Read The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan Online


Adventurer Richard Hannay, just returned from South Africa, is thoroughly bored with London life-until he is accosted by a mysterious American, who warns him of an assassination plot that could completely destabalise the fragile political balance of Europe. Initially sceptical, Hannay nonetheless harbours the man-but one dayreturns home to find him murdered... An obvious sAdventurer Richard Hannay, just returned from South Africa, is thoroughly bored with London life-until he is accosted by a mysterious American, who warns him of an assassination plot that could completely destabalise the fragile political balance of Europe. Initially sceptical, Hannay nonetheless harbours the man-but one dayreturns home to find him murdered... An obvious suspect, Hannay flees to his native Scotland, pursued by both the police and a cunning, ruthless enemy. His life and the security of Britan are in grave peril, and everything rests on the solution to a baffling enigma: what are the 'thirty nine steps?'...

Title : The Thirty-Nine Steps
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 12345303
Format Type : Kindle Edition
Number of Pages : 481 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Thirty-Nine Steps Reviews

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    2019-03-27 05:06

    ”I know what it is to feel lonely and helpless and to have the whole world against me, and those are things that no men or women ought to feel.” Richard Hanney in The 39 Steps. In the edition that I read Toby Buchan, grandson of John Buchan, wrote an introduction that was almost an apology. About half way through the book I understood the need for an apology. The book pales in comparison to the movie. The writing is jaunty and for a while sustains the reader, but soon I was searching desperately for the dialogue or the scenes that I loved most about the movie. They are not there. Charles Bennett adapted the novel to the screen and Ian Hay wrote the dialogue. They took a Buchan framework and turned it into an entertaining and exciting movie. I recently rewatched The 39 Steps (1935) during one of the Hitchcock weekends on TCM which made me that much more interested in reading the book that inspired the movie. Most of the book is one long chase scene involving motor cars, planes, bicycles, and leg races over hill and dale. There are numerous disguises, car crashes, and one rather large explosion. No overtones of sexual attraction or for that matter... women. It is a boy’s adventure played by a 37 year old man who has made his fortune in Rhodesia and found himself in dire circumstances when he decides to see London. Indulge me while I plug the movie. I had three favorite scenes from the movie that I hoped would be in the book or at least that there would be other memorable scenes that Bennett and Hay decided not to use. None of these scenes are in the book unfortunately. The scene with the farmer’s wife that the writers and Hitchcock managed to convey to the watcher in so brief a span of time how lonely and desperate her life is married to a jealous, older, crusty man with no hope of respite. When the Richard Hanney character played by Robert Donat kisses her as he scrambles out a back door with her husband’s coat and hat I felt like cheering. That kiss, so easy to give, might be the very thing she needs to sustain herself or to break free. The scene where Richard Hanney has made it to what he feels is a safe haven only to discover that his benefactor is the very man he has been trying to thwart. (view spoiler)[The reveal of the missing digit on the villain's hand is done so well that I still feel the cold, tightness of suspense grip my heart each time. (hide spoiler)]In the course of the movie Richard Haney ends up cuffed to a hostile female named Pamela played by Madeleine Carroll. They escape from police custody and end up wet and very annoyed with each other in a room over a bar. They have the police and a pair of henchmen looking for them. In the room she sits down to peel her wet stockings off her legs and because he is cuffed to her his hand travels down each leg with her hands. It is one of the most sensual, sexy scenes in movie history and no one is naked. Toby Buchan did provide me with a tidbit of information in his introduction to the book that was interesting. The character of Richard Hanney was based off the exploits of Lord Edmund Ironside, 1st Baron Ironside who had a long distinguished British military career. He commanded forces in WWI and WWII ending his career as a Field Marshal. John Buchan when he was writing this book in 1914 was only aware of Edmund “Tiny” Ironside’s exploits during the Boer War.At the end of the war, he was part of the small force which escorted Jan Smuts to the peace negotiations. He then disguised himself as an Afrikaans-speaking Boer, and took a job as a wagon driver working for the German colonial forces in South West Africa. This intelligence work ended unsuccessfully, however; he was identified, and escaped shortly before being caught. This escapade later led to claims that he was the model for Richard Hannay, a character in the novels of John Buchan; it is interesting to note that Ironside himself enjoyed these novels, reading Mr Standfast in the implausibly romantic setting of the passenger seat of an open-cockpit biplane flying from Iraq to Persia. WikipediaYou can probably guess which one is Edmund “Tiny” Ironside.I prefer my armchair traveling where I can experience escaping captivity or flying in an open-cockpit biplane from Iraq to Persia from the safety of my oversized leather reading chair, but it does make me feel like my life is...well...a bit pedestrian.My advice is to skip the book and go watch the movie.If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.comI also have a Facebook blogger page at:["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Bobby Underwood
    2019-04-07 12:27

