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The Thirty-Nine Steps (English Edition) Format Kindle
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One of those books you dread reaching the end!
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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. My praise may seem fulsome but after experiencing 'The Thirty Nine Steps' you too will be won over
The novel's story is very straightforward--Hannay, recently returned to "the Old Country" of England from a life spent in Africa, finds himself thoroughly bored with his new life in London. After an American spy is murdered in his apartment, Hannay finds himself on the run not only from the police, who believe him to be the murderer, but from a mysterious and malevolent organization called "The Black Stone." The Black Stone has a secret it wants to keep hidden, and eliminating Hannay would help them keep their cover.
From London into the Scottish countryside, pursued by detectives, sinister Germans in touring cars, and newfangled "aeroplanes," The Thirty-Nine Steps never stops moving, and even at its conclusion one barely has a chance to catch their breath. The story is so gripping I can easily see how it caught Alfred Hitchcock's attention as film material.
The novel is fast-moving and short--barely 100 pages. I read this book in a few hours at a slow deskjob. If I have to find fault with any one part of the book, it's that the conclusion--indeed, the very last half-page or so--didn't make perfect sense. I had to read it twice. But that's only a small problem for this otherwise fun and exciting book.
Almost a century of imitators and innovators in the spy and espionage genres--from Ian Fleming to Tom Clancy--owe Buchan a great debt. Buchan paved the way for these later authors with shockers like The Thirty-Nine Steps and its hero, Richard Hannay.
Recommended rainy-day reading.
"The Thirty-nine Steps" traces the activities of Richard Hannay into the world of master spies. This gripping first person account details how an innocent was drawn into the grimy world of espionage after an American called Scudder who lived in his Portland Place apartment building contacted him one day, telling him he was about to be assassinated by a group of master spies. When the act is accomplished Hannay becomes a sought after potential victim as the spy group fears what he might know about their enterprise. He is also pursued by police as a murder suspect in Scudder's death.
Hannay, a former international mining engineer, tells adventure stories about his foreign experiences and uses common sense resourcefulness to prevent the police from arresting him as the suspected killer of Scudder and the spy masters who want him dead for what he might have learned from his former neighbor Scudder.
Buchan, a former mountain climber and a distinct man of action, presents Hannay as a man much like himself, using mental and physical resourcefulness to stay out of harm's path. Scotsman Buchan presents excellent descriptions of chase sequences in the Scottish moors as Hannay hides in and steps through heather and brush, eluding those who chase him.
Eventually Hannay is able to solve the case by using logic in the way of Arthur Conan Doyle's presentation of Sherlock Holmes. Buchan was influenced by Doyle. This influence is particularly notable at the story's fascinating conclusion.
While dated with some allusions which are at best quaint, the story fills in with myriad problems, solutions and questionable characters, it is fun to read. The chase across the moors is a classic, the lying of most of the antagonists will have you sitting on the edge of your morris chair. This is a fun book and I am elated to have it on my Kindle.
The Thirty Nine steps is said to be one of the most important novels in the thriller genre. Featuring Richard Hannay a former South African miner, who is caught in a spy story, the effects of which may lead to war in western Europe.
The story is fast moving. Hannay is placed in predicament after predicament (like the Perils of Pauline) following the discovery of a body in his London flat. He escapes to Galloway, then Dumfriesshire (rural south west Scotland). Pursued by both police and foreign agents Hannay's life is at risk - and we witness his use of a number of disguises, and his experience as a mining engineer, in escaping each predicament.
At times the novel feels like a loosely related series of escapades, but the final chapters (as in Childers' The riddle of the sands) pull the disparate strands together satisfyingly. Fast paced with an appealing central character, the novel is recommended as a quick and easy entertainment. However, there are some flaws readers ought to be aware of.
In the Scottish sections of the novel Buchan writes the dialogue of the locals in dialect, contrasting this with the the "received pronunication" of the other characters. As a technique it appears to belittle the validity of the dialect spoken, and appears to patronise the locals. Although, Buchan's sleight here is countered by his portrayal of the locals. They share a certain cunning and deviousness. Additionally, the use of dialect (and a particular type of lowland Scots dialect) renders parts of the text difficult to follow.
Most concerning about the book is the inherent anti-semitism. Analgoies and metaphors rely on negative imagery of jews; and one of the characters (scudder) is overtly anti-semitic in his comments. While this was a prevalent attitude in a certain strata of British writing pre- World War Two, it jars today - and rendered parts of the novel, for this reader, offensive.
Buchan is certainly readable, but his work has dated. His influence is apparent in the work of Greene, and inherent in his work are the influences of American thriller writers of the early twentieth century, and Conan Doyle's Holmes, Challenger, and Brigadier Gerard stories.
If you enjoyed this novel you might want to try Graham Greene's Gun for sale; The Confidential Agent; Stamboul Train; and The Ministry of fear.