nimble brain and sterling courage which he possessed".

Davies had not intended to become a famous aviator nor a well respected and even feared government operative. He says, "I was intended for the Diplomatic Service and I can speak German like a native". As was very common, the War changed his life trajectory and he never looked back nor apparently regretted the switch.

Three of the full-length adventure we have available to read concerning the Flying Beetle are actually narrated by a fellow Secret Service operative named Major Beverley. In each, Davies has already been sent to start the investigation or solve the problem and either has gone incommunicado and needs checking-up on or sends word back that assistance was needed. Beverley will quickly become a close friend to the famed aviator as well as showing just how good he is on his own.

YOUNG ADULT BOOKS

Number of Books:7
First Appearance:1926
Last Appearance:1947

       The first five adventures of The Flying Beetle were released initially in two-part serial format in the pages of Boys' Own Paper in the mid-to-late 20s (interestingly the first 4 were all were printed in the initial two issues of each year's volume (October and November issues) of that publication). They were then released in hardback book format a decade later, except for the fifth one which was oddly never reprinted.
       The author then produced a book-only collection of short stories dealing with Harry Davies and his transition from pilot to secret agent.
       A decade after this collection came out, George Rochester returned yet again to his flying operative for a more modern tale of danger in the new atomic age.

       Listed with each book entry, where applicable, is the times of both the initial magazine release and the subsequent book version.

1 The Flying Beetle The Flying Beetle
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1926

Originally released serially in two issues of Boys Own Paper, October and November, 1926. Released in large-sized paperback format by Amalgamated Press in 1928. Released in book format in 1935.
"A figure ... surprised the six masked conspirators plotting the downfall of England. One by one he unmasked them and informed them that one by one they would die. Who was this mysterious intruder? All that the conspirators knew was that he left a card embossed with the replica of a black flying beetle."

2 The Scarlet Squadron The Scarlet Squadron
aka The Squadron of Death
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1927

Originally released serially in two issues of Boys Own Paper, October and November, 1927. Released as The Squadron of Death in paperback format in Boys' Wonder Library #1, July 1932. Released in book format in 1938.
After word comes to British Secret Service that "a certain foreign power was casting envious eyes upon our possessions in the East", Harry Davies, aka The Flying Beetle, was sent to China to investigate and he reported "the rumors were well founded and that Britain and the security of the Empire were being seriously menaced". When "all communications with Davies ceased", Major Beverley is told to head there to learn what happened to the famous secret agent.

3 Vultures Of Desolate Island Vultures Of Desolate Island
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1928

Originally released serially in two issues of Boys Own Paper, October and November, 1928. Released in paperback format in Boys' Wonder Library #25, July 1933. Released in book format in 1938.
Britain has spent an impressive amount of time, money, and effort to establish an air corridor to Japan over the Arctic, including aerodromes and fuel depots. Now someone is causing planes flying that route to disappear, one such craft being found riddled with bullets". A wealthy man, "no friend to England", named Erkunstelt is thought behind it all. The Flying Beetle was deep in the investigation when he sends word requesting the assistance of Major Beverley.


4 The Despot Of The World The Despot Of The World
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1929

Originally released serially in two issues of Boys Own Paper, October and November, 1929. Released as The Squadron of Death in paperback format in Boys' Wonder Library #1, July 1932. Released in book format in 1938.
This "chronicles the further adventure of the Flying Beetle", "told by Major Beverley, his great friend. Following two mysterious messages from the Flying Beetle, Major Beverley proceeds to a small country town in Northern Europe where he receives a mysterious order reading 'B - Obey No. 17'". "The Flying Beetle" is striving to combat the planes of the Red Revolution, organized by a Russian, drunk with egotism and conceit", the book "relates many adventures and how at last the menace of war against the civilized work is dispelled".


5 The Return Of The Flying Beetle The Return Of The Flying Beetle
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1934

Originally released serially in two issues of Boys Own Paper, May and June, 1934. This adventure was never released in book format.
Four years after the world was left to believe Harry Davies, the Flying Beetle, was dead at the end of the previous adventure, he returns in this story. The exact plot is unknown.

6 The Trail Of Death The Trail Of Death
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1936

Subtitled "War Adventures of the Flying Beetle". A collection of eight tales taking place during World War I. The stories are:
1. The Dawn Patrol
2. The Understudy
3. Zeppelins Westwards
4. The Death Cloud
5. A Naval Occasion
6. A Busman’s Holiday
7. The Trail of Death
8. The Last Round

7 Phantom Wings Phantom Wings
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1947

Originally released serially in two issues of Boys Own Paper, vol 69 no. 10,  July, 1947. Released in book format later that year.
"'Both the bomber and the atomic bomb are completely obsolete.' said the anonymous letter to the Daily Courier, 'and to prove this I will destroy Box Hill, Surrey, at four this afternoon.' 'Another crank,' said the Daily Courier lightheartedly, but it happened! ... Air Commodore Davies, the famous Flying Beetle of Air Intelligence, began his almost hopeless search with Scotland Yard and the Royal Air Force standing by to help."