    Scotsman John Buchan’s fabulous The Thirty-Nine Steps is rightly considered a seminal classic in the Adventure/Spy genre and it is for good reason it was on The Guardian’s Best 100 English Novels list at #42.This exciting tale of espionage defined the man-on-the-run tale in breathless fashion, and was the first of the author’s Richard Hannay tales. What remains remarkable is the contemporary prose. Though it takes place before the first World War, offering insight into the view of what was happening at that time, the tale is timeless, and with minor changes, could easily be a thrilling espionage adventure told in our day. Books need to be judged within their context, and while most do, some don't. This classic has a solid four-star average after hundreds of reviews on Amazon in the US, which accurately reflects how much fun this is to read.That's not to say some of what happens isn't implausible, almost Cornell Woolrich implausible, but with a style and pace which makes Robert Ludlum seem lethargic — no easy task — the reader is having so much fun they simply don’t care. Reading The Thirty-Nine Steps is fun and exciting, which is what it is supposed to be. Watching Hannay escape time after time until the thrilling confrontation and conclusion is exhilarating.Buchan writes as though using lighting bolts rather than a pen, and we’re just along for the electric-charged ride. The Thirty-Nine Steps is the quintessential can’t-put-down read. That thrill you got as a youngster reading a mystery adventure by flashlight beneath the covers was captured by Buchan and moved forward into adulthood, and on that level it doesn't just succeed, it shines. It's on The Guardian's list for good reason.The book differs from Hitchcock’s famous British film adaptation in that there is no love interest for Hannay here; frankly because as a boys adventure story brought into adulthood, it isn’t needed. A rollicking good old-fashioned tale that set a bar seldom reached since. Fabulous fun and quite enjoyable when read, if you don't make comparisons with spy novels written many decades later, and why would you do that? This edition of this seminal work has an excellent biography at the end readers will most likely enjoy. Highly recommended.

  • Emily May
    2019-04-18 05:24

    I am currently working my way through the list of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die and decided to read Buchan's short mystery/spy novel because it seemed like a quick and easy option to take me a step closer to maybe one day completing the list. I never imagined it would be such a painfully boring slog. Some books made the big list because they are actually good, some because they are (or were) scandalous, some because they are so far away from pretty much everything else that's been written, and some because they kick-started something or opened up a new type of genre and/or storytelling. I believe The Thirty-Nine Steps falls into this last category. It arguably introduced the world to the "spy" genre and has resulted in many attempted imitations over the years since its publication in 1915. But in terms of plot, writing and characters it just seems to me to have very little to offer. It may be one of the first of its kind, but many other authors have bettered the genre, in my opinion. I would use John le Carré as a prime example.The novel begins with the bored Richard Hannay who is determined to give London just one more day to hold his interest before he leaves for a more exciting alternative abroad. Richard, however, gets way more than he bargained for when a new American acquaintance is murdered in Hannay's flat just a few days after the pair meet. Realising he is now likely the main target of the group who assassinated his new friend, and realising he will be the police force's main suspect for the murder, Richard takes off on the run around Scotland.Richard is given very little characterization or development, he has no personality and the novel focuses on what happens to him, instead of who he is, why he acts in a particular way, or what he cares about - apart from the desire to avoid capture by the police or the assassins. Though he is being chased by two groups who either want to kill him or lock him up, I got no sense of his fear, desperation or urgency. The novel lacked emotion and I felt like I could be reading a cold, uncaring police report of events, rather than a first-hand account of them. This whole mess seemed like a little inconvenience in Richard Hannay's life, not something that was a real danger to him.Most of all, it was boring. The conclusion wasn't satisfying enough to be worth putting up with the sequence of boring events for. I think this review says a lot about the novel's plot: "He runs around in the fields. A lot. He hides in this field. He hides in that field. Some shadowy figures close in, and off he goes, running again." An excellent and accurate summary, in my opinion.

  • Fabian
    2019-04-15 11:25

    Run-of-the-mill OUTMODED thriller. With conventions that pile on and on like wretched clichés, "The 39 Steps" is somewhat thrilling, somewhat entertaining. A sure predecessor to "The Fugitive," it has our main man running from the law while hiding and acting the parts of the British lower classes. The theme being that camouflage is the best defense, while you're out on the offense.There's reverse psychology, the usurping of identities, and the amateur loss of evidence (here, a motor-car, a bicycle). Stupid, gullible people, drunk sometimes, also stumble upon the protagonist just when he needs them, the pre-WWI Good Samaritans, the most. Simply: It's a hide-and-seek in the British countryside. Tame, slightly engrossing, a tad too unspecial in a world filled with more complex and superior stories of detection. Yes, it being a prewar novel, it has some historical value. But still.

