The Thirty-Nine Steps

The Thirty-Nine Steps


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The Thirty-nine Steps 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 66 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a pretty short read (10 chapters) and I got through it pretty quickly. It was easy reading. I had seen the Alfred Hitchcock's version of the movie before I read it, so I went into it thinking there was a going to be a romance. WRONG! It wasn't anything like the movie (actually, I should say the movie wasn't anything like the book). I might have been improved by including a romance, but that's just from a woman's point of view (ha, ha!). Anyway, my overall impression of the book was that I didn't like it quite as well as I thought I was going to. You could really tell it was a dime novel. I didn't understand the complicated international secret and Scudder's code, mostly because the author lightly scimmed over that part (and that's the main part, right?). I kind of got bored with Hannay running around chapter after chapter. But the last three chapters redeem the rest of the book, I think. That was when I began to get interested and it grew more exciting. It's too bad Alfred Hitchcock didn't borrow a little more than the title and the main character's name and nothing else from the plot. Would I recommend another person to read it? Since it's a short read, I'd say go right ahead... just leave all expectations behind you.
Big_Willy More than 1 year ago
There's always a risk stepping out of ones interests and I downloaded this book from a mail-order flyer in the mail. Turns out it was a good move. This book is part espionage and all intrigue that takes place in the months leading toward World War I in Great Britain. The main character is an uninspired resident of London who wishes he knew his grander purpose to provide spark and excitement in his life. Turns out he gets that in spades when he meets up with another person in his apartment and sets off on a whirlwind adventure. The plot itself isn't complex but absolutely interesting as the character zips around the countryside sorting out what to do. I found many of the author's lines to be very funny and intelligent. This was a Google download so brace yourself for random characters sprinkled with love throughout this otherwise very short book. ENJOY!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was quite refreshing! It had a good plot with good charactors. A very easy, enjoyable read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was amazed at the quick pace and wonderful storyline. They say this was the foundation for most spy thrillers. I can belive it.
gmillar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't know what all the hooha is about. Yes, it moves along quickly; yes, it is delightfully short - but - there is much improbability; there is a flip ending; it is thankfully short. It's a sort of "adult-ish Biggles".
joririchardson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Richard Hannay is an engineer who has traveled the world, and now finds himself living in London. He also finds himself bored with life, and having nothing to do. But that very night, a mysterious little man named Scudder appears at his doorstep, and tells him a tale of spies, running from the German secret service, faked suicides, and codes. Hannay agrees to help the man by hiding him in his apartment, but on returning home the next day, he finds Scudder killed and his home torn apart. After investigating a bit, he finds a black book that belonged to his murdered house-guest, filled with an illegible code. Knowing this to be what the killers were searching his home for, he assumes that they will be after him next. He also assumes that the London police will find evidence enough to convince everyone that it was he who murdered Scudder. Believing himself to have no choice, he leaps aboard a train to Scotland. He journeys about the countryside on foot, in disguises, on bicycles, and in stolen expensive cars, all the while deciphering the code in Scudder's black book and unraveling the mystery of what is going on around him.Knowing absolutely nothing of the genre, I was curious to read this book, which even I know is famous for inspiring the spy / thriller genre. Minus the hot girl on our heroes arm, I certainly could find a lot of similarities to other spy movies I've seen (I have to limit my knowledge to movies, as I haven't read nearly enough books to make comparisons). This was a little dryer than what I expected, and there was never any tone of desperation or stress, like I would expect from a man running from two formidable enemies. Even when he is captured, Richard seems to look upon all of the events with a collected, factual state of mind.This book was very unrealistic - and I know that spy stories always are, but this was different.Such as, wouldn't it have been better for Richard to disappear in London (where he already was) instead of head for the country? He is always bemoaning the fact that there is nowhere to hide there, while in London, this would certainly not have been the case.Also, a suspiciously high number of absolute strangers were willing to help, and sometimes take risks for, Richard. This was, of course, highly unlikely, but the main character never seemed to see anything odd in it.Little things like this really took my mind away from the story, and annoyed me. There is a difference between probable (boring) and believable (well written).At first, this book started off at a racing pace. Within just a few pages, Scudder has appeared at Richard's door, with tales of spies and intrigue, and a few pages later, he is murdered and Richard goes on the run. I absolutely loved it. It was Victorian with a dash of James Bond.However, after this point, the book got progressively more and more boring up until the very end. The middle is all just about Richard traveling, and besides the stolen cars, most often not in very glamorous or "thrilling" ways. At one point, he is even riding a bicycle.I actually wondered, after Richard had been traveling for awhile, if the author was tricking us, and the spies actually didn't exist at all. In fact, I found myself surprised when the spies finally materialized later, and proved themselves to be, indeed, real.Scudder was the very best part of this book, and I fervently wish that he had lived, and gone traveling with Richard. That would have been interesting, as the man got to know his traveling companion without revealing too much, keeping Richard and the reader in constant suspense.Though it did not lend itself to the "fleeing" scenes (code here for peaceful bicycle rides in the charming countryside), the British writing was a good combination in the more exciting scenes. Again, the beginning was the best portion of this little book, and I loved the tone, pace, and overall feeling of the writing style.An average book, or perhaps even a bit below.
