Thursday, March 19, 2009
09.10 The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan
The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) by John Buchan
Pbk., Popular Library, 142 p.
After having read Greenmantle last year I was on the lookout for a copy of John Buchan's first adventure novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps.
With very little preamble Buchan introduces us to his hero, Richard Hannay. Hannay is a well to do colonial Brit who worked for a number of years as an mining engineer in South Africa. This novel finds him living in London, bored with society life and looking for adventure.
Fortunately his upstairs neighbor knocks on his door seeking sanctuary because Hannay is "an honest man, and not afraid of playing a bold hand." The fellow spins a tale of international intrigue which Hannay can't help but become involved in. He eventually has to go on the run and the bulk of the novel consists of his flight across the English countryside eluding police and nefarious agents. In the end he must return to London to set up a climactic encounter with the enemy.
This really was a fun book to read. Although Hannay makes a number of miraculous escapes from his pursuers in the novel you always feel like he really could have done them. I would still say that Greenmantle was the better of the two books but not by much.
A number of film versions of the novel have been mad; all of them adding on varios subplots. Hitchcock's 1935 version is generally regarded as being the best.
Posted by Jason L