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24 August 1995
John BuchanThe Presbyterian Cavalier 
by Andrew Lownie.
Constable, 365 pp., £20, July 1995, 0 09 472500 4
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... extensive interests of the country he is altogether incapable of judging.’ Anyone who has dined recently with a Cabinet Minister will know that it is not just the labourer who is thus incapable. JohnBuchan, whose grandson I am, was a late and flesh-and-blood representative of that lost epoch before economic expediency: a writer who not so much rejected the division of labour (Baudelaire and the ...
19 August 1982
John BuchanA Memoir 
by William Buchan.
Buchan​ and Enright, 272 pp., £9.95, May 1982, 0 907675 03 4
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The Best Short Stories of John Buchan. Vol. II 
edited by David Daniell.
Joseph, 240 pp., £8.50, June 1982, 9780718121211
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... The nice thing about JohnBuchan is that he was on the side of books. He thought, it is true, that he ought to have been a Guardian, shaping the Empire, or dominating Cabinets, or, at worst, ‘a power behind the throne’. However ...

Us and Them

Robert Taubman

4 September 1980
The Secret Servant 
by Gavin Lyall.
Hodder, 224 pp., £5.50, June 1980, 0 340 25385 1
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The Flowers of the Forest 
by Joseph Hone.
Secker, 365 pp., £5.95, July 1980, 0 436 20087 2
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A Talent to Deceive: An Appreciation of Agatha Christie 
by Robert Barnard.
Collins, 203 pp., £5.95, April 1980, 0 00 216190 7
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Enter the Lion: A Posthumus Memoir of Mycroft Holmes 
by Michael Hodel and Sean Wright.
Dent, 237 pp., £4.95, May 1980, 0 460 04483 4
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Dorothy I. Sayers: Nine Literary Studies 
by Trevor Hall.
Duckworth, 132 pp., £12.50, April 1980, 9780715614556
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Milk Dime 
by Barry Fantoni.
Hodder, 192 pp., £5.50, May 1980, 0 340 25350 9
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... into his vein. The vein is more that of the classic adventure yarn than of the brutal modern thriller, though he brings these two things together. It’s not only that a packet of biscuits suggests JohnBuchan’s Hannay. The older tradition is acknowledged to the point of parody when the Prime Minister’s private secretary is given a family set of rooms in Albany where, ‘coming in off the chilly ...
18 December 1980
The Best Short Stories of John​ Buchan 
edited by David Daniell.
Joseph, 224 pp., £7.50, May 1980, 0 7181 1906 1
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... David Daniell is also the author of the only full-length critical study of Buchan’s work – The Interpreter’s House (1975). Both there and here, in the introduction to this collection of 12 of Buchan’s stories, he is concerned to defend the writer against the usual accusations of anti-semitism, racism and blatant imperialism; to protest against the way he is automatically ranked with Sapper ...
23 June 1994
Richard Hughes 
by Richard Perceval Graves.
Deutsch, 491 pp., £20, May 1994, 0 233 98843 2
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... both Flemings) and Richard Hughes. It makes no difference that Lawrence was half-Irish, the Flemings mostly Scottish, and Hughes partly Welsh. The presidential or father figure of the group would be JohnBuchan, another Scot, whose innings was over before the younger ones started to play, although he was still around as they became famous. This English angle was partly suggested to me at the time ...

Iraq Must Go!

Charles Glass: The Making and Unmaking of Iraq

3 October 2002
... There is a dry wind blowing through the East, and the parched grasses wait the spark. JohnBuchan, Greenmantle (1916) As Lloyd George’s wartime Director of Information, JohnBuchan urged Britain to support an incomprehensible Eastern war with the cry: ‘The Turk must go!’ At the beginning of 1916, the Turk was not going anywhere: he held fast at Gallipoli, driving off the ...

Hustling off the Crockery

John​ Bayley: Kipling’s history of the Great War.

4 June 1998
The Irish Guards in the Great War: The First Battalion 
by Rudyard Kipling.
Spellmount, 320 pp., £24.95, January 1997, 1 873376 72 3
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The Irish Guards in the Great War: The Second Battalion 
by Rudyard Kipling.
Spellmount, 223 pp., £24.95, January 1998, 1 873376 83 9
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... but Kipling had travelled a long way since his Soldiers Three days by the time he wrote The Irish Guards in the Great War. He was shaken and humbled, as the British Empire was to be. When his son John, aged barely 17, was rejected by the Navy because of poor eyesight, he wanted to go off and enlist in the ranks, but his father used his friendship with Lord Roberts to get him a commission in the ...

