Image result for the 39 steps book coverTitleThe 39 Steps
Author: John Buchan
Genre: Thriller / Espionage
Pages: 120
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 NorthwestThe 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.

7 thoughts on “A Trope Is Born

      1. Thanks. Just wanted to make sure it wasn’t a glitch where one review got seen as ALL reviews [weird things like that have happened on Booklikes, so…]


  1. I wonder if Buchan was influenced by Baden-Powell’s ideal of the Boy Scott. Richard Hannay is trustworthy, brave, loyal, helpful, friendly, prepared, handy in the outdoors, and “a leader of men,” as sports fans say. The other Hannay novel I’ve read, Mr. Standfast, features values from both the Scouts and Pilgrim’s Progress.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can totally see that… there was a very “honorable manly man” kind of vibe to the whole thing. It reminded me quite a bit of Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu stories from the same era, but I liked Buchan a lot more because Rohmer basically included “being white” among the virtues of a truly honorable man.


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