Monday, May 22, 2017

John, 1st Baron Tweedmuir

Annamaria on Monday


John Buchan keeps showing up in my life.  I would say he was stalking me, but he has been dead since before I was born.

Here are the facts of our relationship, if you can call it that.

I knew one of John’s stories long before I knew his name.  That story is The Thirty-Nine Steps, made famous because Alfred Hitchcock turned it into a movie.  What I remembered was the name of Buchan's main character: Richard Hannay, who was also featured in a BBC miniseries based on The Thirty-Nine Steps and in a hilarious spoof of the story produced by my beloved and brilliant Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival.








I was minding my own business, researching the Protectorate of British East Africa, when I came across a word I did not know: “greenmantlish.”  It was used in a book published in 1929 to describe an event in the life of the author, a Brit who had been a policeman in Nairobi in 1908. 

 

When I looked up the word, I found that Google had never heard of it—a fact amazing in itself since most of the terms I google get hundreds of the thousands of hits in a few seconds.  “Greemantle,” without the “ish” yielded about 216,000 hits in .34 seconds.  The first was a Wikipedia entry that featured the name of my old pal Richard Hannay.  I recognized that moniker right away.  “Greenmantle” it turns out was the sequel to The Thirty-Nine Steps and second in a series of five novels with Hannay as the main character.  By then, I knew John Buchan's name too.



Then John Buchan took another step into my life.  In the midst of further research into British East Africa, I came upon the old chap again, this time in relation to books he had written about World War I in Africa.  (My Africa series will take me into the World War One years once I get to 1915.)

Having encountered  John Buchan for the third time, I figured I’d better find out more about him.  Here’s a précis of what I have learned:

John Buchan, 1st Baron of Tweedsmuir PC GCMG GCVO CH was born in 1875, the son of Scots clergyman.  He studied at Brasenose College Oxford, took a degree in law, but never practiced at the bar.  He became instead a novelist, historian, Member of Parliament, and eventually became Governor General of Canada.  He began his diplomatic service in Southern Africa.  During his long political career he supported free trade, women’s suffrage, national insurance, and curtailing the powers of the House of Lords.  Between 1896 and 1940 (the year he died), he wrote thirty-five novels (mostly adventure stories, mysteries, and thrillers) and fifty-two works of non-fiction, averaging two books a year while keeping his day job!

I have already lived longer than he and having just finished only my eleventh book, his output makes me feel like a piker. 

13 comments:

  1. Ah, the twisty, tangled chains of history (to tie into my Saturday comment to your brother Jeffrey).

    If you haven't found them, many of his earlier works are freely available on Project Gutenber at:
    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/author/285
    including The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, Days To Remember: The British Empire in the Great War, and... The African Colony: Studies in Reconstruction (about South Africa).

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    1. What a treasure trove, EvKa. THANK YOU!

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  2. How about supporting freedom for all of the colonies in Africa, including Britain's, the most important issue for the people of the continent?

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    1. Kathy, as far as I know, he did not support the end of Colonialism, but I would not have expected that of a man of his time. You are right and I agree, but we have the wisdom of hindsight. It's a fine line I have to tread in my stories, not to make my characters 21st Century in their attitudes. It's not easy to like everything they must have believed.

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  3. Great story, Annamaria. I saw the stage production of The 39 Steps, where the entire cast was played by only 4 actors. It was brilliantly done. 'greenmantlish' another interesting word for my collection ...

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  4. I laughed my head off at that production of the 39 steps Zoe, so so funny! And these bloody Scots authors get everywhere. Can they not be banned?

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  5. Ah, Zoe and Caro, We have all seen the same play performed. The five actors and on-stage stagehand in the picture above, made me laugh until my face hurt. I would love to see it all again.

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  6. Piker? You? Not a chance. Even EvKa, amid his tangled woven bundle of chains knows that.

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    1. Bro, I appreciate your support, but Buchan's achievements include all those medals and honors. Really! What a guy!

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    2. But think of all the honor you'd get being linked together by name for literary eternity. "Pat Buchan" on and on has a certain ring to it, especially if you throw in a king somewhere.

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  7. Jeff: sometimes AmA leaves me winded from all her activities.

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  8. I sense Mr Buchan's hand in your series' romantic male lead!

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  9. I see you'll be attending Bouchercon 2017 in Toronto, so I guess you know that John Buchan is our Ghost of Honour this year. Yes, he keeps popping up in your life, doesn't he?

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