John Buchan

(born 1875 – died 1940) - Perth

John Buchan

John Buchan was born in Perth, the eldest son of the Rev. John Buchan. He grew up for a time in Fife, before moving with his family to Glasgow. He holidayed with his grandparents in the Scottish Borders.

Buchan was schooled at Hutchesons' Grammar School in Glasgow and then studied Classics at Glasgow University, where he wrote poetry and first became a published writer. He then went on to Brasenose College, Oxford, where he studied law. He had to take another first degree at Oxford, as his degree from Glasgow University was deemed unsatisfactory. While at Brasenose Buchan continued his writing and won the Stanhope Essay Prize in 1897 and the Newdigate Prize for Poetry in 1898. After graduating from Oxford, he started a short-lived career in law, in 1901, before moving quickly into politics. He became the private secretary to Alfred Milner, who was High commissioner for South Africa, Governor of Cape Colony and Colonial Administrator of Transvaal and the Orange Free State. His time with Milner allowed him to become well acquainted with a region that would be a recurring setting in his writing.

On his return to London, in 1903, he became a partner in the publishing firm Thomas Nelson and Sons where he continued to write and publish his own works and for a time virtually edited The Spectator. In 1907 he married Susan Charlotte Grosvener, a cousin of the Duke of Westminster, and they had four children. Buchan had his first novel, Sir Quixote of the Moors, published in 1895, but in 1910, the first of his adventure novels, Prestor John, was published. During World War I he wrote for the War Propaganda Bureau and was a correspondent for The Times in France.

In 1914, whist recovering from illness, Buchan wrote his best known book, The Thirty-Nine Steps, which was published in 1915. This, his 27th book, introduced us to the British hero Richard Hannay, who was based on an old friend of Buchan's from his South African days, Edmund Ironside.

In 1916 the sequel to The Thirty-Nine Steps, Greenmantle, was published. In this year Buchan joined the British Army Intelligence Corps, where he composed speeches for Sir Douglas Haig. Under Lord Beaverbrook, in 1917, he became the Director of Information. After the war Buchan became a director of the news agency, Reuters, and continued his interest in politics.

The Thirty-Nine Steps was by far his most famous novel and it has been filmed three times, the first being directed by Alfred Hitchcock. However, Buchan wrote much more widely than adventure tales: his output included poetry and biographies, including Sir Walter Scott, Caesar Augustus, Oliver Cromwell and Julius Caesar.

Buchan's political endeavours saw him twice the Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. In 1927 he was elected, in a by-election, as a Scottish Unionist MP for the Scottish Universities, a post he held until 1935.

In 1935 he became the 15th Governor General of Canada. The Canadian Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King wanted Buchan to take the post as a commoner, but King George V wanted to be represented by a peer, and so Buchan became the 1st Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield. Both Buchan and his wife took their roles in Canada seriously. Lady Tweedsmuir was active in promoting literacy in Canada, using Rideau Hall as a distribution centre for 40,000 books that were sent to readers in the remote west of the country, and this became known as The Lady Tweedsmuir Prairie Library Scheme.

John Buchan was recognised by Glasgow, St. Andrews, McGill, Toronto and Montreal Universities, which all conferred him Doctor of Law. He was made an Honorary Fellow and Honorary D.C.L. of Oxford University.

He died while still in office as Governor General of Canada. He never stopped working.

