“It was sheer unmitigated crime, a sort of selling bear on a huge scale in a sinking world. The aim of the gang was money, and they already had made scandalous profits. Partly their business was mere conscienceless profiteering well inside the bounds of the law, such as gambling in falling exchanges and using every kind of brazen and subtle trick to make their gamble a certainty . Partly it was common fraud of the largest size… These fellows were wreckers on the grand scale, merchants of pessimism, giving society another kick downhill whenever it had a chance of finding its balance, and pocketing their profits.”
– John Buchan, The Three Hostages (Hodder & Stoughton, London 1924) Graphic: ft.com.
4 thoughts on “Almost bankers…”
Wow, How very apropos that, your post could be a page out of todays’ headlines, but instead writer John Buchan, (The author of The 39 Steps) wrote this piece in 1924. Nearly 85 years ago (give or take a few years…)I guess the more things “change” the more they stay the same.
Thanks, for the enlightment! (Sp)
The allusion to the novel and the plot quoted give me the impression of the picaresque series of events as being nearly providentially arranged to keep the British cause and secrets hidden for a successful issue of their mission during WWI.The picaresque adds the element of unpredictability to a purposeful ending.Hitchcock’s renedering of the man on the run and his adaptation add fanciful elements aplenty to what is a fanciful yet purposeful account. JUST MY THOUGHTS.
QUOTE NOTED BELOW FROM CITED ARTICLES
“In May 1914, Europe is close to war and spies are everywhere. Richard Hannay has just returned to London from Rhodesia in order to begin a new life, when a freelance spy called Franklin P. Scudder calls on him to ask for help. Scudder reveals to Hannay that he has uncovered a German plot to murder the Greek Premier and steal British plans for the outbreak of war. Scudder claims to be following a ring of German spies called the Black Stone.
A few days later, Hannay returns to his flat to find Scudder murdered. If Hannay goes to the police, he will be arrested for Scudder’s murder. Hannay decides to continue Scudder’s work and his adventure begins. He escapes from the German spies watching the house and makes his way to Scotland, pursued both by the spies and by the police.
The mysterious phrase Thirty-nine Steps first mentioned by Scudder becomes the title of the novel and the solution to its meaning is a thread that runs through the whole story”
Literary significance and criticism
The Thirty-Nine Steps is one of the earliest examples of the ‘man-on-the-run’ thriller archetype subsequently adopted by Hollywood as an often-used plot device. In The Thirty-Nine Steps, Buchan holds up Richard Hannay as an example to his readers of an ordinary man who puts his country’s interests before his own safety. The story was a great success with the men in the First World War trenches. One soldier wrote to Buchan, “The story is greatly appreciated in the midst of mud and rain and shells, and all that could make trench life depressing.”
Richard Hannay continued his adventures in four subsequent books. Two were set during the war when Hannay continued his undercover work against the Germans and their allies the Turks in Greenmantle and Mr Standfast. The other two stories, The Three Hostages and The Island of Sheep were set in the post war period when Hannay’s opponents were criminal gangs.
Thanks Edward for that background.
In The Three Hostages Buchan was uncannily prescient, telegraphing the coming financial collapse and the mass appeal of the fascists demagogues, particularly the resentment and malaise in Germany that spawned Hitler’s rise to power.
The House on 92nd Street in 45, a black and white Noir
as wikpedia portrays this film is an excellent depiction of an era,I surmise during the war, where Nazi spy rings and the secrets of the A-bomb are looming . Starring Lloyd Nolan. I saw this a while back. It seems during the 30’s debacle, the attractiveness of Fascist demagoguery was very very persuasive . Those times seem to have molded that fresponse.