  • Paul Bryant
    2019-04-22 10:07

    I LIKE THE CUT OF YOUR JIBIn this mercifully short ur-thriller our hero is the kind of guy who has an inbuilt trustometer which is activated by looking. He looks at another man and instantly can tell if he’s the decent, upstanding, plucky sort or the low, conniving, blackguard sort. He was very young, but he was the man for my money. P30I saw by this man’s eyes that he was the kind you can trust p43Other men also have this impressive power of instant worthiness assessment :He watched me with a smile. “I don’t want proof… I can size up a man. You’re no murderer and you’re no fool. I believe you are speaking the truth.” Early on, our man Richard Hannay runs into an odd cove called Scudder and they use their trustometers on each other : “Just one word, Mr Scudder. I believe you are straight, but if so be you are not, I should warn you that I’m a handy man with a gun.” Scudder says“I haven’t the privilege of your name, sir, but let me tell you that you’re a white man. I’ll thank you to lend me a razor.” I was thinking well, you don’t have to be too perspicacious to see that someone is white and not black, but then I realized that white in this context does not mean white. Of course, it means “good”. So this is not The Wire. It’s more like the 1914 version of James Bond, meaning no technology, absolutely no girls, but lots of racing around. Even though it’s 1914 cars are written off. This whole novel is one long chase scene.EXIT PURSUED BY A JEWLike certain popular songs where the verses are something you have to endure in order to get to the great singalong chorus John Buchan has to provide us with some kind of explanation for all this lying low, adopting disguises, cracking cyphers and running around. So Scudder explains that there is a dastardly German organization operating in England called the Black Stone. They are trying to steal military secrets and assassinate foreign politicians! I think anyway, it’s not awfully clear. And why? Let Scudder explain:Away behind all the governments and the armies there was a big subterranean movement going on, engineered by very dangerous people… I gathered that most of the people in it were sort of educated anarchists that make revolutions, but that beside them were financiers who were playing for money. A clever man can make big profits on a falling market, and it suited the book of both classes to set Europe by the ears. … When I asked why, he said that the anarchist lot thought it would give them their chance. Everything would be in the melting pot, and they looked to see a new world emerge. The capitalists would rake in the shekels, and make fortuned by buying up the wreckage. Capital, he said, had no conscience and no fatherland. Besides, the Jew was behind it.A nice summary of what certain people must have been thinking as Europe did indeed slide into war and the Russian revolution was just around the corner. I bet Adolf was a fan of The Thirty-Nine Steps.So for the first half the Black Stone is pursuing Richard Hannay, our well-heeled ex-colonial, and for the second half he (and the British government) is pursuing them. This novel is somewhat past its sell-by date. I think its sell-by date was June 1915.

  • Joey Woolfardis
    2019-04-16 11:33

    Read as part of The Infinite Variety Reading Challenge, based on the BBC's Big Read Poll of 2003.A fairly conceited man gets embroiled in a rather far-fetched murder-cum-political-conspiracy that can only be described as Man Walks Through A Lot Of Heather. Mercifully short, this book could have been even shorter if we didn't have to follow Mr Hannay the length and breadth of Scotland, only to hear about his aching feet.Fairly regular stuff, adventurous without too much danger to quicken your pace maker. The only thing that was really missing was a James Bond-style Woman-For-Looking-At-And-Not-Much-Else-(Oh-Yes-Sleeping-With-Too). Not an awful lot of depth though it was purpsefully written that way, though that's hardly an excuse. It was also oddly lacking in any kind of depth in terms of plot (there's a conspiracy, but what it is no-one really knows an awful lot about it: handy).Short, not that sweet, but a vaguely interesting run-of-the-mill wee read for if you miss the train and don't have Bradshaw to hand. Or the Trainline app. Whichever.Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Shop | Etsy

  • Mike Jensen
    2019-04-19 07:22

    How can a classic be so bad? Melodramatic, as expected, but Buchan piles improbability upon improbability insulting your intelligence until by the end you just want to slap him. This is an important book in that it sprung many imitators, and some claim it is the start of the spy genre. It has been filmed three times, adapted for radio and television, inspired the chase film genre, and certainly it gave Alfred Hitchcock his basic subject. Buchan was a political man, and he uses the book for a little bit of political and social satire. Well and good, but the ridiculous plot, narrative short cuts, and silly (but always convincing to the other characters) disguises make this a bad, bad book. It has one of the least credible and least exciting endings I have read in a thriller: no wonder all the films change it. Yet, credit due, Buchan invented a lot narratively that became part of popular culture, and has found a compelling voice for his first person narrator. The book is every bit as readable as it is bad, so readable that I’ll probably look for one of his later books to see if Buchan learned how to plot.

