Programming note: In an hour or so I'll be making a Presidents Day appearance on "Tucker Carlson Tonight", live across America at 8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific. Hope you'll tune in.
Meanwhile, for those who prefer me in non-visual form, here we go with Part Four of our brand new Tale for Our Time - my serialization of John Buchan's classic "shocker" The Thirty-Nine Steps. In tonight's episode Richard Hannay finds himself delivered into the hands of an airheaded radical stumping for the Scottish Liberal Party:
'A Colonial,' he cried. 'By Gad, you're the very man I've been praying for. Are you by any blessed chance a Free Trader?'
'I am,' said I, without the foggiest notion of what he meant...
I had very few notions about Free Trade one way or the other, but I saw no other chance to get what I wanted. My young gentleman was far too absorbed in his own difficulties to think how odd it was to ask a stranger who had just missed death by an ace and had lost a 1,000-guinea car to address a meeting for him on the spur of the moment. But my necessities did not allow me to contemplate oddnesses or to pick and choose my supports.
'All right,' I said. 'I'm not much good as a speaker, but I'll tell them a bit about Australia.'
The twaddle of his benefactor's radical progressive politics does, eventually, get to him:
'Listen, Sir Harry,' I said. 'I've something pretty important to say to you. You're a good fellow, and I'm going to be frank. Where on earth did you get that poisonous rubbish you talked tonight?'
His face fell. 'Was it as bad as that?' he asked ruefully.
Thank you, Mark, for including "39 Steps" in Tales for Our Time. I read Buchan's "Witch Wood" recently and was greatly impressed, but it is so long since I read "39 Steps" that it is like hearing a completely new story.
An irrelevant side comment: Buchan is a great novelist, so when looking into the life & times of Oliver Cromwell, it was exciting to find that Buchan had written a history of the tyrant in 1934. However, Theodore Roosevelt in 1928 also wrote a history of Oliver Cromwell, perhaps in part because of his interest in Cromwell's use of cavalry -- and, astonishing to say, TR wrote a more interesting book than Buchan. It is also interesting to compare the quality of people who ran for President in TR's day -- men who could actually write a serious book -- with recent candidates who are satisfied with merely putting their signature to a ghost writer's efforts.
Indeed. Maybe we'll do a Disraeli novel one of these days. It's also interesting that TR wrote his book after his presidency, instead of just setting up some scam foundation and hitting the seven-figure speech circuit playing to layabout Saudi princes and Kazakh oligarchs.
If you've a friend who might be partial to our classic fiction outings, we've introduced a special Mark Steyn Gift Membership that lets you sign up a chum for the Steyn Club and then choose a personally autographed welcome gift for them. You'll find more details here - and scroll down to the foot of the order form for the choice of books/CDs.
See you on TV in an hour, and for Part Five of The Thirty-Nine Steps tomorrow.