Greenmantle (1916) by John Buchan
Pbk, Wordsworth Classics, 220 p.
Sometimes I am astounded at my own ignorance. How I could not have know about, let alone read, John Buchan before now is beyond me. Of course I had hear of Hitchcock's The 39 Steps but had no idea that it was an adaptation of the the first in a series of adventure novels.
Greenmantle is the second in the adventures of Richard Hannay in WWI. Hannay is a tough, resourceful and experienced Scotsman. He really is something of the prototypical spy thriller hero. Greenmantle begins with Hannay in the hospital after having been injured in the Battle of Loos. Fully expecting to be sent back to his unit he is summoned to London for a special mission. The Germans have something of a secret weapon with regards to Turkey and the Muslims however no one knows quite what it is. Hannay gets together with John Blenkiron, an American, and a war buddy of his named Sandy. They decide that each shall take a different route to Constantinople, gathering intelligence along the way.
The journey is the thing in this book and Hannay gets into and out of all sorts of trouble along the way. Ultimately, the comrades meet up in Turkey for a pretty fantastical conclusion. I have to say I was pretty impressed with this novel. The writing, though antiquated, was crisp and interesting. There are some unfortunate lapses into anti-semitism and racism which are basically a product of the era. Overall though, a smashing good tale. I look forward to finding a copy of The Thirty-Nine Steps.
Below are some covers of the new editions that have come out recently.