Monday, May 16, 2016

The Adventures of Richard Hannay

While reading Philip Jose Farmer's Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life, I came across a reference to a cool-sounding hero of fiction called Richard Hannay. He's the star character of The 39 Steps, which I'd heard of as a Hitchcock film. A little research indicated the Hannay novels are among the first "modern" espionage novels. They were written by this fellow, who seems pretty interesting himself. Amazon offers a $1 six-pack of the Hannay novels. So far I've read The 39 Steps, Greenmantle, and Mr. Standfast. There are numerous film and television versions of the character - the first, the Hitchcock film, starred Robert Donat (left). 

Hannay is a sort of proto-Bond, whose occasional mistakes and self-doubt are always overcome with a stiff upper lip. He has an uncanny knack of extricating himself from impossible conundrums. He never sought a career as an agent of the British crown - he's more of a big-game hunter and soldier, and he sort of falls ass-backward into his first adventure. He's also not above an occasional racist comment. Nevertheless, he's a resourceful, likeable protagonist. The novels read very quickly and easily, and approach a more modern, clipped, rat-a-tat-tat tone we'd see in the pulps that followed Hannay's adventures (the first was written in 1915).

If you have the time or inclination, and would like to start on a campaign of espionage reading, why not start at the beginning of the 1900s with our good friend Hannay? I can guarantee a pretty good time. There is a lot of really cool information about Hannay the character - and all the actors who have portrayed him - right here.

No comments:

Post a Comment