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The 39 Steps (1915)

by John Buchan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Richard Hannay stories (1)

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4,6601661,823 (3.54)592
In the days leading up to the First World War, typical everyman Richard Hannay finds himself caught in the middle of an anarchist plot to plunge Europe into chaos by assassinating the Greek Premier. However, when his American contact is murdered, Hannay makes it his duty to elude his enemies and save the Greek leader.… (more)

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English (162)  French (1)  Danish (1)  Spanish (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (166)
Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)
Richard Hannay has recently returned from South Africas but quickly becomes bored with the shallow life of London. Then he meets an American who has a fanastic tale to tell him. Soon Hannay is on the run and no longer bored.
An enjoyable thriller. Certainly different from the various film versions I have seen
( )
  Vesper1931 | Jul 29, 2021 |
i gotta say, i almost prefer the hitchcock movie ( )
  cthuwu | Jul 28, 2021 |
Richard Hannay is at loose ends. He has made his pile as a mining engineer in Africa and returned to his native British Isles that he left as a child. He sets himself up comfortably in London to enjoy early retirement and quickly becomes maddeningly bored. He gives himself one more day; if something doesn’t turn up, he’ll return to Africa.
Of course, something does; otherwise, there would have been no book. A neighbor more desperate than he needs his help. Hannay hides him, but soon his new friend is murdered while Hannay is out. In that short interval, the neighbor had given him a few details of a sinister plot he was trying to hinder.
What else can Hannay do than flee to Scotland and take on the mission of his now-dead neighbor?
The main outline of the plot may be familiar to many through the Hitchcock film made twenty years after this book appeared. It interested me to see which plot devices the film changes or adds. While all of them helped make the film a classic thriller, the novel gets along fine without them.
One thing common between the two — and this could have been what interested Hitchcock in adapting the material — is the basic situation. It’s the story of an innocent man who is suddenly thrust into danger as if by chance.
If you’re to enjoy this book, you have to accept the premise that this unsuspecting recruit turns out to have all the skills necessary to be a top-flight undercover agent. The daydreams of many an adolescent boy can revolve on this improbable premise. The trick is to turn one of these fantasies into a novel that is still, like this book, a joy to read, more than a century after its appearance. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
I liked this book more this time than the first time I read it but the main character is still kinda an insufferable Mary Sue. I rolled my eyes during the section where he reassures us that under normal circumstances he totally could have beaten up all the cops trying to detain him and the fact that so much of the book's momentum relies on his expert ability to read people's character and motivations was aggravating. I get that people in detective novels often have this trait this but they're also usually three-dimensional people who have flaws and weren't perfectly designed to uncover grand conspiracies that were jump-started by the murder of their incredibly anti-Semitic pal. ( )
  jobinsonlis | May 11, 2021 |
A breezy thriller from a time before the 'thriller' was codified – John Buchan referred to his The Thirty-Nine Steps as a 'shocker'. This is the originator of the 'man on the run' formula now common to the increasingly uninspired thriller genre, and serves as a bridge from the old-style imperial gentleman-adventures – "pure Rider Haggard and Conan Doyle", as one character puts it (pg. 29) – to the modern page-turners.

The plot of The Thirty-Nine Steps is very lean, but still with a prose quality a cut above the modern thriller. Buchan's short book came along at a time when readers were beginning to expect to be spoon-fed, but when it was still expected that the spoon be somewhat gilded. The major flaw, rather, is that the plot is scarcely believable, chock-a-block with coincidences and cunning disguises and all that rot. It works because Buchan brazens it out, but to all intents and purposes The Thirty-Nine Steps survives only as a curiosity. ( )
1 vote MikeFutcher | Mar 29, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (57 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Buchanprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ardizzone, EdwardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gibson, FloNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorey, EdwardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harvie, ChristopherEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hynynen, AnssiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Keegan, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Praetzellis, AdrianNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Puerta Aparicio, FranciscoIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorn, DavidNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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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 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.

J. B.
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. (Introduction)
I returned from the City about three o'clock on that May afternoon pretty well disgusted with life.
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In the days leading up to the First World War, typical everyman Richard Hannay finds himself caught in the middle of an anarchist plot to plunge Europe into chaos by assassinating the Greek Premier. However, when his American contact is murdered, Hannay makes it his duty to elude his enemies and save the Greek leader.

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Average: (3.54)
0.5 4
1 12
1.5 3
2 80
2.5 35
3 324
3.5 101
4 338
4.5 27
5 138

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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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