Title: The 39 Steps
Author: John Buchan
Genre: Thriller / Espionage
Rating: 3 of 5
John Buchan’s The 39 Steps and its various movie adaptations were influential in developing the modern version of the “innocent man on the run with maybe a dash of political intrigue” plotline. The danger of reading a book that invented (or at least popularized) a literary/cinematographic trope is that by now you have probably read/seen the trope many times before, and some of the imitations surpass the original. Reading this was like reading a stripped-down less-glamorized version of North by Northwest, The Fugitive, The Bourne Identity, etc.
During the first chapter I was afraid the plot was going to rest on extremely racist presuppositions (a bit like Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu / “yellow peril” books), but the author quickly toned down the anti-Semitism. Overall, it was a fun, escapist adventure story (that had obviously been originally serialized), but that’s about it.
Also, I’m using this for my “Classic With a Number in the Title” over at the Back to the Classics Challenge.