atimco on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The introduction to this slim little volume promised me that I was about to embark on a suspenseful and gripping ride. Unfortunately, whenever a book is hyped this way there is the chance that false expectations will be raised, and so it turned out. Though The Thirty-Nine Steps is known as a classic "shocker," I was left waiting for shocks that didn't come.It's 1914, and Richard Hannay has just returned to England after "making his pile" in Rhodesia when his apartment is invaded by a man who claims to be dead. Well, he isn't really dead, of course, but Franklin P. Scudder has found it expedient to fake his own death in order to avoid the real thing. Scudder is a freelance spy who's just caught on to something really big, and powerful people are after him. When they do catch up with the little man and make it look like Hannay committed the murder, our hero decides to carry on Scudder's mission himself. Thus begins a wild chase through the countryside as Hannay runs for his life and tries to figure out Scudder's little black book along the way.There are a couple things that didn't work for me. First, there is the problem of the whole worldwide conspiracy. Buchan's treatment of the subject is far better than, say, Agatha Christie's in her dreadful Passenger to Frankfurt (a book I couldn't even finish). But it never felt very real to me. Second, most of the story is taken up with the dogged pursuit our narrator is attempting to escape. I gather that this is the bulk of the suspense, but somehow it just didn't grip me. Most of the ways Hannay escapes hinge on someone being willing to trade clothes with him or a fortuitous coincidence that prevents his being seen. When he does walk right into the enemy's lair and is taken prisoner, they put him in a storeroom that contain lignite (a form of dynamite), which, due to his time spent mining in Rhodesia, he knows how to use to free himself. Hannay also just happens to recognize the man who was posing as Lord Alloa, thus uncovering the government leak, and when he needs to get rid of his stolen car he accidentally but conveniently crashes it into a ravine (himself escaping unscathed).Buchan was well aware of the crazy improbability of these events and didn't care ¿ to him the excitement was the main thing. And a lot of readers have agreed with him. I wish I could, but I just never felt the intensity other readers ascribe to the book.One thing Buchan does very well is the portrayal of the villains once we finally catch up to them at the very end. They are the most superb actors and understand a fine point: it is only amateurs who try to look different. Professionals look the same but are different, and so escape detection. It's an interesting theory and a bit more sophisticated than Christie's masks and such that appear in her stories of false identities.Twice now I've compared Buchan favorably to Christie, but so far (not having read either author's entire oeuvre) I prefer Christie's work. Apparently The Thirty-Nine Steps was quite a hit with soldiers in the trenches during the first World War, and I can see why. A lone man, motivated by loyalty to his country, takes on the most powerful secret group in the world ¿ and wins. A week after successfully preventing a major tactical leak, Hannay joins the army as a captain. He is made to order as a hero for the World War I soldier! I wish I could have enjoyed this more. Lesson learned: next time I'll skip the introduction and get right to the tale.