  • Whispering Stories
    2019-04-03 11:33

    When it was first published, this novel must have been fascinating reading. At the time the UK was at war with Germany and there were no doubt German spies in the country. The book was initially serialised in a magazine and many chapters end on the proverbial cliff hanger. As a result the story is fast paced and full of action.In a dedication before the book John Buchan describes the book as a “dime novel” or “shocker” where ‘… the incidents defy the probabilities and march just inside the borders of the possible’. I cannot put it better than that.The lead character of Richard Hannay is a wealthy man in his late ‘thirties who has recently returned from successful business activities in Africa. Bored with London society he initially relishes the intrigue offered by his chance meeting with Scudder but his situation soon deteriorates.I found the Hannay and the other leading characters somewhat stereotypical but that is not altogether surprising in an action novel of this length. I suspect Buchan’s target audience did not want depth and sensitivity; they wanted easy to understand characters and lots of action.I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of country life in Galloway which would then have been a world away from life in an English city.Yes, it may seem a bit thin and dated but before you question its definition as a Classic novel, consider the thousands of spy thrillers published in the intervening century which follow the same format. I am sure we have all read work from authors who could well have been influenced by John Buchan.The Thirty Nine Steps deserves a read if only for its historical status. I have awarded it three stars.Reviewed by Clive on

  • Kim
    2019-04-02 10:31

    This is a novel the literary importance of which I have no trouble appreciating. First published in 1915, it's the ancestor of the espionage thriller genre featuring the rugged-man-of-action-on-the-run style of hero. I would probably have enjoyed it more if I was a regular reader of that genre. I'm not and consequently I was distinctly underwhelmed. What I didn't like about the work first. For me, the main problem is that the plot pushes the concept of implausibility to its extreme limits. I'm generally quite willing to suspend disbelief - an attitude instilled in me by years of reading crime fiction - but I had a lot difficulty doing so in this instance. The hero, Richard Hannay, who is back in London after a long spell doing this and that in South Africa, gets caught up in a conspiracy relating to a German spy ring. Simultaneously on the run from the police who believe him implicated in a murder and the said German spy ring, Hannay spends a lot of time in disguise - luckily other people's clothes seem to fit him perfectly - and the rest of his time legging it across the Scottish and English landscape. His escapes are frankly ludicrous and the final scene defies any degree of willingness to accept the implausible and go along for the ride. Another problem is the complete lack of character development. Hannay is a first person narrator who has the potential to be interesting, but he displays little personality and no psychological depth. He's pretty much cardboard-cut-out-man from beginning to end. The villains are suitably evil, but they have no more impact on the reader than the rest of the characters. There are some positives, though. The prose is good and the pacing is in keeping with the action. And the fact that this is the novel which generated so many fictional and film heroes cannot be disregarded. Indeed, the cultural significance of the work is such that before picking it up I was convinced that I must have read it before. How could I not have done so, when it's so well-known? But I'm pretty sure now that it was a first time read, although I've possibly seen the Hitchcock film adaptation. In terms of my reaction to novel as a piece of writing it gets two stars. Another one is thrown in because of its iconic status.

  • Alex
    2019-03-22 10:26

    I hadn't heard of this book until recently, when it made a surprise appearance on The Guardian's Best 100 English Novels list. It's an early spy novel, written in 1915 and set just before WWI, and a smashing and brisk read. It was written by a John Buchan, 1st Baron Tweedsmuir, and I did not make that up. Baron Tweedsmuir. Baron Tweedsmuir, at your service sirrahIt cites Kipling and Conrad as influences, appropriately, and there's some mention of Holmes as well, but its primary influence is clearly Robert Louis Stevenson's Kidnapped. There's a scene involving hiding and sweltering on top of a dovecote that's a direct play on a similar one in Kidnapped, but above all they share Scottishness, which manifests itself in a love of running about on moors and in a general unawareness of the existence of women. There are zero women in this book. Seriously, you never even pass one on the sidewalk. (Correction: a commenter named Vesna says there is one. I don't remember her but I'm willing to believe it.)Top Six Literary Works Featuring Moors6. The 39 Steps5. Hound of the Baskervilles4. Kidnapped3. Return of the Native2. Othello1. Wuthering HeightsWhat Buchan is really, really into is disguises:like this but no parrotAnd very little happens in The 39 Steps that doesn't have to do with them. Buchan's hero, Richard Hannay, is a master of disguise: his transformation into a road worker at one point is wonderfully detailed. His Moriartyesque nemesis is even better, which leads to a denouement that isn't really believable but gets the job done.This is more of a novella than a novel, and - arguably aside from some semi-interesting talk about the philosophy of disguising oneself - it's not very deep. It's a nonstop thrill ride, is what it is. But it's a hell of a good time. You know what else is a good time is just saying Baron Tweedsmuir. Hello, Baron Tweedsmuir. We meet again, Baron Tweedsmuir.Tweedsmuir.

