John Buchan 39 , Richard Hann y John Buchan , 39 Alfred Hitchcock 1935 Guardian. I LIKE THE CUT OF YOUR JIBIn this mercifully short ur thriller our hero is the kind of guy who has an inbuilt trustometer which is activated by looking He looks at another man and instantly can tell if he s the decent, upstanding, plucky sort or the low, conniving, blackguard sort He was very young, but he was the man for my money. P30 I saw by this man s eyes that he was the kind you can trust p43Other men also have this impressive power of instant worthiness assessment He watched me with a smile I don t want proof I can size up a man You re no murderer and you re no fool I believe you are speaking the truth Early on, our man Richard Hannay runs into an odd cove called Scudder and they use their trustometers on each otherJust one word, Mr Scudder I believe you are straight, but if so be you are not, I should warn you that I m a handy man with a gun Scudder saysI haven t the privilege of your name, sir, but let me tell you that you re a white man I ll thank you to lend me a razor I was thinking well, you don t have to be too perspicacious to see that someone is white and not black, but then I realized that white in this context does not mean white Of course, it means good So this is not The Wire It s like the 1914 version of James Bond, meaning no technology, absolutely no girls, but lots of racing around Even though it s 1914 cars are written off This whole novel is one long chase scene.EXIT PURSUED BY A JEWLike certain popular songs where the verses are something you have to endure in order to get to the great singalong chorus John Buchan has to provide us with some kind of explanation for all this lying low, adopting disguises, cracking cyphers and running around So Scudder explains that there is a dastardly German organization operating in England called the Black Stone They are trying to steal military secrets and assassinate foreign politicians I think anyway, it s not awfully clear And why Let Scudder explain Away behind all the governments and the armies there was a big subterranean movement going on, engineered by very dangerous people I gathered that most of the people in it were sort of educated anarchists that make revolutions, but that beside them were financiers who were playing for money A clever man can make big profits on a falling market, and it suited the book of both classes to set Europe by the ears When I asked why, he said that the anarchist lot thought it would give them their chance Everything would be in the melting pot, and they looked to see a new world emerge The capitalists would rake in the shekels, and make fortuned by buying up the wreckage Capital, he said, had no conscience and no fatherland Besides, the Jew was behind it.A nice summary of what certain people must have been thinking as Europe did indeed slide into war and the Russian revolution was just around the corner I bet Adolf was a fan of The Thirty Nine Steps.So for the first half the Black Stone is pursuing Richard Hannay, our well heeled ex colonial, and for the second half he and the British government is pursuing them This novel is somewhat past its sell by date I think its sell by date was June 1915. Adventurer Richard Hannay, Just Returned From South Africa, Is Thoroughly Bored With London Life Until He Is Accosted By A Mysterious American, Who Warns Him Of An Assassination Plot That Could Completely Destabalise The Fragile Political Balance Of Europe Initially Sceptical, Hannay Nonetheless Harbours The Man But One Dayreturns Home To Find Him Murdered An Obvious Suspect, Hannay Flees To His Native Scotland, Pursued By Both The Police And A Cunning, Ruthless Enemy His Life And The Security Of Britan Are In Grave Peril, And Everything Rests On The Solution To A Baffling Enigma What Are The Thirty Nine Steps Run of the mill outmoded thriller With conventions that pile on on like wretched clich s, The 39 Steps is somewhat thrilling, somewhat entertaining A sure predecessor to The Fugitive, it has our main man running from the law while hiding and acting the parts of the British lower classes The theme being that camouflage is the best defense, while you re out on the offense.There s reverse psychology, the usurping of identities, and the amateur loss of evidence here, a motor car, a bicycle Stupid, gullible people, drunk sometimes, also stumble upon the protagonist just when he needs them, the pre WWI Good Samaritans, the most Simply It s a hide and seek in the British countryside Tame, slightly engrossing, a tad too unspecial in a world filled with complex and superior stories of detection Yes, it being a prewar novel, it has some historical value But still. How can a classic be so bad Melodramatic, as expected, but Buchan piles improbability upon improbability insulting your intelligence until by the end you just want to slap him This is an important book in that it sprung many imitators, and some claim it is the start of the spy genre It has been filmed three times, adapted for radio and television, inspired the chase film genre, and certainly it gave Alfred Hitchcock his basic subject Buchan was a