  • Cover scan of The Courts Of The Morning
    The Courts Of The Morning - Paperback
    South America is the setting for this adventure. When Archie and Janet Roylance decide to travel to the Gran Seco to see its copper mines they find themselves caught up in dreadful danger; rebels have seized the city.
  • Cover scan of The Dancing Floor
    The Dancing Floor - Paperback
    Set on a mysterious Greek island, with references in the story to ancient rites and mythology, Buchan tells of a lawyer and MP, Sir Edward Leithen and Vernon Milbourne. The story describes their stay on Plakos and encounters with its darker side.
  • Cover scan of The Free Fishers
    The Free Fishers - Paperback
    When Anthony Lammas, a young professor, hears that one of his former students is in grave danger, he sets out to try and save him. On his journey, he learns that the student is involved in a conspiracy to betray England's defences to Napoleonic agents.
  • Cover scan of The Gap In The Curtain
    The Gap In The Curtain - Paperback
    When Sir Edward Leithen leaves London to spend Whitsuntide as a guest of Lady Flambard, he has no idea of the extraordinary sequence of events about to unfold.
  • Cover scan of Greenmantle
    Greenmantle - Paperback
    This classic adventure is set in war-torn Europe, and is the sequel to 'The Thirty-Nine Steps'. It shows John Buchan's mastery of the thriller and also his immense knowledge of world politics.
  • Cover scan of Huntingtower
    Huntingtower - Paperback
    Dickson McCunn, a newly retired grocer of romantic heart, plans a walking holiday in south-west Scotland. He meets a young English poet and, contrary to his better sense, finds himself involved in the kidnapping of a Russian princess, who is held prisoner in the rambling mansion, Huntingtower.
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    The Island Of Sheep - Paperback
    'The Island of Sheep' features the return of Richard Hannay (the hero of 'The Thirty-Nine Steps') from a comfortable retirement. He & his friends are hounded from England through the Scottish borders, where they turn at last to face the enemy.
  • Cover scan of John Burnet Of Barns
    John Burnet Of Barns - Paperback
    Set in the Scottish Borders in 1678, this novel tells the story of two young noblemen - John Burnet, heir to the ancient house of Barns, and his cousin, Captain Gilbert Burnet, a dashing but ruthless soldier and adventurer.
  • Cover scan of A Lost Lady Of Old Years
    A Lost Lady Of Old Years: A Romance - Paperback
    This novel tells the story of Francis Birkenshaw, a young man from a good Border family, who grows up in Edinburgh determined to live a life of villainy and debauchery. But his wild escapades soon force him to flee abroad.
  • Cover scan of Midwinter
    Midwinter - Paperback
    'Midwinter' is regarded by many critics as one of the finest historical novels ever written. Alastair Maclean, a close confidante of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, begins to suspect that someone is passing secrets to the enemy.
  • Cover scan of Mr. Standfast
    Mr. Standfast - Paperback
    Buchan's perennial here, Richard Hannay, is given the assignment of hunting down the most dangerous man in the world during World War I and helping to determine the outcome of the war.
  • Cover scan of The Path Of The King
    The Path Of The King - Paperback
    This collection of short stories demonstrates John Buchan's talent for writing heroic adventures.
  • Cover scan of Prester John
    Prester John - Paperback
    After his father's death our hero sets off to make his fortune in South Africa. He gets tangled up in an African uprising and rumours he hears along his journey make him suspect that his destination may not be as predictable as he has supposed.
  • Cover scan of A Prince Of The Captivity
    A Prince Of The Captivity - Paperback
    Adam Melfort is released from jail just before the outbreak of World War I and becomes involved in intelligence work behind enemy lines. After the war he carries on seeking adventure and tries to prevent the assassination of the German Chancellor.
  • Cover scan of Sick Heart River
    Sick Heart River - Paperback
    Given a year to live, lawyer and MP Sir Edward Leithen fears he will die unfulfilled and disillusioned. He resolves to devote his last energies to finding and restoring to health a young Canadian banker. This is John Buchan's last novel.
  • Cover scan of The Thirty-Nine Steps
    The Thirty-Nine Steps - Paperback
    Richard Hannay's ennui comes to an abrupt end when a murder is committed in his flat. Only a few days before the dead man had revealed to him an assassination plot which would have terrible consequences for international peace.
  • Cover scan of The Three Hostages
    The Three Hostages - Paperback
    England is at peace after the end of World War I. Spy-catcher Richard Hannay is enjoying the country life at Fosse Manor. However, Hannay's peace is shattered when a dangerous criminal gang kidnap three children of important national figures.
  • Cover scan of Witch Wood
    Witch Wood - Paperback
    Set against the religious struggles and civil wars of 17th-century Scotland, 'Witch Wood' is a gripping atmospheric tale in the spirit of Stevenson and Neil Munro. Buchan's adventure stories, 'The Thirty-Nine Steps' and 'Greenmantle' are classics.




  • Grey Weather - 1899
  • The Runagates Club - 1928
  • John Buchan's Collected Poems - 1996
  • The Complete Richard Hannay
  • The Complete Short Stories
  • The Leithen Stories
  • Scottish Supernatural Tales - 1997
  • The Watchers By The Threshold - 1997


  • The Marquis of Montrose - 1913
  • The Clearing House
  • Some Notes On Sir Walter Scott - 1924
  • The Massacre of Glencoe - 1933
  • Gordon At Khartoum - 1934
  • Oliver Cromwell - 1934
  • Cover scan of The Massacre Of Glencoe
    The Massacre Of Glencoe - Paperback
    This is the classic and moving account of the massacre in February 1692 of the small Clan MacDonald of Glencoe by Campbell of Glenlyon's which marked the beginning of the end of the clan system.