NOVELLAS AND SHORT STORIES

Number of Stories:9
First Appearance:1926
Last Appearance:1936

       According to CollectingBooksAndMagazines.com, in 1925, George E. Rochester wrote a short WWI story entitled The Funk which he sent to Boys' Own Paper. It was accepted by the editor who then requested a full-length story.
       The hero of that story was named Harry Davies though there is no reference or inference towards the Flying Beetle. When Rochester did create the story the editor had requested, he used the same name for the protagonist but now with the soon-to-be-famous sobriquet of the Flying Beetle.
       The author would go on to write an impressive number of short stories and novellas but would not return to the short form for the Flying Beetle until a decade later.

1 The Funk The Funk
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1926

Said by georgerochester.blogspot.com to have been "accepted" by the editor of Boys' Own Paper and possibly published in an issue in likely early 1926.
A young pilot by the name of Harry Davies is given the near impossible mission of flying a plane take out the railway in Trier. With him is Binks, the perpetually frightened man tasked with tossing the bomb out of the plane. When the mission goes terribly wrong and Binks refuses to drop the bomb, the question of why arises, especially when their plane later crashes.

2 The Dawn Patrol The Dawn Patrol
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1936

1st of 8 short stories collected in The Trail Of Death.
While on a flight mission over enemy territory, Harry Davies, the Flying Beetle, crashes on a farm. He is saved by a French farmer but despite both their efforts, Davies is nearly captured and must use his skills at German to impersonate one of them. His manner of escaping back to England was both daring and dangerous.

3 The Understudy The Understudy
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1936

2nd of 8 short stories collected in The Trail Of Death.
The return of Harry Davies to his ancestral home of Clancarde for a two-week visit is highly anticipated by everyone except, it seems, the young Laird who, though he grew up with Davies, seems very oddly apprehensive about the visit.

4 Zeppelins Westwards Zeppelins Westwards
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1936

3rd of 8 short stories collected in The Trail Of Death.
This tale describes how the activities in the first adventure in the collection had attracted the attention of the British Secret Service. Their request that he transfer to work for them is happily accepted by the Flying Beetle with the condition he still be allowed to fly. His final mission before accepting the transfer deals with a forced landing in Germany and an exception stowaway on a Zeppelin.

5 The Death Cloud The Death Cloud
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1936

4th of 8 short stories collected in The Trail Of Death.
In his first mission with the British Secret Service, Harry Davies is told to infiltrate a German flying school in Bavaria. The enemy has also set up a poison gas factory in the same location. The job for the Flying Beetle is to get full details of the plant including its output.

6 A Naval Occasion A Naval Occasion
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1936

5th of 8 short stories collected in The Trail Of Death.
With apparently a good number of missions now under his belt for the Secret Service, Harry Davies is asked to help out the British Admiralty. The Kaiser is scheduled to sit down with the new head of the German Navy aboard the flagship, Friedrich der Grosse, to go over their future plans. Davies is to sneak onboard that vessel and listen in.

7 A Busman's Holiday A Busman's Holiday
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1936

6th of 8 short stories collected in The Trail Of Death.
A robbery at the home of a scientist named Sir Gerald Lester has resulted in the theft of "a series of most important formulae" from his laboratory in Northumberland. Harry Davies is directed by the Secret Service to head there to learn what he can and hopefully recover the papers.

8 The Trail Of Death The Trail Of Death
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1936

7th of 8 short stories collected in The Trail Of Death.
The death of a fellow Secret Service agent while on vacation at Callay in Scotland is of great suspicion by his superiors. Was he murdered by an enemy or was it an accident. Harry Davies is dispatched to learn the truth and, if it were murder, find who did it and why.

9 The Last Round The Last Round
Written by George E. Rochester
Copyright: 1936

8th of 8 short stories collected in The Trail Of Death.
Though Harry Davies has joined the Secret Service, his occasionally taking a busman's holiday to cause considerable trouble for the German Air Force has earned him considerable indemnity on their part. When they learn he is likely to take another trip to the skies, they dispatch their best fighter pilot to shoot him down.

COMIC BOOKS, GRAPHIC NOVELS, AND MANGA

Number of Stories:1
First Appearance:1947
Last Appearance:1947

1 The Flying Beetle The Flying Beetle
Published by Fleetway Publications Ltd.
Contributors: George E. Rochester (writer)
Copyright: 1947

Appearing in Knockout Fun Book 1947 - 6 pages of an illustrated story.
Air Commodore Davies, the Flying Beetle, receives an urgent summons to head to Aden, Yemen, where he is told of a major threat to destroy Lagos, Nigeria, unless £1 million is paid in extortion. Davies is sent across Africa to handle the situation.
Click here to read the story.

MY COMMENTS

Is it just me or is the idea of someone deciding to write about a character and giving the nickname of "the Flying Beetle" just a bit odd? Yes, these stories are designed for teenage boys and young men so the 'Flying' part is understandable. But "Beetle"? If there is a confused reader list, put my name on it.

Now, considering the target audience, these stories are darned enjoyable and filled with near constant excitement or witty dialogue. For that reason, those into the history of spy fiction should check out one or two of the books or stories.

Just ignore the Flying Beetle part.

GRADE

My Grade: B

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