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The thirty-nine steps by John Buchan

The thirty-nine steps (original 1915; edition 1964)

by John Buchan (Author), Edward Ardizzone (Illustrator)

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Title:The thirty-nine steps
Authors:John Buchan (Author)
Other authors:Edward Ardizzone (Illustrator)
Info:London : Dent, 1964. Hardcover. 145 pages
Collections:LT connections, Read but unowned, Favorites
Tags:20th century, adventure, chase, conspiracy, Edward Ardizzone, England, espionage, fiction, illustrated, juvenile, London, memory, murder, music hall, mystery, novel, police, public speaking, published 1915, rail, Scotland, series, spy, suspense, thriller, UK author

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The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (1915)


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English (134)  French (1)  Danish (1)  All (136)
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)
I don't remember where I picked up my little copy of The 39 Steps, only that it is orange and wallpapery with the title printed on it's binding and no difference between the front and back cover which means I opened it upside-down a dozen times. It's unusual for me not to remember where I bought a book. I'm going to pretend that it was placed in my pocket by a covert agent and that I forgot the incident.

This reminded me of [b:The Prisoner of Zenda|54492|The Prisoner of Zenda|Anthony Hope|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1356449081s/54492.jpg|2661176] in that it made an excellent bus read, the chapters being of a breezy and mostly-uniform length, with an adventure escalating and resolving over and over. A rise of tension, a complication, then a sigh of relief as Richard Hannay makes it out again. Some might see this as predictable, but personally I think it's a virtue, charmingly consistent of the genre. We're not reading this because it can be believed, but because we want to see our hero win the game of wits and get through by the skin of his teeth over and over.

Is Hannay the most compelling lead? Not sure. I kind of liked his insouciance, his boredom. I was sometimes reminded of Conway in [b:Lost Horizon|2978|Lost Horizon|James Hilton|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1432440004s/2978.jpg|1180015], a book which meant much to me when I was younger. There are other Hannay books, and I might give [b:Greenmantle|161000|Greenmantle (Richard Hannay #2)|John Buchan|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1314968556s/161000.jpg|688233] a spin to see how/if he develops at all as he goes on. ( )
  likecymbeline | Apr 1, 2017 |
Written in 1914, this fast-paced adventure takes us throughout Scotland. Richard Hannay, our protagonist, must stay on the run. His neighbor is now dead, the same man who warned Richard of an impending assassination plot that could bring the country to the brink of war. Available as an ebook through Hoopladigital.com
  mcmlsbookbutler | Mar 8, 2017 |
At the beginning of this book there is a note from the author to a friend:
You and I have long cherished an affection for that elementary type of tale which Americans call the 'dime novel' and which we know as the 'shocker' -- the romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible. During an illness last winter I exhausted my store of those aids to cheerfulness, and was driven to write one for myself. This little volume is the result, and I should like to put your name on it in memory of our long friendship, in the days when the wildest fictions are so much less improbable than the facts.

And so that is the genesis of one of the first spy novels. It is set in Britain just before World War I. A middle-aged man, Hannoy, has made his fortune in Africa and is living in London and getting thoroughly bored with his new life. Then his sedate existence is overturned when his upstairs neighbour asks for help. He claims to be in fear of his life because he has learned some information about Germany's intentions to start a war. Hannoy allows him to stay in his flat and listens to his tale but is sceptical about it. Then he comes home one night and finds his house guest stabbed to death. He realizes he will be next so he flees to Scotland where he manages to stay one step ahead of German agents and British police by effecting a number of disguises. He has managed to decipher the little black book his guest had always carried with him but he is still unclear as to the event which the spy said would take place on June 15th. The clue is in the phrase "Thirty-nine Steps" and once that is figured out the German plot can be foiled.

