Welcome to Part Three of my serialization of Greenmantle, the latest in our series of audio adventures, Tales for Our Time. John Buchan's enduring classic was first published in 1916, and its eponymous figure - a new Muslim leader emerging out of Turkey - is as relevant as ever. As Steyn Club member Sol Cranfill writes:
This casts Angela Merkel's declaration that 'Islam belongs to Germany' in a different light.
Quite. In tonight's episode Richard Hannay arrives in Lisbon and runs into an old Afrikaner from his days on the veldt, Peter Pienaar. They head for the sort of seedy dive where pro-German agents are likely to be lurking:
Some kind of republic had been started in Portugal, and ordinarily the cafes would have been full of politicians, but the war had quieted all these local squabbles, and the talk was of nothing but what was doing in France and Russia. The place we went to was a big, well-lighted show on a main street, and there were a lot of sharp-eyed fellows wandering about that I guessed were spies and police agents. I knew that Britain was the one country that doesn't bother about this kind of game, and that it would be safe enough to let ourselves go.
I talked Portuguese fairly well, and Peter spoke it like a Lourenco Marques bar-keeper, with a lot of Shangaan words to fill up. He started on curacao, which I reckoned was a new drink to him, and presently his tongue ran freely. Several neighbours pricked up their ears, and soon we had a small crowd round our table.
We talked to each other of Maritz and our doings. It didn't seem to be a popular subject in that cafe. One big blue-black fellow said that Maritz was a dirty swine who would soon be hanged. Peter quickly caught his knife-wrist with one hand and his throat with the other, and demanded an apology. He got it. The Lisbon boulevardiers have not lost any lions.
"Some kind of republic had been started" is Richard Hannay's brisk summation of a very turbulent time in Portuguese history, beginning with the assassination of King Carlos in 1908. The anti-clerical Portuguese First Republic was established in 1911 and lasted barely a decade and a half, but it was a fun-packed jamboree of nine presidencies, forty-four governments, and (in a famous summation) "continual anarchy, government corruption, rioting and pillage, assassinations, arbitrary imprisonment and religious persecution".Just the place for a couple of Boer chancers to find passage to Germany...
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear Part Three of our adventure simply by clicking here and logging-in. Parts One and Two can be found here - and if you've only joined in recent days and missed our earlier serials (Conan Doyle's The Tragedy of the Korosko, H G Wells' The Time Machine, Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent, Anthony Hope's The Prisoner of Zenda, plus Kipling, Dickens, Gogol, Jack London, John Buchan and Scott Fitzgerald), you can find them all here. Elizabeth Hoerning, a first-month Founding Member of The Mark Steyn Club, is among those welcoming the launch of our fall season:
I'll add my voice to the chorus of 'we've missed you' in the Tales of our Time. I hadn't realized how much I did look forward to them, until they weren't there.
And I expect I'm not the first to ask about the musical setting you've chosen for this tale?
I must say, you do a much better job with Mr. Blenkiron's American accent than I would do trying to pull off a Scotsman. Keep up the good work, and thanks again. It is a splendidly relevant tale.
You're too kind about the accents, Elizabeth. As for the music, we always have a lot of queries about that: For this caper, I chose Mussorgsky's march "The Capture of Kars", composed in 1880 to commemorate a great victory in the Russo-Turkish War a couple of years earlier. Kars is in north-eastern Turkey, and thus not too far from where our protagonists are headed - and I've always liked the Ottoman flourishes in this piece.
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