LARA335 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first spy novel? Jaunty boys-own tory, written at the beginning of the 1stWW. Unbelievable coincidences abound that add to the light tone.
jayne_charles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book got me thinking about the way technology has developed over the years - to such a degree that a story like this could not really happen in the modern age. The main character would have been caught on so many CCTV cameras, and mobile phones would have been buzzing..... Not having modern communications made it possible to have chase stories like this, and whilst it's probably a bit far fetched even still it's all good fun.
furriebarry on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fast paced and short. OK espionage pulp.
Gammie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was chosen by our book club as we were looking for a mystery to read and what better place to start than with an original. I can't say that I found it terribly enjoyable, but considering that it was the first of it's kind and the starting point for future spy thrillers and mysteries it was worth reading. The best part, for me, was reading the dialogue as it was written "in accent". Can't beat the Scottish brogue!
onlyhope1912 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very exciting book about a man accused of a murdering the only person who knew the secrets of the black stone and the thirty nine steps. Running from the police and the German spies, he tries to decipher a notebook written in code. This book is one exciting adventure to another, as he runs for his life. Can he manage to save England from the black stone and find the 39 steps before it's too late?
jasonpettus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
(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
JDHoliday on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Love this book! I grew up watching the Million Dollars Movies on TV with my mother and one of the greatest movies to this day, I think, is The Thirty-nine Steps, Produced by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Robert Donat (1905 to 1958) and Madeline Carroll (1906 to 1987.) So I was in for an awakening when I read the original book by John Buchan (1875 to 1940.) In The Thirty-nine Steps written is 1915 you follow Richard Hannay, who must decipher a murdered man's code book while threading through a maze of murder and mystery from England to Scotland and back again. You fall in love with the Scottish countryside as Hannay evades the German spies leading to the first World War and British police who think he has murdered the one man who knows how Germany will destroy the Britsh navy. With its 113 pages, The Thirty-nine Steps is a quick and wonderful read!
cwflatt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
fun clean tale of adventure.
Nickelini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A series of endless and boring chase scenes set to terribly dated colloquialisms. I read it because it is the original spy thriller. They could only get better. (And this guy was made Governor General of Canada? Yikes.)
ggarfield on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is simply a fabulously atmospheric yarn which starts with a murder in London, is followed by a suspenseful chase through the moors, mountains and streams of Scotland and ends with a nail biting evening on the coast on England ¿ but you¿ll just have to read it to find out.
391 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I LOVED this book. It's a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Those who dislike 39 Steps may not enjoy Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers. Published in 1903, Churchill credited its theme of Germany's expanding military, especially naval expansion, with the British Admiralty's addition of naval bases. See Wikipedia entry on Childers. Criticisms here of 39...ring true yet I also note that Hannay's restlessness in the colonies and in London express the restlessness of many, especially the young. The class differences, as in the scene when he gets on the train in old clothes and moves to a 3rd class car having paid for a 1st class ticket because of the complaints of another passenger, and the anti-Semitic remarks he overhears, seem to give the 21st ceniury reader some grounding in what were more common attitudes a hundred years back (though they exist to this day). So, in spite of its shortcomings especially the good guys vs. the bad guys, I enjoyed The 39 Steps.
WhisperingStories More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wish that most modern thriller-spy stories wete as good as this. Highly recommended! aj west
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A classic thriller well worth the read. ~*~LEB~*~
glauver More than 1 year ago
The Thirty-Nine Steps was one of the prototypes of what is now called spy fiction. Fans of LeCarre, Alistair MacLean, or Len Deighton might feel a bit let down. Richard Hannay was not a agent as we think of one, but more of an adventurer. The novel is one long chase with little letup. There is not much moral complexity; the English are good and the Germans are bad. John Buchan was a good descriptive writer, but his plots were full of holes and coincidences and don't stand scrutiny. Some of his remarks seem anti-Semitic, although I have read critics who defend him on this charge .In this novel, Hannay is the only character who stands out, probably because it is so short. Later books are better as he gathers a circle of friends to help him in his quests. The best way I can describe this book is Robert Louis Stevenson writing just before WWI.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mary-MK More than 1 year ago
Well-written, fast-paced novel that stands the test of time.