by John Buchan
Edited by Kate Macdonald
Part of the Oxford World's Classics series
In Greenmantle (1916) Richard Hannay, hero of The Thirty-Nine Steps, travels across war-torn Europe in search of a German plot and an Islamic Messiah.
He is joined by three more of Buchan's heroes: Peter Pienaar, the old Boer Scout; John S.
Blenkiron, the American determined to fight the Kaiser; and Sandy Arbuthnot, Greenmantle himself, modelled on Lawrence of Arabia.
The intrepid four move in disguise through Germany to Constantinople and the Russian border to face their enemies - the grotesque Stumm and the evil beauty of Hilda von Einem.
In this classic espionage adventure Buchan shows his mastery of the thriller and the Stevensonian romance, and also his enormous knowledge of world politics before and during the First World War.
This edition illuminates for the first time the many levels beneath the stirring plot and romantic characters.
ABOUT THE SERIES: For over 100 years Oxford World's Classics has made available the widest range of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford's commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, helpful notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 320 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press
- Publication Date: 13/11/2008
- Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
- ISBN: 9780199537853
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Review by findantonia
Buchan had a fascinating career before his early death. Always a prolific writer, who worked In publishing at first, he authored a history of the WW1 at its inception, then worked in intelligence during the war, eventually becoming Director of Intelligence at the new British Ministry of Information. When the war ended he rewrote the background history, incorporating it into a four volume History of the Great War. He was friends with both Aubrey Herbert and T.E. Lawrence, and a composite of the two is thought to be the basis of one character in this 1916 work. A ideal background for a writer of WW1 spy stories, surely. I was fascinated by the detailed discussion of late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century Middle East power gaming and politics, and views of the geared-up WW1 German War Machine, particularly given the relevance of that local history and culture to today's wars and volatile areas. Not having read up on WW1 south of the Med during school or come across useful background in other fiction, the issue of control of the Middle East as a key, possibly critical tipping point in WW1 now appears to have be unhelpfully ignored except among war history buffs.Unfortunately warning is needed that it is occasionally tainted by the contemporary attitudes to indigenous African populations, which arise largely through the odd colloquialism and the fallout of fallout of main character Hannay's background of living in South Africa with the Boer. If, as with Shakespeare or other writers of previous centuries, it is possible to wince through those now-unacceptable contemporary attitudes, the book is rather interesting and worth reading, though lacking the flow of The 29 Steps, I thought. It is again a very episodic work and I regretted that the characters are dispersed for so much of it. I'm still processing my reaction but on balance I found it an interesting rather than satisfying read, so, together with the bigotry issue which really got my hackles up, I'm tending to a harsh rating. I'm hanging on to the book though.