John Buchan

The John Buchan (1875-1940) Home Page

John Buchan was born in Perth, the son of a Free Church of Scotland minister. Shortly after his birth, his family moved to Fife, then the Gorbals in Glasgow. He received his higher education at Glasgow University and Brasenose College, Oxford. During his studies at Oxford, he published five books and many articles. After college he pursued as successful career as a barrister, Member of Parliament, writer, soldier and publisher. His biography is chronicled, to some degree, in Memory Hold the Door, also known as Pilgrim's Way. Click here for a pointer to an article which reviews Buchan's life as one of a man of action versus a man of letters.

In 1907, he married Susan Grosvenor. It was a happy marriage resulting in one daughter and three sons. He became Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield in 1935 and the thirty fifth Governor General of Canada, which position he held until his death in 1940. Clan Buchan has a long history in Scotland. I received an email lately from a lady who is working to bring together information about the Buchan clan. Her web page has much history of the Clan Buchan and is worthy of a visit.

He first became known as a writer for Prester John which was published in 1910. He is best known for his adventure stories, high in romance and he favored "the romance where the incidents defy the probabilities, and march just inside the borders of the possible."

There is a huge cast of characters which the reader keeps meeting as he reads through John Buchan's works, but three are the most prominent: Richard Hannay, Dickson McCunn and Sir Edward Leithen.

Hannay is the protagonist in 5 major works: The Thirty Nine Steps (1915) , Greenmantle (1916), Mr. Standfast (1919), The Three Hostages (1924) and The Island of Sheep (Man from the Norlands)(1936). A South African mining engineer, he came to settle in England after making his pile in the gold fields of South Africa. His closest friends are Peter Pienaar, a South African hunter, guide and sometime scallywag and Sandy Arbuthnot, whose travels range from the Middle east to South America unofficially on his government's business. Hannay's wife, Mary, to whom is married in the Three Hostages, participates in Mr. Standfast, the Three Hostages and takes a more minor role in the Island of Sheep.

McCunn is a retired Glasgow provisions merchant who sets out to find adventure in Huntingtower(1922), Castle Gay(1930) and the House of the Four Winds(1935). He is benefactor of the Gorbals Diehards, a pack of poor boys who grouped themselves into an ersatz Boy Scout troop. By the time of Castle Gay, they have moved on to college, and by the time of the House of the Four Winds they are dabbling in Evallonian politics.

Sir Edward Leithen is the hero of The Power House(1916), John MacNab(1925), and Sick Heart River(Mountain Meadow)(1941). A barrister, in the Power House, he faces a stark presence in the person of Andrew Lumley, in the Power House. John MacNab is a light hearted frolic in the country, while Sick Heart River places him facing Death in the Canadian wilderness, while saving a American/French Canadian for his family and country.

He is also a character among several others, in The Gap in the Curtain (1932).

Amazingly, the largest library collections of his works are located in the University of California (USA), rather than in his native Scotland. You can follow this link to a complete list of his works within that library collection or telnet by Buchan's papers are split between Edinburgh and Toronto U.

Only a small number of his books is readily available in the United States, primarily the adventure series cited above. Other of his books, such as The Dancing Floor, A Prince of the Captivity, Salute to Adventures, though also adventures, are often more difficult to locate. One source for his books is Powells Books in Portland, Oregon ( I would be pleased to pass along any other sources you, gentle reader, may be familiar with, if you would email me at

Another Buchan fan suggests the following:

1. Enola Stewart at Gravesend Books Box 235 Pocono Pines Pa 18350

Ph717-646-3317 (no email). Enola specializes in Buchan and Conan Doyle and can be always counted on for a reading copy. She ships immediately and after the first payment will invoice (I don't believe she takes credit cards.

2.. The Mysterious Bookstore in N.Y. (there's also a San Francisco Branch but I don't know anything about it). They stock new Brit paperbacks (Oxford U.,B&W Press in Edinburgh).For some stupid reason, I don't have a telephone number, though their address is W. 56th St in Manhattan. I don't think they have e-mail, but I never tried them.

3. There is a John Buchan Society in Scotland (addr:c/o the secretary, Mr.W.M. Russell Paterson,Limpsfield,16 Ranfurly Road, Bridge Of Weir Renfrewshire, Scotland PA11 3EL. If you write him, he'll send you details. There's even a tie you can purchase!

By the way, if you ever get to N.Y., there is a small group which we call the Runagates (from the books) which gets together once every other month to have dinner and talk about one of his books. We'd love to see you. (Owen Quattlebaum,

In playing Mad Trivia today, I ran across your Web page on John Buchan. As a seller of out-of-print books on the 'net, I try whenever possible, to pass on A. Chatterjee's book search site which is a most wonderful addition to the Internet! Currently listing many J. Buchan books (as well as nearly any one else's you might want to look for!). It can be found at: Thanks for a great, and informative site on J. Buchan! Suzanne Edgel ZanBooks PO Box 3134 Chelan, WA 98816

The following electronic texts for downloading or reading are available:


Mr. Standfast

Prester John

The 39 Steps

The Power House

Click here to search for electronic texts anywhere on the internet by author.

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