  • Alice-Elizabeth (marriedtobooks)
    2019-04-19 07:20

    This was better than the previous books I had finished reading, however, the thriller just didn’t flow very comfortably for me personally. It was short, some of the details about Hannay while he was on the run from the police force were long and at times, quite boring to read about. The climax I felt was short and ended rather abruptly. I did like the visual settings and the dialogue however which potentially saved the story for me. As of right now, I won’t be continuing on with the series, I feel that the film adaptation by Alfred Hitchcock will be the version I personally prefer to the novel.

  • Char
    2019-04-19 05:29

    I get that this was an "old school" audio, but it still needs to be clearly audible for anyone to enjoy it and this was not. I'm bummed.

  • David
    2019-04-05 07:33

    Thanks to the extremely cheap "Penguin Classics" series, this summer I've had a chance to catch up on a heap of books I might not otherwise have read. In the spy-thriller genre, there was Erskine Childers' "Riddle of the Sands", and this book by John Buchan.Of course, I'd seen the Hitchcock film, but didn't really remember much of it. Someone posted a question, wondering if the book matches the excellence of the movie. In a word: "absolutely". I read the first chapter several weeks ago, then put the book aside. When I picked it up again last night, I finished it in one sitting (it is fewer than 100 pages).Nothing profound, or life-changing - just an excellent story, excitingly told. I highly recommend this book.

  • Luís C.
    2019-04-05 05:20

    The book is very different from its film adaptation by Hitchcock. Less humor and suspense in the original work, but still a good time playing with this spy novel.

  • Jason Pettus
    2019-04-04 09:32

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.)Well well, so once again it's time for another edition of "Book Versus Movie," a concept I frankly ripped off from the Onion AV Club, in which I both read a book and see the movie based on that book in the same week, and end up writing mini-reviews of both at the same time. (Don't bother looking for the "Book Versus Movie" archive page, by the way -- you've only missed one other, concerning the Alan Moore comic From Hell.) And today's it's none other than The 39 Steps, with both a book and movie version that I've wanted to get exposed to for a long time now; the 1915 novella, after all, is one of the first spy stories ever written, while the 1935 movie was one of Alfred Hitchcock's first big hits, long before he moved to Hollywood and made the films he's now most known for. (And if this title seems particularly familiar these days, by the way, it's because there's a new comedic stage version of the story playing on Broadway right now, in which four actors play every single part in a gonzo quick-change style.) Just the title alone invokes strange and pleasant emotions to us fans of turn-of-the-century "weird" fiction, of foggy nights and mysterious stairways, and it's a project I've been looking forward to for a long time now.And indeed, let me confess that the novella doesn't disappoint at all, or at least to existing fans of that transitional period of arts history; because that's something important to remember about The 39 Steps as you read it, that much like GK Chesterton or the Futurist art movement, this was penned in a strange twenty-year period in history (1900 to 1920) that fell directly between Romanticism and Modernism, a period that basically bridged these two movements precisely through wild experimentation and the birth of many of our modern artistic "genres." It is a crucial book to read, for example, if you are a fan of mysteries, secret-agent thrillers and the like; it's one of the books that literally defined those genres, a step above and beyond the pulpy "dime novels" that Buchan himself admits in the dedication was a major inspiration behind his own story. (Turns out that he and a friend were both guilty obsessive fans of pulp fiction, and thought it'd be funny to write their own homages; ironically, of course, it's this homage that is now much more known than the pulp stories that inspired it.)The tale of bored young intellectual Richard Hannay, a British South African who has recently moved to London and just hates it, our hero is actually just about to move back home when he is suddenly swept into a world of international intrigue by his next-door neighbor, a paranoid little weasel named Scudder who claims to be an undercover agent of the government, and who has stumbled across a corporate/anarchist conspiracy to assassinate a minor Greek ambassador and thus trigger a global war*. Scudder ends up dying under mysterious circumstances while hiding in Hannay's apartment, leading to him getting framed for murder; and this is just enough of an excuse to get Hannay on the run, leading to the action-based plot that takes him from one side of the UK to the other, into and out of a series of traps, and even the object of a monoplane chase back when hardly any planes actually existed. It's an exciting tale, one with all the usual twists and turns we expect now from the genre, told in a competent style that shakes off the flowery Victorianism that at the time was just ending its dominance of the arts; a thoroughly modern novel, in other words, or I guess I should say "proto-modern," one of the many above-average projects from this transitional period of history to highly influence the mature Modernists who came after.Twenty years later, then, a young Alfred Hitchcock realized what a great story this was as well, and how it so naturally fit the themes that he wanted to tackle in his films in the first place; that led to a movie version in the mid-'30s, which like I said was one of the first really big hits of his career, one of the things that led him to Hollywood a few years later and the films he is now much more known for. I have to admit, though, that I have a low tolerance for movies that are over 50 or 60 years in age, precisely because of all the cheesiness that comes with such films -- the ham-fisted acting, the stilted dialogue, the dated hairdos, the non-existent production values. It takes a pretty special film from this period to still hold my legitimate attention as a contemporary moviegoer (see, for example, my review of Fritz Lang's 1927 Metropolis, which is just so visually stunning you can't help but to still be fascinated by it); and Hitchcock's The 39 Steps is unfortunately just not one of those films, especially considering that huge portions of the original story were rewritten in order to appease a mainstream moviegoing crowd. (In the film version, for example, Hannay is saddled with a wisecracking love interest, something completely absent from the original novella.) It's definitely worth checking out if you're a fan of historical films (and by the way is in the public domain too -- you can watch the whole thing for free if you want over at Google Video); for most of you, however, I recommend simply reading the book, which to this day is still a corker of a tale.Out of 10:Book: 8.3Movie: 7.2, or 8.2 for fans of pre-WWII films*And in fact, since it's such an integral part of the plot, it's important before reading The 39 Steps to understand in general terms what caused World War I in the first place. In fact, I can give it to you in a nutshell: Basically, the way all the royal families of Europe kept the peace throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s was through an ultra-elaborate series of international treaties, with a country for example pledging to go to war on behalf of a friendly neighbor, if that neighbor ends up going to war themselves. The thinking, then, was that no individual country would ever declare war against another one under such circumstances, because of that country basically declaring war against half of Europe by doing so; and sure enough, after the assassination of a member of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1914, the retaliation by that empire against the kingdom of Serbia did indeed kick all these complicated treaties into motion, leading eventually to half of Europe fighting the other half of Europe for no particular reason at all, and with a total death toll of 20 million by the time the whole thing was over. The conspiracy behind The 39 Steps relies exactly on such a situation -- the assassination of a minor ambassador, leading to a global war because of all these international treaties -- which is why it's important to understand all this before reading the book.

