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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Air Adventure Series, A&C Black, 1935-8

This post comes from a chance find in a Southwold second-hand bookshop, The Pirate Island by D.E. Heming (1938). The page stating it as part of a series, and naming the other titles, makes this a most interesting story.
First there are three books by Jack Heming, a minor writer of boys' school stories. They are:The Desert Air Raider, The Air-Dope Hunters, The Air Spies. Sixth in the series is Flying Dawn by Dorothy Carter, which I happen to have. This was one of her first books, maybe the first - the first of 120 books or so to follow using 16 different names. She was Jack Hemings' wife and sometimes wrote under her real name D(orothy) E(ileen) Heming. "D E Heming"  used for The Pirate Island (the D was for Dempster) links her to Guy Dempster, also in this series. The title page identifies D E Heming as the author of this Guy Dempster title. The story goes (based on her fictionalised autobiography One Woman's Life) that when penniless, Jack spoke to someone in London who said 'Air adventures are where the new money is' - so he and his wife had a go, and took their manuscripts in to a publisher in London. He not only agreed to publish, but commissioned more.

Then came James Cahill, Flying with the Mounties, clearly set in Canada: this was also by Dorothy Heming, taking the name from distant family menbers. There were several Canadian adventures written by her in the 1930s, though she had never been to Canada. Many were about flying, and at this stage neither had she flown an airoplane, though her descriptions have fooled many. [There is a mysterious books Ted of the Mounties by Eileen Heming, and North for Treasure by Dorothy Carter set in Canada but published long after her (1948) death]. Then there is The Phantom Wing, by Guy Dempster, another Dorothy Heming name - a remarkably different book, as others using this pseudonym, set on active service with the Fleet Air Arm - including blood-curdling and blood-letting accounts of battle.

There are three other names, unrelated as far as I know to the Heming clan - John Grant, writing on India ("A thrilling adventure novel of a quest for gold in India that turns into a desperate attempt by Richard Challenger to free his father, Col. Challenger, retired, from the clutches of the infamous Emir Din and his impenetrable stronghold" (blurb). Then two by M.E.Miles (Airplane Base and Pirates of the Air) ; and Michael Cronin's The Flying Kidnappers - again no connection that I know of, and occasional copyright library ascriptions identify this Michael Cronin with the prolific post-war crime writer of that name, born 1907. His real name was Brendan Leo Cronin and since he also wrote under the name David Miles, I presume that he was M.E. Miles also (see comments below for confirmation).

So, A and C Black got together this small group of prolific young writers to quickly put together a contribution to air adventures that were otherwise dominated at that time by W.E. Johns' Biggles. Indeed the illustrator Alfred Sindall also illustrated Biggles' stories.


  1. Peter Nethercot6 May 2012 at 11:20

    Michael Brendon Leo Cronin 1907-1987 was my father in law.He also wrote under the names of David Miles and M.E,Miles (his wifes maiden name). He was educated at Queens College, Dublin and after graduating joined the Royal Airforce as a school teacher. On the outbreak of the second world war he transferred into the provost branch, and from there to special branch. Most of his writing took place after the war which is well documented.

  2. Many thanks Peter for tying this loose end up. It is always good to talk with family members. Curiously he parallels my own father who came from Dublin and joined the RAF in 1936 till 1945. Stephen

  3. Jack's WW1 brief service record (from TNA) shows that he wanted to be a pilot but found that when he was in the air that he was so scared that he couldn't do anything. ADM 273/17/299
    Jack was the son of notorious writer/journalist Philip Heming, editor of London Life. Phil's story at brother f

    1. Thanks Jo. Bracebridge Heming is included in Bates' biography of Jack, Dorothy and Bracebridge. Since I was researching Dorothy I didn't follow up Philip and his brother, so was interested in Forgotten Authors 3. I have lost contact with the Heming family over the last decade. Jack's war service is a bit of a mystery so any other snippets that come your way let me know. Your comment was truncated - seemed to lose a bit at the end. Best wishes in Hull, had a friend there and I used to work in Scarborough.