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In the past hundred years the classic thriller has never been out of print and has inspired numerous adaptations for film, television, radio and stage, beginning with the celebrated version by Alfred Hitchcock. Yet there was vastly more to 'JB'.

How The Thirty-Nine Steps invented the modern thriller

He wrote more than a hundred books — fiction and non-fiction — and a thousand articles for newspapers and magazines. He was a scholar, antiquarian, barrister, colonial administrator, journal editor, literary critic, publisher, war correspondent, director of wartime propaganda, member of parliament and imperial proconsul — given a state funeral when he died, a deeply admired and loved Governor-General of Canada.

His teenage years in Glasgow's Gorbals, where his father was the Free Church minister, contributed to his ease with shepherds and ambassadors, fur-trappers and prime ministers. His improbable marriage to a member of the aristocratic Grosvenor family means that this account of his life contains, at its heart, an enduring love story.

The 39 Steps Ralph Thomas-1959-Kenneth More-Taina Elg-Brenda de Banzie-Barry Jones

Ursula Buchan, his granddaughter, has drawn on recently discovered family documents to write this comprehensive and illuminating biography. The National Library of Scotland's treasures display explored the gripping adventure story of 'The thirty-nine steps'.

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On show were editions of John Buchan's 'shocker', alongside film ephemera, scripts and comic book versions of the adventure novel. Published in , John Buchan's Scottish spy thriller is the exciting tale of Richard Hannay — an ordinary man on the run from dark forces.

About Beyond the Thirty-Nine Steps

The book was hugely influential, and remains Buchan's most famous work. When he wrote the novel, Buchan was working at publisher Thomas Nelson, writing a history of the ongoing war.

The-Thirty-Nine-steps | Les Editions de Londres

He was a prolific writer, politician and diplomat. Published under a pseudonym, 'The thirty-nine steps' was serialised in 'Blackwood's Magazine' starting in July Read more about the origins of the novel.


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Richard Hannay embarks on a spy chase through Scotland by road and rail, pursued by murder and intrigue. Read more about Richard Hannay's adventures.