  • FotisK
    2019-03-23 13:34

    Βασικό πλεονέκτημα, η οικονομία. Μέσα σε περίπου 14ο σελίδες λέει όσα οι μεταγενέστεροί του χρειάζονται 500-600 σελίδες για να ολοκληρώσουν. Χωρίς περιττές ψυχολογικές αναλύσεις, χωρίς εγκυκλοπαιδικές παραθέσεις, χωρίς φτιασίδια. Απλή περιπέτεια, με αρχή, μέση και τέλος.

  • Shovelmonkey1
    2019-03-27 08:18

    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.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2019-04-07 09:16

    I first learned of this book when it was brought up on an episode of the Reading Envy podcast, and I could not resist reading this early spy novel.The novel is in the public domain, and has been made available in audio by Librivox. Jesse at SFF Audio took those files and edited them into one track to make it easier to download. Then he invited some friends to discuss the book - I learned a few things from that discussion that helped place the book in context.The book is short, and that probably redeems it; longer the same stuff may have felt tedious. The central characters is on the run for most of the novel, but instead of Bondlike car chases and heists, he is exchanging clothing with the working class of Scotland as he tromps through the moors and bogs. Definitely interesting considering the time period (right near the beginning of World War I.)

  • Cphe
    2019-03-31 09:24

    A dated mystery/thriller certainly not politically correct by any means. ( I did wince once or twice when reading). However I do enjoy these type of novels, one man up against seemingly insurmountable odds. I did like the "hero" of the story Richard Hannay, a very resourceful man even though I felt he was just a tad too trusting at times.Loved the atmosphere and the scenes of the beautiful Scottish countryside. A shorter read but worth a look at.

  • Carol
    2019-04-18 08:11

    Just an old-fashioned spy thriller filled with adventure and mayhem. While sometimes ridiculous to a fault with the numerous disguises, I found it very entertaining in a James Bond sort of way. A short fast read with a unique ending. Now I really must see the Alfred Hitchcock version of the movie!