Only the Camels

Robert Irwin: Wilfred Thesiger

6 April 2006
Wilfred Thesiger: The Life of the Great Explorer 
by Alexander Maitland.
HarperCollins, 528 pp., £25, February 2006, 0 00 255608 1
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... Tacitus and Gibbon. The less intellectual read books about mountaineering, big-game hunting and pig-sticking. On the whole the young Thesiger belonged to the second category. He read the novels of JohnBuchan and Rider Haggard, Jim Corbett’s tales of tiger hunting, Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game, Blackwood’s Tales from the Outposts, Jock of the Bushveld, Henri de Monfreid’s account of ...

Grotty Cecil

Simon Raven

1 July 1982
Dornford Yates: A Tragedy 
by A.J. Smithers.
Hodder, 240 pp., £8.95, March 1982, 0 340 27547 2
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... paying taxes he went to live in Rhodesia, where he guzzled luxurious drinks served by brutally subjugated natives and said vile things about the sainted Aneurin Bevan. Dornford Yates, in short, was JohnBuchan with big brass knobs on – an ultra-Imperialist and a granite diehard, who seduced the public with his flashy and worthless stories in much the same way as child-molesters tempt eight-year ...
9 April 1992
... similar goes for the Scots, particularly now that the Commissioner is turning in performances like the Birmingham Six, and the old decencies seem perilously contingent. To take one actor in Annan. JohnBuchan – in some ways a key figure of politics and culture in 20th-century Scotland – appears as a straightforward inter-war Tory, a somewhat archaic consensus-monger tainted by Appeasement. Seen ...
4 June 1987
The Life of My Choice 
by Wilfred Thesiger.
Collins, 459 pp., £15, May 1987, 9780002161947
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Worlds Apart: Travels in War and Peace 
by Gavin Young.
Hutchinson, 344 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 09 168220 7
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... resembles a tanned, lined version of Sherlock Holmes with a broken nose, and seems to have rejected most of the pleasures of civilisation except for Earl Grey tea. Thesiger’s life has been in the Buchan mould. It is true that, unlike Auberon Herbert (‘the man who was Greenmantle’), he was never pressed to accept a throne – he would certainly have declined even that of Albania – but he played ...
9 July 1992
Devolving English Literature 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 320 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198112983
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry 
edited by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 424 pp., £17.50, July 1992, 9780571154319
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... and ridiculous: if I have as much right to wear a chip on my shoulder as any Australian or Aberdonian, then who is left to man the supposedly overbearing metropolis, unless it is Kingsley Amis and John Betjeman? The ramparts so frailly manned should have given way long ago to the armies massed against them. What Crawford doesn’t realise is that this indeed has happened; he is sounding the bugle ...

Short Cuts

James Meek: Anglospheroids

21 March 2013
... John Norton-Griffiths, ‘Empire Jack’, engineer and strapping essence of imperial British manliness, was sent to Romania in 1916 to destroy that country’s oil industry before the Germans overran it ...

At Tate Britain

Inigo Thomas: Frederick Swynnerton

21 January 2016
... to guess that this is General Gordon in Khartoum. To be vain is a character flaw for those who aren’t, and there was nothing like empire to give vanity rocket-like lift. In Karsh’s photograph of JohnBuchan, who was governor of Canada in the 1930s, the wildly popular novelist wears a North American Indian war bonnet, his weathered face is in semi-profile, he’s wearing gloves, and he looks as if ...

Fashionable Gore

Katherine Rundell: H. Rider Haggard

2 April 2014
King Solomon’s Mines 
by H. Rider Haggard.
Vintage, 337 pp., £7.99, May 2013, 978 0 09 958282 3
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She 
by H. Rider Haggard.
Vintage, 317 pp., £8.99, May 2013, 978 0 09 958283 0
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... tightly plotted, suspense-driven, lavishly sexist and racist. In fact, though it is often read as a children’s book, it isn’t; nor is it run of the mill. It is the book which sowed the seed for JohnBuchan’s Richard Hannay, for Indiana Jones and James Bond, and though less slick than its successors, its anxieties and lunacies are more interesting. It isn’t suitable for children; perhaps not ...

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