Shovelmonkey1's Reviews > The Thirty Nine Steps

The Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan
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Jun 30, 11

bookshelves: 1001-books, bookcrossing-books, read-in-2011
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
Recommended for: anyone who likes tweed and boys own adventure stories
Read from June 28 to 29, 2011, read count: 1

Blink and you might miss this 1001 book listed novella which weighs in at around 100 pages. The Thirty-Nine steps was the book which spawned Richard Hannay, gallant man-about-town, colonial adventurer and official holder of the title, "Man with the stiffest upper lip in the British Empire", that is of course until James Bond exploded off the page in a miasma of cigarette smoke and dinner jackets in 1953.

Hannay sets the pace for the spy-thriller-action-adventure-life-and-limb genre which has since given us the Bournes and Bonds which abound on our cinema screens and he does it with a very British pre-war aplomb. Returning from the colonies with gold in his pocket and time to kill, Hannay is fervently hoping for some kind of adventure and is itching for a scrap. Having discovered a rather conspicuous and inconveniently placed dead man kebab skewered to the floor of his apartment he heads off to the Scottish highlands (Bond would have chosen the Bahamas for sure) in a bid to unravel a convoluted trail of European espionage and dastardly doings, all the while cunningly evading the mysterious "Black Stone" (those damnable Gerrys) and the accompanying evil henchmen. Quickly adapting to his role as a master of disguise, Hannay completes more changes of wardrobe than Lady Gaga on tour and constantly outwits his feckless foes only to return to London and find out that Black Stone have already infiltrated the British defences at the highest level. Once again Hannay swings into action without thought for his own personal safety and without even pausing to curse the gang of bumbling old giffers who failed to spot a ringer in their midst.

The book ends somewhat abruptly - stiff upper lips always triumphing over early 20th century continental mendacity (see Childers, Fleming and the like for confirmation that this is true) - and may have a sequel (somewhat remiss of me but I didn't check up on that before embarking on this review). Personally I like to think that Hannay ended his days sitting in a gentlemen's club somewhere having a snifter of whiskey while comparing daring escapades with other old colonial hands like Allan Quartermain, Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnahan.
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message 1: by mark (new)

mark monday i've never heard of this richard hannay, thanks for the intro to him!


Shovelmonkey1 This was my first encounter too. Deanne sent me a message to let me know that Buchan wrote four adventure stories in which he is the principal character so I'll have to get hold of those too although I don't think they're all on the 1001 list.


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