The Thirty-nine Steps

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The Thirty-Nine Steps is an adventure novel by the Scottish author John Buchan, first published in 1915 by William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh. It is the first of five novels featuring Richard Hannay, an all-action hero with a stiff upper lip and a miraculous knack for getting himself out of sticky situations.

The novel formed the basis for a number of film adaptations, notably: Alfred Hitchcock's 1935 version; a 1959 colour remake; a 1978 version which is perhaps most faithful to the novel; and a 2008 version for British television.



John Buchan wrote The Thirty-Nine Steps while he was ill in bed with a duodenal ulcer, an illness which remained with him all his life. The novel was his first "shocker", as he called it — a story combining personal and political dramas. The novel marked a turning point in Buchan’s literary career and introduced his famous adventuring hero, Richard Hannay. He described a "shocker" as an adventure where the events in the story are unlikely and the reader is only just able to believe that they really happened.[1]

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