Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Last Victorian: John Buchan and the Hannay Quartet

"Author and statesman, John Buchan (1875-1940) was an extraordinarily prolific writer whose works include a four-volume history of World War I; biographies of Julius Caesar, Sir Walter Scott, and Oliver Cromwell; a textbook for accountants: The Law According to the Taxation of Foreign Income; and numerous collections of essays and poetry. But while he also held a number of influential political posts such as Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland (1933-34) and Governor General of Canada (1935-40), he is perhaps best remembered for his espionage fiction, the success of which overshadowed not only his other literary accomplishments but also the varied and prestigious work he work he carried out as a British public servant.

Buchan’s most celebrated novels are the four espionage stories featuring the prototypical Buchan hero, Richard Hannay: The Thirty Nine Steps (1915), Greenmantle (1916), Mr. Standfast (1919), and The Three Hostages (1924). And although his work in the genre is by no means confined to the “Hannay Quartet,” taken together, they provide perhaps the best examples of, not only Buchan’s reliance upon his experience as an intelligence officer, but also his marked engagement with world geopolitical events as a backdrop to his fiction..." Read on...