There are a couple of first-rate UFO books that were published shortly after Heard's, which are sometimes erroneously described as having being the first on the subject:
- The Flying Saucers are Real, which appeared later in 1950, and is the work of Donald Keyhoe -- a former marine who, back in the 1930s, had been a prolific writer of pulp fiction, producing tales of the First World War flying ace Philip Strange, and the scheming Fu Manchu clone Dr Yen Sin. The significance of Keyhoe's book is that it was the first to suggest the now-indispensable idea of a government conspiracy to cover up the truth about UFOs.
- Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953), written by Desmond Leslie in collaboration with the first "contactee", George Adamski. Although the book is best remembered for Adamski's contribution, Desmond Leslie was the more thoughtful and erudite of the two authors, and his ideas on Atlantis, the Pyramids and ancient Indian flying machines (vimanas) were the first of many attempts to link modern UFO sightings with ancient mysticism.
In comparison with these two books, Gerald Heard's The Riddle of the Flying Saucers offers nothing to get the pulses racing -- no government conspiracies, no alien abductions, no ancient astronauts. Instead, in a series of breathtakingly glib deductions, Heard progresses from the small body of observational evidence to the conclusion that Flying Saucers are piloted by intelligent bees from the planet Mars. These aren't even giant bees -- they're just slightly larger than ordinary earthly bees (about two inches long, Heard tells us).
Incidentally, my copy of the book (which I bought in Sherborne, Dorset) has a hand-written inscription inside the front cover that says "To Desmond from Mother - Xmas 1950". Maybe it was Desmond Leslie's personal copy!