John Buchan: 39 Steps, Hungtingtower, Witch Wood, Dancing Floor, Greenmantle, & more


Well-Known Member
Aug 21, 2010
---Under the banner of a Holy War, masterminded in Berlin and unleashed from Constantinople, the Germans and the Turks set out in 1914 to foment violent revolutionary uprisings against the British in India and the Russians in Central Asia. It was a new and more sinister version of the old Great Game, with world domination as its ultimate aim. Here, told in epic detail and for the first time, is the true story behind John Buchan's classic wartime thriller Greenmantle, recounted through the adventures and misadventures of the secret agents and others who took part in it. It is an ominously topical tale today in view of the continuing turmoil in this volatile region where the Great Game has never really ceased.----

The Kodansha US edition is called Like Hidden Fire, and I just ordered one for $3.81 ppd from
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Well-Known Member
Jul 31, 2013
The plot is an absolute shocker.
the evil female enemy protagonist comes out of nowhere,
Agree with you, Bick, about Greenmantle. It just seemed to make no sense. Furthermore, though usually I'd agree that you give a book leeway when it reflects the values of its time, I did find much of it hard to take. For example, the start of the book, when Hannay is talking about how much he would miss the fun of being with his lads in the jolly old trenches - umm, that is hard to swallow. I think it a lot of people at the time were well aware that WWI was not some kind of boy scout outing...

Overall I don't think I like the more thriller-like of Buchan's books, with their dastardly villains who always seem too far fetched, and their unlikely plots.

I do love John MacNab though. Also of it's time, but a very, very enjoyable read. Wonderful feel for the Scottish highlands, beautifully pitched adventure, nice humour, and I really enjoy the political bits even if I don't share those values.

I also enjoyed Gap in the Curtain (another Edward Leithen novel) - it's a very odd book, with a vaguely supernatural plot, but interesting, and gives a lot of insight into the 20s/30s I feel. (I guess it could be considered sci-fi - or at least speculative - actually.)

And I quite enjoyed Prester John which I guess lies somewhere between his Hannay books (which I don't much like) and the more domestic Leithen books (which I do). It's an adventure with villains, like the Hannay books, but with a more grounded feel and a lot of humorous characters.

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