The Thirty-nine Steps

The Thirty-nine Steps

Book - 2004
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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
Publisher: London, England ; New York, N.Y. : Penguin Books, 2004.
ISBN: 9780141441177
0141441178
Characteristics: xviii, 118 p. ; 20 cm.
Additional Contributors: Keegan, John 1934-
Alternative Title: 39 steps.

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RescueDog
Aug 29, 2018

The story moved a little slowly for me & I didn’t always understand the 1914 British slang. But I enjoyed it enough that I’m not sorry I read it. I didn’t enjoy it enough to read the other 2 books in the series. I very much enjoyed the Introduction in the version I read that was written by the author’s grandson & labels the book as the first modern day spy thriller.

I was fascinated by the history of this 'spy novel' genre and delighted to read 39 Steps in that context. It is indeed a classic for its time.

o
Onewhoissaved
Sep 30, 2016

"The 39 Steps", 1915, John Buchan. Buchan calls this novel a "shocker", their word for our "dime novel". England is on the eve of World War I. Scottish born Richard Hannay has lived most of his life out of England and now has returned for some diversion. Without any warning he is drawn into not just a fight for his own life but for the safety and lives of all of England. The writing is good and the vocabulary used here sent me to my dictionary, often without success because of the words needed for a world of 1915 England. Good action here. Alfred Hitchcock's movie by the same name is quite different than the book.

w
wyenotgo
Aug 03, 2015

A fast-moving easy read; a straightforward spy novel. Despite being set a hundred years ago, in a pre-WW1 England, with its Old Country peculiarities including household servants everywhere and passenger trains that stop at every tiny hamlet, it doesn't really seem to be dated. As with any spy story, it requires suspension of disbelief, especially regarding the seemingly endless ingenuity of the protagonists at squeezing out of impossible situations. But that's what makes the genre so entertaining.

l
lukasevansherman
Jan 13, 2015

Enjoyable, early espionage thriller that is a little dry and a little dated. The Hitchcock film is lighter and more entertaining.

g
greatwar100reads
Dec 21, 2014

Buchan describes The Thirty-Nine Steps as a ‘shocker’ – “where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible.” His description is dead on. The novel is a romp. The situations are barely believable. The coincidences are contrived. But it’s all great escapist fun.

a
alexguthro
Feb 04, 2014

Fun and entertaining read from long ago.

RichKel Oct 24, 2013

The movie is based on the book but don't expect them to be the same. There is no woman, no romance. Hannay is an intrepid adventurer who cleverly escapes every tight situation by relying on his wits. Not a bad novel but it lacks the tension and suspense of a good spy novel.

o
Onewhoissaved
Jun 19, 2013

John Buchan created the character Richard Hanney and kept him going for 5 novels. The 39 Steps has been the inspiration of movies and copy-cat writings. No one preceded Buchan but others follow him. But Buchan himself is probably more storied than his fictional creations. Maybe you would like to check the John Buchan Society? This man died in 1940 but the Society seems to be very current.

m
macierules
Dec 29, 2010

Short but full of adventure - apparently this little book was the original spy novel. Inspired me to put a hold on the Hitchcock movie. John Buchan (aka Baron Tweedsmuir) was one of our Governors General.

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RescueDog
Aug 29, 2018

“If you’re going to be killed, you invent some kind of flag and country to fight for, and if you survive you get to love the thing.”

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