Venue: St Peter's Church, Oundle
The Thirty-Nine Steps: The First One Hundred Years
Ursula will be talking about the history of how The Thirty-Nine Steps came to be written, and what effect the book (and later the Hitchcock film) had on its author John Buchan's career. She will also consider Buchan's place as a novelist generally in Britain's literary heritage.
John Buchan (1875-1940) was born the son of a Calvinist presbyterian minister in eastern Scotland, and died Lord Tweedsmuir, Governor-General of Canada.
He was a classicist at Oxford, read for the Bar but practised only briefly before becoming a publisher. He was a major contributor to The Spectator and war correspondent for The Times. He was also a Member of Parliament for the Scottish Universities and was His Majesty's High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland twice, and Chancellor of Edinburgh University.
He was made a heritage peer on receiving the appointment of Governor-General of Canada in 1935.
The list of his published books is well over a hundred in number, and only about 40 of these are fiction. John Buchan is most famous for The Thirty Nine Steps and Greenmantle, and his thrillers and short stories are all still in print today. Buchan's historical novels deserve a far greater readership, as do his biographies and historical studies, still regarded as classics of scholarship.
The Thirty-Nine Steps, a brilliantly teasing and memorable title, was first published as a serial adventure story in Blackwood's Magazine from August to September 1915, appearing in book form that same October from the Scots publisher, William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh.
The book has never been out of print and has inspired many film and television adaptations: Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 version starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll, a 1959 colour remake, a 1978 version, with Robert Powell as Hannay, that sticks rather more faithfully to Buchan's text than Hitchcock; and finally, a 2008 television version starring Rupert Penry-Jones. There's also a long-running West End spoof abridgement, indicating the novel's enduring appeal.
Tickets £7 (£5), available from the Oundle Box Office, 4 New Street, Oundle.
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