Welcome to the official launch of the new fall season of our monthly audio adventures, Tales for Our Time. This is the sixteenth of our radio serials, and we're starting Season Two with a story listeners have been requesting since the beginning of Season One - in fact from our opening day. Our very first Tale for Our Time was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's cracking yarn of an early conflict between jihadists and westerners: The Tragedy of the Korosko, a story that remains one of our most popular serializations and immediately prompted calls to serialize this much better known work on a similar theme.
To get to it, we had to start earlier this year with the first of Buchan's adventures to star Richard Hannay - The Thirty-Nine Steps, made even more famous in a film by Alfred Hitchcock. In fact, Hitchcock was even more enthusiastic about filming Greenmantle but could never secure the rights. So, instead of Hitch and cool blondes and painted backcloths, you'll have to make do with my one-man version. This full-length serialization to kick off our second collection of monthly audio thrills features the return of Richard Hannay. Don't worry if you missed The Thirty-Nine Steps; this is an entirely stand-alone adventure that takes place the following year, in a world at war. In our opening episode, Major Hannay is recovering after wounds sustained at the Battle of Loos on the western front in 1915. Called up to town by Sir Walter Bullivant, he finds that wise old bird of the Foreign Office concerned about Germany's interest in riling up the Muslim world:
'You will inquire again how, since Turkey is primarily a religious power, Islam has played so small a part in it all. The Sheikh-ul-Islam is neglected, and though the Kaiser proclaims a Holy War and calls himself Hadji Mohammed Guilliamo, and says the Hohenzollerns are descended from the Prophet, that seems to have fallen pretty flat. The ordinary man again will answer that Islam in Turkey is becoming a back number, and that Krupp guns are the new gods. Yet—I don't know. I do not quite believe in Islam becoming a back number.'
'Look at it in another way,' he went on. 'If it were Enver and Germany alone dragging Turkey into a European war for purposes that no Turk cared a rush about, we might expect to find the regular army obedient, and Constantinople. But in the provinces, where Islam is strong, there would be trouble. Many of us counted on that. But we have been disappointed. The Syrian army is as fanatical as the hordes of the Mahdi. The Senussi have taken a hand in the game. The Persian Moslems are threatening trouble.'
You'll notice that most of Sir Walter's laundry list remains as relevant as it was a century ago: the eastern provinces, where Islam is strong, have delivered Turkey into the hands of Erdogan; in Syria, new armies of Isis and al-Qae'da affiliates are as fanatical as the hordes of the Mahdi; the Persian Moslems are now threatening nuclear trouble... The Senussi aren't what they were, but, since the fall of Colonel Gaddafi, have taken a (modest) hand in the game in Libya. So plus ça change and all that. Bullivant continues:
'There is a dry wind blowing through the East, and the parched grasses wait the spark. And that wind is blowing towards the Indian border. Whence comes that wind, think you?'
Sir Walter had lowered his voice and was speaking very slow and distinct. I could hear the rain dripping from the eaves of the window, and far off the hoot of taxis in Whitehall.
'Have you an explanation, Hannay?' he asked again.
'It looks as if Islam had a bigger hand in the thing than we thought,' I said.
You could say such things in 1915. Ninety years later, after homegrown jihadists blew up the London Tube, the risk that someone might be tempted to suggest that Islam might have had any hand in the thing was enough to get the BBC to cancel their serialization of Greenmantle. In The Mark Steyn Club we're made of sterner stuff. So, to hear Part One of Buchan's tale of Islamic resurgence in a decaying Turkey, prefaced by my own introduction to the tale, please click here and log-in.
As I've emphasized since we launched The Mark Steyn Club last year, our regular content - all my daily commentary, cultural and geopolitical essays, our weekend movie and music features, SteynPosts and On the Town and all the rest - will always be free to everyone around the planet. In fact, every week we now offer more free content than at any point in our fifteen-year history. But we have spent the last fifteen months letting Club members in on a few experimental features which, in the event they turn out sufficiently non-incompetent, we might eventually make more widely available. Tales for Our Time is one such experiment: If you're not a Club member (or you are but you've never partaken of this series) you can hear what you're missing in our first-birthday Tales for Our Times sampler, a 75-minute audio special hosted by me and including excerpts from some of our ripping yarns of the last year - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad, H G Wells, Anthony Hope, Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Scott Fitzgerald and Robert Louis Stevenson. And, if it whets your appetite, you can find the above authors and a half-dozen more collected here.
Oh, and among our other Steyn Club bonuses is the opportunity to join me and my guests at sea on the inaugural Mark Steyn cruise, on which, among other highlights, I'll be doing a live shipboard Tale for Our Time. I'm truly thrilled to see that our nightly radio serials have proved one of the most popular of our Club extras these last fifteen months. I did do a little professional story-reading a zillion years ago, so, if these fancies tickle you, we may release them as audio books on CD or Audible a ways down the road. But for the moment it's an exclusive bonus for members. If you've enjoyed our monthly Steyn Club radio adventures and you're looking for a present for a fellow fan of classic fiction, I hope you'll consider our special Club Gift Membership. Aside from Tales for Our Time, The Mark Steyn Club does come with other benefits:
~Exclusive Steyn Store member pricing on over 40 books, mugs, T-shirts, and other products;
~The opportunity to engage in live Clubland Q&A sessions with yours truly (such as this last Tuesday's);
~Transcript and audio versions of The Mark Steyn Show, SteynPosts, and our other video content;
~My video series of classic poetry;
~Priority booking for the inaugural Mark Steyn cruise sailing from Montreal to Boston at the end of this month;
~Advance booking for my live appearances around the world;
~Customized email alerts for new content in your areas of interest;
~and the opportunity to support our print, audio and video ventures as they wing their way around the planet.
To become a member of The Mark Steyn Club, please click here - and don't forget that special Gift Membership. As soon as you join, you'll get access not only to Greenmantle but to all the other audio adventures listed below.
One other benefit to membership is our Comment Club privileges. So, whether you like this sixteenth Tale for Our Time or think my reading skills deserve to be smothered with a large green mantle, then feel free to comment away below. And do join us tomorrow for Part Two of Greenmantle.
For previous Tales for Our Time, click below:
#1: The Tragedy of the Korosko
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
#2: The Time Machine
by H G Wells
#3: The Secret Agent
by Joseph Conrad
#4: The Prisoner of Zenda
by Anthony Hope
#5: The Cat That Walked By Himself
by Rudyard Kipling
#6: The Diamond as Big as the Ritz
by F Scott Fitzgerald
#7: The Rubber Check
by F Scott Fitzgerald
#8: A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
#9: Plum Duff
by Mark Steyn
#10: To Build a Fire
by Jack London
#11: The Overcoat
by Nikolai Gogol
#12: The Thirty-Nine Steps
by John Buchan
#13: The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
#14: The Man Who Would Be King
by Rudyard Kipling
#15: His Last Bow
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle