An effortless adventure classic spanning the void between dime shocker and quality literature, John Buchan?s ?The 39 Steps? still satisfies after many reads. Richard Hannay returned to England, after making his fortune in South Africa, is unwillingly ensnared in a tortured plot to assassinate Karolides the Greek premier and so plunge Europe into war. Scudder, an American journalist turned spy has coded information relating to the plot but is murdered in Hannay's luxurious flat before he can pass on the code. Hannay, with all fingers pointing to him as the murderer escapes by Scottish express and with Scudder's coded notebook .Decamping from the train in the Sottish lowlands ( the Forth Bridge escape from the train was created with the 1935 Hitchcock film adaptation ) he is pursued across hill and dale by the police and the enemy agents intent on seizeing the notebook. In his flight he holes up in a remote wayside inn with a literary inn keeper, who can quote Kipling. It is here that he masters the code and learns Scudder's secrets. From then on it's a race to get to London and notify the authorities. One of the brilliant scenes on the way, concerns Hannay posing as road mender to evade his pursuers. To do this, Hannay explains how you must become one with the environment you're using as a cover; one of Buchans's favourite ploys and one employed in many of his novels. Hannay exchanges pursued for pursuer and tracks the agents to their escape channel and ultimately the title of the book is explained. Every reading of this splendid and timeless novel reveals further delights that may have been missed before and even well remembered scenes take on a fresh vividness and charm.
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John Buchan (1875–1940) was a Scottish novelist and Unionist politician who served as Governor General of Canada, the 15th since Canadian Confederation. After a brief career in law, Buchan simultaneously began writing and his political and diplomatic career, serving as a private secretary to the colonial administrator of various colonies in Southern Africa, and eventually wrote propaganda for the British war effort in First World War. Once back in civilian life, Buchan was elected Member of Parliament for the Combined Scottish Universities, but spent most of his time on his writing career. He wrote The Thirty-Nine Steps and other adventure fiction. He was in 1935 appointed as governor general by George V, king of Canada, on the recommendation of Prime Minister of Canada Richard Bennett, to replace the Earl of Bessborough as viceroy, and occupied that post until his death in 1940. Buchan proved to be enthusiastic about literacy, as well as the evolution of Canadian culture, and he received a state funeral in Canada before his ashes were returned to the UK and interred at Elsfield, Oxfordshire.From AudioFile:
This enjoyable 1947 radio adaptation of John Buchan's 1916 thriller comes from the vaults of the CBC. More faithful to Buchan's novel than was Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 film adaptation, Charles Rittenhouse's script also makes fine use of the sound medium. Musical chords punctuate dramatic moments. A montage of train sounds and conversational snatches succinctly maps hero Richard Hannay's escape from London and the clutches of a spy ring. After he disguises himself in the garb of a cooperative milkman, Hannay's innocent whistling lets us trace his steps as he nonchalantly slips past the police. Two badly muffled passages turn up, as expected with historic radio transcriptions, but the play is fast-paced fun. G.H. © AudioFile 2002, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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