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John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier

By Andrew Lownie

An important biography of an extraordinary, multi-faceted Scot.

The name of John Buchan will forever be associated with the classic thriller The Thirty-Nine Steps. He would be remembered as the author of this thriller if he had written nothing else. But he in fact wrote over a hundred books, including a series of ‘shockers’ – featuring the characters of Richard Hannay, Sandy Arbuthnot and Edward Leithen – along with childrens’ books and tales of the supernatural. He also wrote biographies of, among others, Cromwell and Sir Walter Scott.

In spite of his prolific output, Buchan did not consider writing his principal activity. A man of formidable energy, he had a distinguished career in public life. He was a member of Milner’s famous ‘Kindergarten’ of brilliant young men in South Africa and later worked as assistant editor for the Spectator, and for the publishing house of Nelsons. He ran the Ministry of Information during the First World War, and was a Member of Parliament for eight years. Finally, as Lord Tweedsmuir, he was for five years Governor-General of Canada.

Although he led an active, at times frenetic, public life, Buchan was at heart a countryman. He was a passionate fisherman, and believed deeply in the redemptive powers of the wild. In this, the first biography of Buchan for many years, Andrew Lownie has been able to draw on private papers not used before, which have enabled him to paint a compelling picture of Buchan’s life, and a panoramic view of British political, social, and literary circles during the first half of the twentieth century.

Praise for John Buchan: The Presbyterian Cavalier:

ʻAndrew Lownie offers a solid and convincing portrait of a complex man and controls the innumerable aspects of Buchan’s life in an exemplary manner.’ – Times Literary Supplement

‘Trumpets should now sound for Buchan; and I will sound one of my own for Andrew Lownie, who has brought this most extraordinary man to life in a way no previous writer has.’ – Patrick Cosgrove, Independent

‘In his thorough and lucid biography, Andrew Lownie, a Scottish journalist and editor of several collections of Buchan’s stories and poetry, sympathetically evokes this ‘highly complex and private man who may not always himself have understood his own motivations and abilities.’ – New York Times

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