Posted by: billpurdue | February 6, 2015

I’m getting to like John Buchan’s novels

I had a distant relation who sadly passed away in 2013, who was a great fan of the novels of John Buchan. Whilst it would have been nice to ask her what she personally thought of the John Buchan’s work, it was too late to do so by the time I discovered her preference for his books. I now have several of the Buchan novels which belonged to her and, having now read two of them, I am beginning to find out what they are like  and to perhaps understand what she saw in them. I think she was collecting them, judging by the ticks alongside the titles in a list opposite the title page in her copy of “The Gap in the Curtain”.


The first Buchan novel I read was “Greenmantle’, one of the ‘John Hannay’ novels and possibly as popular as his most famous novel “The 39 Steps”. “The Gap in the Curtain” is quite a different story, being described as a novel of the supernatural.

Buchan Gap

Set vaguely at sometime in the late 1920s (published in 1932), it is narrated by Sir Edward Leithen. It begins at one of those weekend house parties at a large house in the Cotswolds, when Sir Edward and five other guests are invited by the strange Professor Moe to take part in an experiment to see into the future by seeing momentarily a page of the Times newspaper one year ahead.


Whilst Sir Edward manages to keep his head and doesn’t abandon himself to the experiment wholeheartedly, five of them do succeed in being able to read a page of the Times for a year ahead. Two of these actually read their own obituaries.


The rest of the novel follows the fortunes of each of these five in turn, a chapter being given over to each one. I won’t be giving away what actually happens to them, but I have to admit that I did find the book held my attention more than “Greenmantle”. I do have a sort of fascination for novels set in that period between the wars. The upper echelons of society in which the protagonist and all the other characters move does make the story seem to me one step removed from what you might call “real life”. Some of the expressions and words which Buchan uses are no longer found in novels today and before reading this novel, were slightly off-putting for me. However now I will look forward to reading another Buchan novel. For more about John Buchan, go to There’s also a museum which explores his life and writings in Peebles, Scotland.

[NB the cover image above is one of the latest editions]


A history of Royal Mail


I recently purchased a comprehensive history of Royal Mail entitled “Masters of the Post” by Duncan Campbell-Smith. It’s quite a hefty tome with well over 800 pages, but if the reviews from Amazon customers are anything to go by, it has been very well received. I haven’t yet started reading it, though I have dipped into it and what I found makes me want to read more. It was published in 2011, so of course it won’t include the privatisation of Royal Mail. There are 4 sections (in the paperback edition) of photographs and other illustrations.


If you don’t mind the paperback edition, you can get it for a bargain price from Postscript Books ( It will cost you just £6.99 plus P&P. Oh, and by the way, the novel “Gap in the Curtain” is also in the latest Postscript catalogue, priced at £2.99



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