We have had a season subscription to our local community theater group for as long as we've lived in Reading. Recently, they did an adaption of this novel of Buchan's, which was an early spy thriller, or something. Now that I have "mature" hearing, I didn't get a whole lot of the dialog. Much of it was in appropriate dialect, i.e. Scotts when in Scotland, working class London for the local milkman and so forth, which didn't help my hearing impairment. The dialogue also came fast and furious, as they were playing this as a comedic farce. Even though I didn't know what was going on much of the time, it did seem rather funny. So anyway, I figured I should check out the original. Unfortunately, there was enough of a gap between seeing and reading, that I'm not sure how faithful the play adaption was.
Whatever, this was a reasonably fun book, if perhaps a bit silly. Buchan makes it clear in his introduction that the book was meant to be pulp fiction, only vaguely plausible, but not totally impossible. I guess that's what the working class folks liked reading on their bus rides to and from the factories a century ago.
So, we have a young man, Richard Hannay, who made a fortune in Africa and has come back to Britain. He's bored out of his mind. His upstairs neighbor suddenly shows up and spins a tale about how he is a "dead man", meaning he has to pretend to be dead because some German spies are coming for him. He knows the secret of their plot, which will be unveiled in about two weeks' time, but he can't tell the authorities until the last minute. Something like that. So the guy wants to hide out in Hannay's digs.
Well, next thing you know, Hannay comes home and finds the guy had been stabbed. Hannay has to flee for his life. This involves hiding out in Scotland. The only problem is that the "bad guys" are on his tail almost immediately. He can't hide in the moors because they have an airplane. He can't hide in the villages because the bobbies are trying to arrest Hannay for the murder of the guy found stabbed in his study. So, we have all kinds of improbably escapes, and meeting up with weird characters, and Hannay's taking on different disguises, and so forth. Eventually, at the last minute, they catch the bad guys and save Britain from war (for a bit, anyway, WWI broke out shortly after this book was published).
Well, I just discovered that the play I saw was an adaptation of an Alfred Hitchcock movie
. The plot has some similarities to this book, and many differences. Whatever, it was a fine book for light reading, and short enough that even one who "reads at only half the speed required for success in college" could finish it in a reasonable period of time.