  • Kristopher Kelly
    2019-04-22 09:07

    Richard Hannay's been feeling bored with his life in London. Reading the paper one morning, Hannay sees something about a politician he admires, and next thing he knows, he's conjured an anti-semite out of thin air to spin yarns in his parlor and tell him there is a plot to kill the admirable politician and launch Britain and Germany into war. Luckily for Hannay, this anti-semite is murdered mysteriously, leaving Hannay looking pretty suspicious, so what can he do but become the author's wish-fulfillment and go on the run and engage in a little international espionage. By which I mean he runs around in the fields. A lot. He hides in this field. He hides in that field. Some shadowy figures close in, and off he goes, running again. I much prefer the move version, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. At least that has good music for all the running around parts. This book is a series of improbable scenes of a man adopting various disguises to avoid detection while he does next to nothing of any import -- until the final chapter, where he unravels it all in one of the most ridiculous scenes I have ever read. Seriously. He realizes that the man sitting right in front of him with NO DISGUISE ON is a man he met and had a conversation with a few chapters earlier. And it's treated like an ah-ha! moment. Credit where it's due, I suppose for being one of the first of its kind. Rumor has it this book started the spy genre. If so, I wish they'd had a better blueprint. This is one of the worst books I've ever read. It has little resemblance to the Hitchcock film of the same title. And they call it a classic ...

  • Duane
    2019-04-02 11:35

    The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) was published just prior to the start of WWI, and the political intrigue surrounding that figured prominently in the plot. So it's an international spy mystery with just a hint of comic relief. I listened to the LibreVox recording, narrated by Adrian Praetzellis, and was thoroughly entertained. His gift of imitating accents and applying his voice so well to the different characters set a tone that I would have missed if I had read the book.

  • Mahlon
    2019-03-31 10:13

    A tautly written tale which will keep the reader on the edge of their seat. It's very easy to see why this has received multiple film adaptations. My only criticism would be I was disappointed in the ending after the suspenseful build up.

  • Chrissa Vasileiou
    2019-04-10 12:17

    Η άποψή μου για τα "39 σκαλοπάτια" στο site "Book City": Τα 39 σκαλοπάτια

  • Dagny
    2019-04-01 08:20

    Quite a ride! I enjoyed Hannay and will read more in the series. Most of the characters Hannay met in his travels were interesting. I especially liked Turnbull. Hannay reminds me of Haggard's Allan Quatermain in that they are both reserved and think of themselves as rather ordinary men.

  • Thomas Strömquist
    2019-04-20 10:07

    Not even the shortness of this can keep me from DNF:ing it (at 23 %) just days after my last. Flat characters making far reaching illogical decisions based on gut reactions to highly unrealistic situations.

  • Werner
    2019-04-21 08:08

    The above description (which I wrote --it didn't have one before, only an unilluminating, seemingly random quotation from the book) gives you a one-sentence idea of the type of book this is, and the setting/milieu. Like his protagonist, Richard Hannay (who appears in other Buchan works as well), the author had spent considerable time in southern Africa, and led an adventurous life. Novels of espionage in 1915 were in their infancy; but the outbreak of World War I, and the climate of intrigue that led up to it, undoubtedly inspired such a tale and lent a creditable context for it. Buchan definitely influenced later practitioners of the genre (which is why not all of his plot devices strike the reader as freshly as they would have in 1915).Lately returned to England from Africa, and at loose ends, Hannay is appealed to for help and shelter by a fellow lodger, an American ex- journalist who fears for his life, and who spins a tale of an impending assassination of a Balkan political figure which will plunge Europe into war. (Sound familiar? :-)) When the fellow's dead body turns up in Hannay's living room. pinned to the floor by a knife, our hero is forced to flee both from the killers and from the police, who suspect him of the murder. But the victim (whose notebook, written in cipher, is now in Hannay's possession) was lucky in his choice of an ally; a former Boer War intelligence officer and veteran of other African adventures, he's a man with considerable pluck and savvy, and resolved to foil the nefarious plot. But can he? This tale of escape and pursuit, disguises and codes, danger and duplicity will answer that question. :-)Buchan's characterizations aren't deep here, nor his writing profound philosophically; the book doesn't purport to be anything but a really good, rousing adventure yarn. But it is that. The short length precludes much development of plot, characters, settings, atmosphere, etc; but it does guarantee a quick narrative pace that precludes any boredom. Hannay is really inventive in getting out of his various jeopardies, and the reader easily roots for him. One Goodreads reviewer complained of problems of credibility in virtually all of the plot. In a few places, Buchan does resort to coincidence with more convenience than the laws of probability would probably justify (though not to the degree that his contemporary, Edgar Rice Burroughs, often did.) In the main, though, I didn't find credibility a big problem. I think the other reviewer probably felt the readiness of characters in the book to confide, at times, in total strangers was unrealistic, but I didn't --in the first place, the despair of a life-and-death situation makes anybody pretty willing to grab at a straw; but more importantly, this was written in 1915, in a world that cynical moderns usually can't begin to comprehend. Men of the stamp of Hannay and other characters actually were socialized to hold ideals of patriotism, duty and responsibility, decency and fair play; they took it for granted (and could safely take it for granted) that these were the kinds of attitudes "gentlemen" could be expected to not only believe in, but act on if necessary. (The same goes for the automatic extension of hospitality by Highlanders to strangers, without desire for payment, in 1915 --though I doubt if a similar degree of generosity would be as apt to be shown today.) And the psychology of the climactic hurdle near the end actually rang perfectly true for me.For the most part, I didn't have a problem with the early 20th-century British colloquial vocabulary; even if I didn't understand some terms, I could usually get a rough idea of what was meant from the context. My biggest complaint --and it wasn't very noticeable here, but cropped up occasionally-- was the ignorant and unconscious racism implied in the use of a phrase like "You're a white man" as a compliment, and the ethnic prejudice that can refer to a Greek as a "Dago" and that lurks in some of the characters' comments about Jews. But in this respect Buchan's characters (and probably Buchan) were children of their time.

