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Can Professor Brane with Tiger and Rex Clinton save the planet Mars from annihilation of life...

William Earl Johns was born in 1893 in Hertfordshire, England, the son of a tailor. He left school working as a surveyor but with the advent of the First World War, he joined the British Army and served in the Middle East. But his passion was for flying. And in 1916 he transferred to The Royal Flying Corps and became a fighter pilot. On one daring raid over enemy territory in 1918, Johns was shot down and imprisoned until the duration. But he did try to escape three times. After the war he continued to serve in the new, Royal Air Force until 1931 as a Flight Instructor and Recruiting Officer. Johns started his publishing career as an aviation illustrator and in 1932 his first venture was a magazine called, Popular Flying. It was in this very first issue that a new star would be born : Biggles in, The White Fokker. In the same year the first Biggles book: The Camels Are Coming was published under the name William Earl Johns. It was a few years before he added Captain to his name.

During his distinguished writing career W.E.Johns wrote ninety-five more original Biggles and several omnibus editions. He wrote nearly one hundred and seventy books and sadly died in 1968. The very last Biggles book was published in 1970: Biggles Sees Too Much.

I had read quite a few Biggles books in my youth when I came across this curious book about Space Travel. It was 1969 and I was thirteen years of age and the Moon Landing was imminent.

Kings Of Space is a marvellous space adventure written with great logic displayed by one of the lead character's Professor Brane. It all begins as Group Captain Timothy Clinton: nicknamed Tiger, retired officer of the Royal Air Force and his son Rex are enjoying a deer-stalking holiday in the Scottish mountains. But a fog soon descends and the pair are lost. They see red lights in the shape of a cross and end up at Glensalich Castle, the home of inventor, Professor Lucius Brane. The Professor is aware of Tiger's skills as an engineer and in confidence show him and Rex his latest invention, 'The Spacemaster' a flying saucer space-craft.

The adventure begins with Professor Branes butler Judkins, the four travel to The Moon and Venus. They next undertake a mission to the red planet Mars, but first explore one of it's moons, Phobos. They find a dead body perfectly preserved in human form; so decide to explore the mother planet. They find signs of an advanced civilisation, large cities, vast canals, but everything seems dead with the canals overgrown with weeds and rushes. They eventually find a dying man with some form of sleeping sickness. They then notice the cause; swarms of mosquitoes rising from the overgrown canals. They escape back to Earth, the Professor planning to return with insecticides to save the planet. But on their return two villains have broken into the castle and demand the plans of the Spacemaster. Professor Brane lures the two men into the craft, jumps out and Judkins sends the two villains hurtling into space, killing them. The Spacemaster is lost but the Professor vows to return to save the dying planet, Mars.

Ten of these great space adventures was published from 1954 to 1963. If you get a chance read then. They might not be scientifically true, but some logic is there; anyway you will settle down to some great reading.

After Captain W.E.Johns had finished these space adventure in 1963, he only wrote Biggles books until his death.

capt w.e.johns, biggles, professor branes, tiger and rex clinton, spacemaster