political man, and he uses the book for a little bit of political and social satire Well and good, but the ridiculous plot, narrative short cuts, and silly but always convincing to the other characters disguises make this a bad, bad book It has one of the least credible and least exciting endings I have read in a thriller no wonder all the films change it Yet, credit due, Buchan invented a lot narratively that became part of popular culture, and has found a compelling voice for his first person narrator The book is every bit as readable as it is bad, so readable that I ll probably look for one of his later books to see if Buchan learned how to plot. Read as part of The Infinite Variety Reading Challenge, based on the BBC s Big Read Poll of 2003.A fairly conceited man gets embroiled in a rather far fetched murder cum political conspiracy that can only be described as Man Walks Through A Lot Of Heather Mercifully short, this book could have been even shorter if we didn t have to follow Mr Hannay the length and breadth of Scotland, only to hear about his aching feet.Fairly regular stuff, adventurous without too much danger to quicken your pace maker The only thing that was really missing was a James Bond style Woman For Looking At And Not Much Else Oh Yes Sleeping With Too Not an awful lot of depth even if it was purposefully written that way, though that s hardly an excuse It was also lacking in any kind of depth in terms of plot there s a conspiracy, but what it is no one really knows an awful lot about it handy.Short, not that sweet, but a vaguely interesting run of the mill wee read for if you miss the train and don t have Bradshaw to hand Or the Trainline app Or Fruit Ninja Whichever.Blog Instagram Twitter Pinterest Shop Etsy When it was first published, this novel must have been fascinating reading At the time the UK was at war with Germany and there were no doubt German spies in the country The book was initially serialised in a magazine and many chapters end on the proverbial cliff hanger As a result the story is fast paced and full of action.In a dedication before the book John Buchan describes the book as a dime novel or shocker where the incidents defy the probabilities and march just inside the borders of the possible I cannot put it better than that.The lead character of Richard Hannay is a wealthy man in his late thirties who has recently returned from successful business activities in Africa Bored with London society he initially relishes the intrigue offered by his chance meeting with Scudder but his situation soon deteriorates.I found the Hannay and the other leading characters somewhat stereotypical but that is not altogether surprising in an action novel of this length I suspect Buchan s target audience did not want depth and sensitivity they wanted easy to understand characters and lots of action.I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of country life in Galloway which would then have been a world away from life in an English city.Yes, it may seem a bit thin and dated but before you question its definition as a Classic novel, consider the thousands of spy thrillers published in the intervening century which follow the same format I am sure we have all read work from authors who could well have been influenced by John Buchan.The Thirty Nine Steps deserves a read if only for its historical status I have awarded it three stars.Reviewed by Clive on www.whisperingstories.com I hadn t heard of this book until recently, when it made a surprise appearance on The Guardian s Best 100 English Novels list It s an early spy novel, written in 1915 and set just before WWI, and a smashing and brisk read It was written by a John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, and I did not make that up Baron Tweedsmuir Baron Tweedsmuir, at your service sirrahIt cites Kipling and Conrad as influences, appropriately, and there s some mention of Holmes as well, but its primary influence is clearly Robert Louis Stevenson s Kidnapped There s a scene involving hiding and sweltering on top of a dovecote that s a direct play on a similar one in Kidnapped, but above all they share Scottishness, which manifests itself in a love of running about on moors and in a general unawareness of the existence of women There are zero women in this book Seriously, you never even pass one on the sidewalk Correction a commenter named Vesna says there is one I don t remember her but I m willing to believe it Top Six Literary Works Featuring Moors6 The 39 Steps5 Hound of the Baskervilles4 Kidnapped3 Return of the Native2 Othello1 Wuthering HeightsWhat Buchan is really, really into is disguises like this but no parrotAnd very little happens in The 39 Steps that doesn t have to do with them Buchan s hero, Richard Hannay, is a master of disguise his transformation into a road worker at one point is wonderfully detailed His Moriartyesque nemesis is even better, which leads to a denouement that isn t really believable but gets the job done.This is of a novella than a novel, and arguably aside from some semi interesting talk about the philosophy of disguising oneself it s not very deep It s