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Publisher's Summary

Five BBC Radio 4 dramatisations of John Buchan’s espionage thrillers featuring gentleman spy Richard Hannay.

The forerunner to James Bond, Secret Agent Richard Hannay is a thoroughly British action hero, pursuing ruthless villains, foiling deadly plans and risking life and limb for his country. This gripping collection encompasses all five of Hannay’s adventures, adapted for radio with superb casts including Tom Baker, Clive Merrison, Stuart Milligan, Jasmine Hyde and Patrick Malahide.

The 39 Steps

When a man is murdered in Richard Hannay's London flat, he goes on the run pursued by the police - and a gang of German spies intent on recovering a secret notebook which could destroy the British naval fleet. Starring David Robb as Hannay.

Greenmantle

1915. Summoned to the War Office, Hannay is told of an impending Holy War in the East. Greenmantle - once a mythical figure, now made flesh - is preparing to lead a great Islamic army against the infidel English. Hannay's mission: to identify Greenmantle and destroy him. Starring David Robb as Hannay.

Mr Standfast

Recalled from the Western Front, Hannay is ordered to pose as a pacifist and sent to Glasgow. Along the way, he meets a teenage Secret Service Agent who will change the course of his life. Starring David Robb as Hannay.

The Three Hostages

When a gang of international criminals kidnaps a trio of hostages, the Secret Service brings Hannay out of retirement to track them down. But the mission will pit him against an adversary who can control men’s minds. Starring David Robb as Hannay.

The Island of Sheep

A chance meeting in a train and a villainous vendetta shake Richard Hannay out of a complacent middle age, as dangerous men go in pursuit of treasure. Starring Nigel Anthony as Hannay.

Please note: the vintage stories in this collection reflect the attitudes of their time.

©2020 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd (P)2020 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd

Critic Reviews

"The BBC radio sound effects department is on top form, adding thrills that no printed book can rival." (The Times)

What listeners say about The 39 Steps and Other Richard Hannay Adventures

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Fun 1910s-1930s espionage tales

I was familiar with the Hitchcock film The 39 Steps, but didn’t realize Richard Hannay was a character in multiple stories. These are fun, very clean, espionage stories that take place from WWI - the 1930s. I really enjoyed the dramatization and cast, but thought the cast was stronger in the first four stories, when the characters are younger.

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Creepily Right-Wing Anti-Semitic Protagonist

I can enjoy some books whose politics I don't like, but this was too unpleasant to get into. The "hero" says things like "he had a nose like a Polish Jew," apparently intended to be an unremarkable descriptor. The 39 Steps is well-executed and fun, but the others are too Ra-Ra War/Empire for anyone whose politics are left of Margaret Thatcher to actually enjoy. It's surprising that the BBC would have made this in the last 45 years. Production values and performances are solid. Too bad.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Demonica
  • 05-30-20

Doesn't age well

I adored John Buchan as a teen. I still love many stories from this era. I surprised myself at how annoying I found it just now. Performances are superb. Definitely of its time and perfectly executed. I just found the stories misogynist and jingoistic now I am on my mid 50's, living in the UK under the same regime, being treated as badly as the empire directs

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  • B.W.
  • 07-12-20

Great up to the last one

The Island of Sheep isn't a Bert Coules production and has been recast so it is a bit disjointed from the rest even apart from the fact that it was a later addition by John Buchan and not the strongest of his stories. Otherwise these are thoroughly enjoyable yarns but of their time (early 20th C) so beware of unfortunate references to ethnicity etc....

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  • barry jarman
  • 11-10-20

Darn good listen

Thoroughly enjoyed these books. Would have preferred if the actors had been the same all the way through, which prevented me from 5 stars

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  • Banjoman
  • 07-06-20

Ripping yarns.

Ripping yarns from John Buchan, boys own adventures, very much of its time....
Brilliant dramatisation from the BBC, and excellent characterisation from the cast.
Gentleman Hannay is at times blundering and lucky, in his adventures with spies, ruffians, and rogues. These fictional stories are good adventure entertainment.

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  • Peter Chistopher Franck
  • 06-25-20

Some stories good, some bad.

The 39 Steps and Greenmantle are great - the other two are rotten.
Listen to and enjoy the first two and forget the rest.

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  • Christopher Snazell
  • 05-27-20

Very Disappointing

Richard Hannay's grinding incompetence & John Buchan's xenophobic little Englander politics aren't to my taste.

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  • Mr. Michael Millard
  • 09-07-22

Great stories, performed well.

This was an excellent BBC production. The stories were necessarily abridged and well adapted. I really enjoy these and the performances of the cast were very good.

John Buchan’s stories are well worth listening to and reading. I grew up with such stories and, having had a father and uncles in the First World War, I was used to the mindset of the period.

Unlike Sherlock Holmes, for example, some of the stories have not ‘aged’ well. As a historian, I have often told my students that they must not judge the past by the standards of the present. If the listener cannot do this, then he, or she, may well be offended by the prejudices and slang of the period.

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  • Nick Wayne
  • 06-26-22

Boys own adventures

the stories flagged a bit after Greenmantle. The new cast tried their best in the island of sheep but...

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  • bobo
  • 09-08-21

Classic BBC production with All Star Cast

Really worth the listen, took me a while to get to grips with it, but the cast are outstanding, David Robb obviously a very distinctive voice which I personally really enjoy, as well as Clive Merrison, although I always think of his as being sherlock holmes, well worth the credit :)

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  • tim geering
  • 04-07-21

Top Hole

If you love thrilling adventure then this is for you. A great dramatisation and cast.