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  • Writer's picturePaul Jameson

The 39 Steps - Book Review

The 39 Steps... I love the movie and had never read the book. So there I am in the library and in among the classics I see it, a chance to improve my literary kudos. I was so excited. I couldn't wait to read it. Never have I felt so let down. It is testament to Hitchcock, and others of the silver screen, that what they did to the book in moving it onto the big screen is they made a classic. It certainly wasn't Buchan's writing. I have read other reviews that express similar sentiment, that it's not a classic because of its writing but because it was the first of its genre; it introduced the spy novel. I disagree. I think Holmes and Moriarty had all the hallmarks of a good spy and thriller read, long before Buchan ever put pen to paper, and with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle being a brilliant storyteller and wordsmith to boot. Neither can be said of Buchan, in my humble opinion. His writing is childlike, and I was constantly reminded of a boy in a sweetshop with too many E-numbers inside him. There is nary a pause for breath as he blurts out a loons story in a stream of words. So many times I wanted him to pause ... to breathe and take some time. No such doing. The E-numbers doing their thing!

And what a story. It was blindingly rubbish. Full of impossible coincidence and a hero from Africa who, quite frankly, I wished had been eaten by a lion long before he ever got to England so that this story might never have happened. If this were written now by an indie author it would be slated, drown in the shallows and be consigned forevermore to a jar of jelly tots in the corner. Then I remembered the film and how much I love it. Thank you Alfred! You resurrected life and worked miracles; put flesh on the bones of the ramblings of a schoolboy. Created a masterpiece of film and a classic from scribble.


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