About the Author

Portrait of John Buchan

Scottish diplomat, barrister, journalist, historian, poet, and novelist, whose most famous thriller was The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915), his 27th book. Buchan's 100 works include nearly 30 novels and seven collections of short stories.

John Buchan was born in Peebles-Shire in Scotland as the eldest son of Rev. John Buchan. He studied at the University of Glasgow and Brasenose College, Oxford, where he had an outstanding career, winning the Stanhope Essay Prize in 1897 and the Newdigate Prize in the following year. In 1901 he became a barrister of the Middle Temple and a private secretary to the High Commissioner for South Africa, Lord Milner (1901-03). This post opened for Buchan the doors of the inner circle of bright young men, who made career in the higher levels of civil service.

In 1903 Buchan started to work for the publisher Thomas Nelson and Sons, revitalishing publication of pocket editions of great literature and virtually editing The Spectator. In 1907 he married Susan Charlotte Grosvenor; they had three sons and one daughter. During World War I Buchan was a war correspondent before joining the army. He served on the Headquarters Staff of the British Army in France, as temporary Lieutenant Colonel (1916-17). When Lloyd George was appointed Prime Minister, Buchan was made Director of Information (1917-18) and then for a short time Director of Intelligence, a brief interlude in Buchan's career which he masked in some mystery.

From 1927-35 Buchan was Conservative MP for the Scottish universities. He had then a number of important government posts, serving among others as Lord High Commissioner of the Church of Scotland (1933-34). In 1935, after moving to Canada, he was created the first Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield, and served until his death on February 11, 1940, as Governor General of Canada.

As a writer Buchan started his career in the late 1890s, publishing his first novel, Sir Quixote of the Moors in 1895, while still a student at Brasenose College, Oxford, and such works as Scholar-Gipsies (1896) and History of Brasenose (1898). After a sojourn in South Africa Buchan became a dedicated supporter of Britain's imperialism, and viewed some of his earlier literary endeavours rather uncomfortable. Grey Weather (1899), his first collection of tales and sketches, and The Watcher by the Threshold (1902), included some tacitly pagan stories.

The Thirty-Nine Steps presented spy-catcher Richard Hannay, who was modelled after a young Army officer named Edmund Ironside, later Field-Marshal Lord Ironside of Archangel. Buchan methim during WW I. Hannay had all the virtues which would be needed to sustain the English through the Great War. Buchan's book was adapted into screen by Alfred Hitchcock. Buchan was one of Hitchcock's favorite writer, and the director had already toyed with the idea of filming Buchan's Greenmantle (1916). The basic outline of the book was thoroughly worked over in the film. The sequence in which Hannay was first protected and the betrayed by a jealous Highland crofter, have no counterpart in the book at all.

Richard Hannay appeared again in Greenmantle, where the hero played a spy and stops the Germans from using an Islamic prophet for their own ends. Another series character, Sandy Arbuthnot, tackle with Hannay a gang of international criminals in The Three Hostages (1924). Lawyer Edward Leithen was the central character in three novel, starting from The Power-House (1916). The Dancing Floor (1926) was a visionary fantasy based on a Greek folklore, and returned again in the theme of paganism. Witch Wood (1927), a historical novel, focused on a congregation of stern Scottish Protestants, who adopt the trappings of devil worship. The Gap in the Curtain (1932) was a supernatural story, in which the guests at a country house party are enabled by an unconventional scientist to catch a glimpse of an issue of the Times dated a year ahead.

Among Buchan's other works were 24-volume Nelson's History of the War (1915-19), biographies of Montrose (1913, 1928), Walter Scott (1932), Oliver Cromwell (1934) and Augustus (1937). Buchan's autobiography, Memory Hold-the-Door, was published in 1940.

Most author biographies courtesy of Author's Calendar. Used with permission.