This article is about the 1903 adventure novel. For the 1984 Jimmy Buffett album, see Riddles in the Sand.
The Riddle of the Sands
Author Robert Erskine Childers
Genre(s) Invasion novel,
Publisher Smith, Elder & Co
Publication date 1903
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
OCLC Number 3569143
The Riddle of the Sands: A Record of Secret Service is a 1903 novel by Erskine Childers. It is an early example of the espionage novel, with a strong underlying theme of militarism. It has been made into a film and TV film.
It is a novel that "owes a lot to the wonderful adventure novels of writers like Rider Haggard, that were a staple of Victorian Britain"; perhaps more significantly, it was a spy novel that "established a formula that included a mass of verifiable detail, which gave authenticity to the story – the same ploy that would be used so well by John Buchan, Ian Fleming, John le Carré and many others." Ken Follett called it "the first modern thriller."
The book enjoyed immense popularity in the years before World War I and was extremely influential. As Childers's biographer Andrew Boyle noted: "For the next ten years Childers's book remained the most powerful contribution of any English writer to the debate on Britain's alleged military unpreparedness". It was a notable influence on John Buchan and Ken Follett, who described it as "an open-air adventure thriller about two young men who stumble upon a German armada preparing to invade England."
In 1998, nautical writer Sam Llewellyn wrote a continuation of the story named The Shadow in the Sands. This is subtitled "being an account of the cruise of the yacht Gloria in the Frisian Islands in April of 1903 and the Conclusion of the Events described by Erskine Children".
Author of the influential novel Riddle of the Sands. Based on his own sailing trips with his brother Henry along the German coast, it predicted war with Germany and called for British preparedness. There has been much speculation about which of Childers's friends was the model for "Carruthers" in the novel and it seems that he is based not on Henry Childers but on yachting enthusiast Walter Runciman; "Davies", of course, is Childers himself.
Widely popular, the book has never gone out of print and in 2003, a handful of centenary editions was published. The Observer has listed the book as #37 on its list of "The 100 Greatest Novels of All Time". It has been called the first spy novel (a claim challenged by advocates of Rudyard Kipling's Kim, published two years earlier), and enjoyed immense popularity in the years before World War I. It was an extremely influential book: Winston Churchill later credited it as a major reason that the Admiralty decided to establish naval bases at Invergordon, Rosyth on the Firth of Forth and Scapa Flow in Orkney. It was also a notable influence on John Buchan.