  • Dfordoom
    2019-04-10 05:27

    The Thirty-Nine Steps, published in 1915, was the first of Scottish novelist John Buchan’s five Richard Hannay espionage novels.Buchan produced both fiction and non-fiction and wrote in a variety of genres including some excellent horror stories and even what could be described as a paranormal adventure novel (The Gap in the Curtain). Buchan was also a successful politician and ended his career as governor-General of Canada (as Lord Tweedsmuir).But it is for the Richard Hannay novels that he is now best remembered. The Thirty-Nine Steps is a classic chase story. South African Richard Hannay is bored by life in London but he is about to get more adventure than he’s bargained for when he meets the mysterious Scudder. Scudder is an intelligence agent and his story about the assassination of a Balkan political leader seems fantastic to Hannay. Then Scudder is killed by enemy agents and Hannay finds himself in possession of a secret that could cost him his life.Being uncomfortable with city life at the best of times he decides he would have a better chance of survival in some wild place where his experiences on the veldt would stand him in good stead. So he heads off in the direction of the Scottish Highlands. He is on the run not only from the German spy network but also from the police, being a suspect in the murder of Scudder.While evading capture Hannay also has to puzzle out the full meaning of the conspiracy uncovered by Scudder, and it goes far beyond anything he originally imagined. It is nothing less than a plan for destroying the British fleet on the outbreak of war. But what is the meaning of the thirty-nine steps that keep getting mentioned in Scudder’s notebooks? And how can Hannay, a mere civilian, convince the British government of the truth of this amazing story? He will need evidence. So while Hannay is the hunted he is about to turn hunter.Hitchcock’s classic 1935 film version is the best-known of the several movie adaptations of this novel. The plot of the 1935 movie differs quite markedly from the plot of the book. In the book the thirty-nine steps is not a mere McGuffin as in the film (a McGuffin being something of no importance in itself except insofar as both the heroes and the villains happen to be seeking it). In the book the thirty-nine steps are crucially important and the espionage conspiracy takes centre stage (while the movie is essentially just a chase movie, albeit one of the greatest such movies ever made).Richard Hannay is one of the great fictional spy heroes, a rather taciturn but very determined character who is driven by both patriotism and a thirst for adventure. Buchan’s novel is a classic of the spy genre and is a must-read for any spy fan.

  • Tfitoby
    2019-04-22 07:24

    This book is nearly 100 years old and outdated attitudes aside it hasn't really aged a day. You may call The 39 Steps the Grandfather of the modern thriller and mean it in a semi-disparaging way, but in the sense that the Grandfather is the mould from which a million grandchildren are formed you'd be correct. Sadly the thriller in popular fiction has largely ignored Darwin's theory of evolution and as such most modern day fare consists of misformed jelly that wasn't allowed time to set, a xerox of a xerox of a xerox of a xerox in which the firmness of the print has started to bleed in to the now extremely grey background. I say most, there are a few mutants out there, the great shining hope for the genre, the missing link on the road to wiping out generic unit shifters from John Grisham and James Patterson but if we're not careful these Neanderthals will wipe out the intelligent Homo Sapien thrillers and soon we'll all be reading young adult versions of the real thing.In a week I was tired of seeing sights and within a month I had had enough of..... [culture] A 100 year old statement on moving to London, it is as true today as it was then and could be said of all the major cities in the world I would imagine.Buchan does labour the point that the good honest down to earth Scotsman is a much better person than all the comfortable middle classes combined and that irritated a little. His use of the Scots dialect made me want to read The Wee Free Men again and perhaps my knowledge of that series of books helped me to actually decipher Buchan's dialogue.It was an enjoyable enough read and a good history lesson but nothing more than that, I read its grandchildren in my teenage years and I evolved as a reader. It gets an extra star because of historical value.

  • Bloodorange
    2019-04-20 12:30

    3.5 stars. A short, old-fashioned spy thriller with a touch of humour, which reminded me of a video game or role playing game; the protagonist is very resourceful, the ending scene merits four stars, descriptions of characters and nature are really pleasing. I might actually want to see one of the movie versions.