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The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret…

The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service. Erskine Childers… (original 1903; edition 2008)

by Erskine Childers

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,509None4,876 (3.59)144
Title:The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service. Erskine Childers (Read Red)
Authors:Erskine Childers
Info:Penguin Books (2008), Paperback, 352 pages

Work details

The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers (1903)

1001 (17) 1001 books (26) 20th century (23) adventure (55) British (20) British literature (15) classic (26) classics (19) England (17) English literature (13) espionage (115) fiction (281) Folio Society (49) Germany (39) historical fiction (14) Kindle (14) literature (19) maritime (12) mystery (82) nautical (11) novel (56) read (18) sailing (61) spy (70) spy fiction (15) thriller (65) to-read (33) UK (12) unread (14) WWI (37)
  1. 40
    The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (simon_carr)
    simon_carr: Similar in many ways: plucky Englishman chances upon a dastardly German plot. Thoroughly enjoyable.
  2. 20
    Thirst for the Sea: The Sailing Adventures of Erskine Childers by Erskine Childers (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: The actual sailing logs and articles of Childer's real cruises, and smuggling!
  3. 00
    Kim by Rudyard Kipling (ed.pendragon)
    ed.pendragon: More spying and skulduggery
  4. 00
    The Zeal of the Convert by Burke Wilkinson (John_Vaughan)
  5. 00
    The English Channel by Nigel Calder (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: Cruises in the same water
  6. 00
    The riddle of Erskine Childers by Andrew Boyle (John_Vaughan)
    John_Vaughan: To know the man even better, read his now famous novel - the other riddle.
  7. 01
    Biggles and the Black Peril by W. E. Johns (simon_carr)
    simon_carr: Espionage and dastardly Germans aplenty in both.

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» See also 144 mentions

English (36)  German (2)  All languages (38)
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
This novel, published in 1902, is the most well known of a genre of spy fiction produced during the period of tension between Britain and Germany leading up to the First World War, when there were numerous exaggerated (though not wholly unfounded) fears of German spies infiltrating Britain and making it vulnerable to a German invasion. A basis for an exciting story, but unfortunately, in practice it left me cold and indeed I found it very dull. The two central English characters were uninteresting and I found them virtually interchangeable. The author's statement at the end about the perceived danger of German invasion is more interesting from a historical viewpoint. My kindle version came with some slightly odd illustrations of marginal relevance. ( )
  john257hopper | Apr 5, 2014 |
When I first read this book, I didn't understand the sailing parts. Then I took up sailing
and all became clear - one of the great spy/sailing stories.

Available as a free audiobook from https://librivox.org/ ( )
  captbirdseye | Feb 17, 2014 |
Fantastic tale of adventure in the vein of John Buchan but written with a considerable amount of style. There are some detailed nautical passages that may baffle a landsman but these account for a very small percentage of what is a compulsively-readable book. ( )
  Lirmac | Feb 12, 2014 |
Considered to be the first of the modern spy/espionage thriller genre, this book set prior to World War I, was purported to have given the British Admiralty a wake-up call about the vulnerability of England should the Germans wage a surprise attack and to take action to prevent that from happening.

Davies, a young man with considerable sailing knowledge and love of the sea is convinced that while sailing near the German Frisian Islands, an attempt was made to kill him in order to stop Davies from charting the area. He sends a telegram to an old school friend, Carruthers, asking him to join him on a sail. Carruthers, who is also our narrator, is a pampered, egotistical young man working in the foreign office wondering what to do with his upcoming leave as all the important entertainments have already expired or moved on to other areas of the country. Thinking the invitation a chance to have a two week pleasure cruise, he hastily accepts, packs his sailing whites and races to the harbour to meet his friend. What he finds instead is a converted lifeboat and that the crew is to consist of himself and Davies. Thus the two young men set sail to the Baltic Sea and Frisian Islands to unravel the mystery. The friendship of the two young men grew as they learned to trust each other and work together in the hope of discovering the German’s secret before they were caught and arrested as spies. There is, of course, as required in all spy novels, a love interest who they also attempt to rescue. Although very mild according to modern day spy thrillers, this was still entertaining enough to keep my interest. I found all the nautical references hard to understand and a bit tiresome but overall this is a decent spy novel and can imagine that when first published in 1903 it created quite a sensation.
( )
1 vote mlbelize | Jan 27, 2014 |
There is not much room for books in small boats. The few non-technical books that will not be left behind, but force their way in among the nautical almanacks, pilot books and books of first aid to non mathematical minds, have already passed tests that have eliminated the hundreds of volumes that, good enough for the fireside, are not taken to sea. Further, when at sea, or even in harbour, the sailor of small boats has not much time for reading, what with chartwork, chivvying dirt, cooking and washing up and getting a fair share of the well-earned sleep that is both a duty and a pleasure. Consequently, even the few books he takes with him do not very often get read. Some of them go to sea again and again without ever being opened at all. Those that do get read acquire a weather-beaten appearance, and it is easy, looking along that short row of old companions, to tell those that have really earned their place on board. For example I have never in any boat seen a copy of the Riddle of the Sands that looked anything like new. In my own library the battered covers of Erskine Childers are matched only by those of a collection of logs by Henry Reynolds called Coast-wise-Cross-seas, published by Potter, the Admiral Chart Agent, in 1921. No other book has been more frequently hauled out for reference by paws still over-intimate with saucepans. Senorita is likely to share its fate. ...

[Arthur Ransome reviewing Senorita in The Observer, 11 Oct. 1936; reproduced in Christina Hardyment, Ransome on blue water sailing, pp. 77-78].
  ArthurRansome | Jan 8, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Apart from the political significance of the book, "The Riddle of the Sands" is fiction of a high quality. Its style and its permeating atmosphere of the sea suggest Conrad; and, like Conrad, the author takes us so thoroughly with him that our hearts beat with those of the perplexed voyagers, and we even share the smells and flavors of their cramped little yacht.

» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Erskine Childersprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Childers, Erskine C.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drummond, MaldwinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lesser, AntonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
O'Connor, JohnIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whistler, DanielIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I have read of men who, when forced by their calling to live for long periods in utter solitude - save for a few black faces - have made it a rule to dress regularly for dinner in order to maintain their self-respect and prevent a relapse into barbarism. It was in some such spirit, with an added touch of self-consciousness, that, at seven o'clock in the evening of 23rd September in a recent year, I was making my evening toilet in my chambers in Pall Mall.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140621431, Paperback)

Childers' lone masterpiece, "The Riddle of the Sands", considered the first modern spy thriller, is recognizable as the brilliant forerunner of the realism of Graham Greene and John le Carre. Its unique flavor comes from its fine characterization, richly authentic background of inshore sailing and vivid evocation of the late 1890s - an atmosphere of mutual suspicion and intrigue that was soon to lead to war.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:53:33 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The Riddle of the Sands is set during the long suspicious years leading up to the First World War and is a classic of spy fiction.

(summary from another edition)

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Eight editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141031271, 0143106325

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