a nonstop thrill ride, is what it is But it s a hell of a good time You know what else is a good time is just saying Baron Tweedsmuir Hello, Baron Tweedsmuir We meet again, Baron Tweedsmuir.Tweedsmuir. Scotsman John Buchan s fabulous The Thirty Nine Steps is rightly considered a seminal classic in the Adventure Spy genre and it is for good reason it was on The Guardian s Best 100 English Novels list at 42.This exciting tale of espionage defined the man on the run tale in breathless fashion, and was the first of the author s Richard Hannay tales What remains remarkable is the contemporary prose Though it takes place before the first World War, offering insight into the view of what was happening at that time, the tale is timeless, and with minor changes, could easily be a thrilling espionage adventure told in our day Books need to be judged within their context, and while most do, some don t This classic has a solid four star average after hundreds of reviews on in the US, which accurately reflects how much fun this is to read.That s not to say some of what happens isn t implausible, almost Cornell Woolrich implausible, but with a style and pace which makes Robert Ludlum seem lethargic no easy task the reader is having so much fun they simply don t care Reading The Thirty Nine Steps is fun and exciting, which is what it is supposed to be Watching Hannay escape time after time until the thrilling confrontation and conclusion is exhilarating.Buchan writes as though using lighting bolts rather than a pen, and we re just along for the electric charged ride The Thirty Nine Steps is the quintessential can t put down read That thrill you got as a youngster reading a mystery adventure by flashlight beneath the covers was captured by Buchan and moved forward into adulthood, and on that level it doesn t just succeed, it shines It s on The Guardian s list for good reason.The book differs from Hitchcock s famous British film adaptation in that there is no love interest for Hannay here frankly because as a boys adventure story brought into adulthood, it isn t needed A rollicking good old fashioned tale that set a bar seldom reached since Fabulous fun and quite enjoyable when read, if you don t make comparisons with spy novels written many decades later, and why would you do that This edition of this seminal work has an excellent biography at the end readers will most likely enjoy Highly recommended. I am currently working my way through the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and decided to read Buchan s short mystery spy novel because it seemed like a quick and easy option to take me a step closer to maybe one day completing the list I never imagined it would be such a painfully boring slog Some books made the big list because they are actually good, some because they are or were scandalous, some because they are so far away from pretty much everything else that s been written, and some because they kick started something or opened up a new type of genre and or storytelling I believe The Thirty Nine Steps falls into this last category It arguably introduced the world to the spy genre and has resulted in many attempted imitations over the years since its publication in 1915 But in terms of plot, writing and characters it just seems to me to have very little to offer It may be one of the first of its kind, but many other authors have bettered the genre, in my opinion I would use John le Carr as a prime example.The novel begins with the bored Richard Hannay who is determined to give London just one day to hold his interest before he leaves for a exciting alternative abroad Richard, however, gets way than he bargained for when a new American acquaintance is murdered in Hannay s flat just a few days after the pair meet Realising he is now likely the main target of the group who assassinated his new friend, and realising he will be the police force s main suspect for the murder, Richard takes off on the run around Scotland.Richard is given very little characterization or development, he has no personality and the novel focuses on what happens to him, instead of who he is, why he acts in a particular way, or what he cares about apart from the desire to avoid capture by the police or the assassins Though he is being chased by two groups who either want to kill him or lock him up, I got no sense of his fear, desperation or urgency The novel lacked emotion and I felt like I could be reading a cold, uncaring police report of events, rather than a first hand account of them This whole mess seemed like a little inconvenience in Richard Hannay s life, not something that was a real danger to him.Most of all, it was boring The conclusion wasn t satisfying enough to be worth putting up with the sequence of boring events for I think this review says a lot about the novel s plotHe runs around in the fields A lot He hides in this field He hides in that field Some shadowy figures close in, and off he goes, running againAn excellent and accurate summary, in my opinion.
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- 182 pages
- The Thirty-Nine Steps
- John Buchan
- 13 March 2019 John Buchan