This reminded me quite a bit of H. Rider Haggard's classic King Solomon's Mines which I read last year. Male-dominated adventure yarn but fun to read. ( )
  gypsysmom | Jan 21, 2017 |
A classic of mystery, intrigue and adventure; set in a world immediately familiar and yet unfathomably foreign. ( )
  bensdad00 | Jan 10, 2017 |
Excellent book, and I enjoyed it from beginning to end. This is actually a series of five books. Following this one are: Greenmantle (1916), Mr. Standfast (1919), The Three Hostages (1924) and The Island of Sheep (1936). What led me to read “The 39 Steps” was James Hawes’ 2008 movie version starring Rupert Penry-Jones. I tried to watch Hitchcock’s version but couldn’t finish it, it was THAT bad. Although I enjoyed the modern movie, both fell very far from Buchan’s plot; there are so many changes the original story is barely recognizable. I can’t find a reasonable explanation for both directors adding female characters to the story; there were none in the book and no need for their addition. In fact, the Victoria Sinclair character of Hawes actually pushed Richard Hannay’s almost to second fiddle, when in the original story he was always the main character—and a very good one. Oddly, in the 2008 movie, all the glory goes to her—who did not even grace the original story. (Makes me wonder why the new 007 movies have a woman embodying “M,” when he was clearly a male in the original books…) ( )
  MrsRK | Nov 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 134 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (62 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Buchan, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ardizzone, EdwardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harvie, ChristopherEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hynynen, AnssiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Praetzellis, AdrianNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorn, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Thomas Arthur Nelson
(Lothian and Border Horse)

My Dear Tommy,
You and I have long cherished an affection for that elementary type of tale which Americans call the 'dime novel' and which we know as the 'shocker' - the romance where the incidents defy the possibilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible. During an illness last winter I exhausted my store of those aids to cheerfulness, and was driven to write one for myself. This little volume is the result, and I should like to put your name on it in memory of our long friendship, in the days when the wildest fictions are so much less improbable than the facts.
First words
Richard Hannay is not, on the face of it, the most exciting of adventurers, yet more than any other hero he has come to embody the man of action pitted against the forces of misrule.
I returned from the City about three o'clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This is the original novel, there exist a number of adapted and abridged versions for English learners that should NOT be combined into it.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141441178, Paperback)

A gripping tale of adventure that has enthralled readers since it was first published, John Buchan's "The Thirty-Nine Steps" is edited with an introduction and notes by Sir John Keegan in "Penguin Classics". Adventurer Richard Hannay has just returned from South Africa and is thoroughly bored with his London life - until a spy is murdered in his flat, just days after having warned Hannay of an assassination plot that could plunge Britain into a war with Germany. An obvious suspect for the police and an easy target for the killers, Hannay picks up the trail left by the assassins, fleeing to Scotland, where he must use all his wits to stay one step ahead of the game - and warn the government before it is too late. One of the most popular adventure stories ever written, "The Thirty-Nine Steps" established John Buchan as the original thriller writer and inspired many other novelists and filmmakers including Alfred Hitchcock. In his introduction to this edition, historian Sir John Keegan compares Buchan's life - his experiences in South Africa, his love of Scotland and his moral integrity - with his fictional hero. This edition also includes notes, a chronology and further reading. John Buchan (1875-1940) was born in Perth, and first began writing at Oxford University, producing two volumes of essays, four novels and two collections of stories and poems before the age of twenty-five. During the First World War he worked both as a journalist and at Britain's War Propaganda Bureau, eventually becoming Director of Information. He published his most popular novel, "The Thirty-Nine Steps", in 1915 - and it has never since been out of print. If you enjoyed "The Thirty-Nine Steps", you might like G.K. Chesterton's "The Man Who Was Thursday", also available in "Penguin Classics". "Richard Hannay is...a modern knight-errant". ("Observer"). "Once you've started, you can't put the book down". (Stella Rimington).

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:01 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

Richard Hannay, a mining engineer, 'retires' at the age of 37, having made his fortune in Africa. He finds London dull, until he becomes caught up in a sensational plot to precipitate a pan-European war. Hannay is at first disinclined to believe the young American, with his incredible tales of international intrigue, and hints of a terrible secret. But when the American turns up dead in Hannay's flat, Hannay is forced to flee the attentions of both the conspirators and the law. Hannay is hunted across the Scottish moors by police and spy-ring alike, and must outwit his intelligent and pitiless enemy in the corridors of Whitehall and, finally, at the site of the mysterious thirty-nine steps.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141441178, 0141031263, 0141194723

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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