"Readers whose familiarity with John Buchan's life and works ends on the closing page of Mr. Standfast or at the final frame of Hitchcock's The Thirty-Nine Steps may find it difficult to believe that their author, beyond his position as the acknowledged father of the modern spy thriller, led a life that ranged widely across the landscape of British politics and culture." "Buchan's literary career, one that started almost as an afterthought, was itself astonishing, comprising a hundred titles that ranged from the thrillers for which he is now best ...
"Readers whose familiarity with John Buchan's life and works ends on the closing page of Mr. Standfast or at the final frame of Hitchcock's The Thirty-Nine Steps may find it difficult to believe that their author, beyond his position as the acknowledged father of the modern spy thriller, led a life that ranged widely across the landscape of British politics and culture." "Buchan's literary career, one that started almost as an afterthought, was itself astonishing, comprising a hundred titles that ranged from the thrillers for which he is now best known to children's books, from biographies to romances, from poetry to screenplays. But Buchan's literary output represented only a fraction of his life experience; he moved in the uppermost reaches of British political, military, and cultural affairs, acting as speechwriter and confidant to two Prime Ministers, and counting luminaries as varied as Virginia Woolf, Robert Graves, and T. E. Lawrence as his colleagues and friends. He served as Director of Information during World War I and later as a member of Parliament, ending his long career as the beloved Governor-General of Canada." Andrew Lownie's acclaimed biography - the first in over thirty years - reveals a character as complex and fascinating as any in his great quartet of thrillers starring master spy Richard Hannay. He succeeds in the daunting task of retelling Buchan's life in all its variety, breadth, and complexity. Based on exhaustive research and drawing on private papers previously unavailable to biographers, this is a compelling picture of Buchan's life, and a panoramic view of British political, social, and literary circles during the first half of the twentieth-century.
Trumpets should now sound for Buchan; and I will sound one of my own for Andrew Lownie, who has brought this most extraordinary man to life in a way no previous writer has.
THe New York Times
In his thorough and lucid biography, Andrew Lownie, a Scottish journalist and editor of several collections of Buchan's stories and poetry, sympathetically evokes this ''highly complex and private man who may not always himself have understood his own motivations and abilities.'' Buchan's heroes, men of ratiocination and action, reason and romance, duty and adventure, Lownie maintains, best reveal and imaginatively reconcile the contradictions that both impelled and thwarted Buchan during his lifetime. — Sherie Posesorski
Best known to American readers as the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle and other "shockers," as Buchan referred to them, John Buchan's protean life and work encompassed a great diversity of accomplishments. In a detailed, well-balanced and well-documented work, Lownie, who has edited collections of Buchan's poems and stories, examines his subject's successes and failures as well as the shifting tides of critical opinion that have buffeted or burnished his reputation. Buchan's 65 years (1875-1940) were crowded with achievements. He attended Glasgow University and Oxford and was chancellor of Edinburgh University. His literary roles included war correspondent, various positions with Nelson Publishing Co. and deputy chairman of Reuters News Agency. His distinguished record of public service included various posts in South Africa, WWI director of information, MP for the Scottish Universities and governor-general of Canada. In addition to his works of fiction, Buchan wrote and published essays, poetry, biographies and histories, and he edited numerous other works. And yet somehow Buchan never seemed to grab the grand prize expected of him. Lownie argues quite convincingly that Buchan had too many talents pulling him in various directions-torn between romantic and practical impulses-and that ill health compounded his difficulties. He also felt himself to be always the outsider: "regarded as a Scotsman in England and an Englishman in Scotland." Regardless of successes or failures, Buchan had, and continues to have, a shaping influence on espionage fiction, with his books still being read and adapted for radio, television and film. Illus. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.