Reassessing John Buchan: Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps

Reassessing John Buchan: Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps

Reassessing John Buchan: Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps

Reassessing John Buchan: Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps

Synopsis

A collection of edited essays on the novelist John Buchan (1875-1940), author of, among many other works, "The Thirty-Nine Steps" (1915), "Witch Wood" (1927) and "Sick Heart River" (1940). It considers Buchan's writing and reputation from the perspective of the twenty-first century and examines Buchan's major fiction and non-fictional writing.

Excerpt

John Buchan was born in Scotland in 1875 to a Presbyterian family with strong farming connections, and left Glasgow University for Oxford in 1895. He took a First in Greats (classical studies) in 1899, while supporting himself throughout his studies as a writer and a publisher’s reader. He tried the Imperial Civil Service, the Bar and journalism, but settled in 1907 into publishing and his lifelong happy marriage, and continued to publish his own fiction, though without wild success. His interest in actively engaging himself in politics was tested in 1911 when he failed to gain a seat in the House of Commons, but by 1914 he was in the thick of wartime publishing, and was developing his skills as a historian, a novelist and as a government propagandist. Buchan emerged from the war famous, with a growing family (his fourth child was born in 1918), and a house in Oxfordshire, but also a sick man and much bereaved. The 1920s were spent in constant writing and publishing, and he won the coveted seat in Parliament. Honours and formal appointments followed, and in 1935 he was ennobled as Baron Tweedsmuir to become Governor-General of Canada. His flow of writing began to slow, and in 1940 he died after suffering a brain haemorrhage. His most well-known novel, The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915) has never been out of print, and he published over 100 books in his lifetime, a substantial proportion of them non-fiction. There have been three biographies of Buchan,1 three bibliographies2 and much critical writing. Only two full-length books on Buchan’s writing have been published, but a substantial amount of critical research has been done, scattered as book chapters, academic articles, op eds in the public press and book reviews.3 Only very recently was a comprehensive survey of his fiction published and, shortly after the date of this volume, he will come out of copyright in Britain to an expected surge of new editions of his works.

The impetus for this volume on John Buchan came from the realization that a great many individuals were working on Buchan simultaneously, but that no collection of essays representative of this sustained effort existed. Collections of essays on a single author by a range of authorities examine the subject thoroughly, and have the extra value of tackling the same subjects from different . . .

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