In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Book Reviews Volume 32:4, 1989 Henry James and a blind leper on Molokai (they both sent letters of condolence to Fanny Stevenson), Borges, Owen, the neighbor girl Adelaide Boodle (she asked young English officers to bury Stevenson's toy soldiers in the trenches of the Great War), and, not the least eloquent or perceptive in this line, Nicholas Rankin. Jefferson Hunter Smith College BUCHAN'S RICHARD HANNAY John Buchan. The Four Adventures of Richard Hannay. Introduction by Robin W. Winks. Boston: David R. Godine, 1988. $19.95 IT WAS SEVENTY-FIVE YEARS AGO that John Buchan sent Richard Hannay across Scotland in search of the meaning of the phrase "the thirty-nine steps" and rescued spy fiction from the less able hands of William Le Queux and E. Phillips Oppenheim. Since then much ink has been spilled by critics in an attempt to explain the secret of Buchan's success. The publisher David R. Godine has collected the first four Hannay novels (omitting only The Man from the Norlands) into a handsome volume that commemorates the anniversary of the publication of The Thirty-Nine Steps—in fact, if not in stated intent. Essentially , this is the first U. S. edition of the omnibus first published by Hodder and Stoughton of London in 1930. While the text has been reset (the original edition had 1204 pages to 672 in this volume) the scheme of re-numbering the chapters to give a sequential and cohesive appearance to the book follows that of the earlier edition. Thus, the chapters run from number one, "The Man Who Died" in The ThirtyNine Steps, to chapter seventy-five, "How I Stalked Wilder Game Than Deer" in The Three Hostages. Robin Winks's scholarly introduction ("Stalking the Wilder Game") sets Buchan's accomplishment in the context and perspective of the rest of his life and work, discusses his style, and presents a reasoned and reasonable argument that should put to rest the old accusations that Buchan was anti-semitic. I first read Buchan in 1950 in the old Pocket Books edition (1941) of Greenmantle in which the typesetter confused the location of the battle where Hannay was wounded with another phrase and called chapter four "Adventures of Two Dutchmen on the Loos." I have returned to the novel and its companions many times since in different printings but always with much of the excitement of that 496 Book Reviews Volume 32:4, 1989 first encounter which I associate with the coming of spring. Rereading the canon now reinforces some of the reasons in my mind for Buchan's longevity in the popular imagination as it raises unanswered and unanswerable questions about how he got there. It was refreshing to a thirteen-year-old to find an author who spoke directly to him and not down to him. Buchan told you things you felt were important to hear, but he never belabored the point. The Scots do these things so well. That first adventure (The Thirty-Nine Steps) is a simple and direct tale. It suggests a kinship with the fairy tale or folktale in that most of the characters are identified by profession or attribute not by personal name. Close the book and try to recall any names beyond that of the hero. Hannay is easy, of course, and we remember Scudder because of the dramatic aspects of the scenes in which he appears, but who are the other people encountered on the long road to the cliff where thirty-nine steps lead to the sea at high tide? A dry-fly fisherman, a literary innkeeper, a milkman, a spectacled roadman, a radical candidate, a bald archaeologist. None of the villains has a name, only qualities of the sinister. Even the Black Stone is not defined clearly. And here is the genius of the author on display, for is it not that which we do not see clearly that is all the more terrifying? Like the shadowy figure in the moonlight coming through the bedroom window, were we to turn on the light we would recognize it for a lamp or a pile of discarded blankets. The later adventures are longer and more complex and all...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 496-498
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Will Be Archived 2021
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.