(Punning title in memory of Denis Norden.)
Welcome to Part Ten of our current Tale for Our Time - John Buchan's thriller of Islamic intrigue and Teutonic trouble-making, Greenmantle. Andrew A, a Mark Steyn Club Founding Member from Alberta, writes:
I enjoyed stories as a child, I have always enjoyed reading, and I have an extensive book collection, but in my early teens I developed a contempt for fiction and for fiction authors which has stubbornly persisted throughout adult life. Naturally, I'd never heard of John Buchan. Mark's careful selections for his Tales of Our Time series has has gone a long way toward reducing (or at least qualifying) this contempt.
Glad to hear your contempt is now qualified, Andrew. If your antipathy to fiction persists, however, we should note that Buchan also wrote a lot of cracking non-fiction, including biographies of Caesar, Cromwell and Sir Walter Raleigh - and his fine memoir Memory Hold-the-Door has the distinction of being cited as an all-time favorite book by both President Kennedy and the man JFK's brother so unfairly traduced, the late Judge Bork.
Meanwhile, for those who share Andrew's wish to remain rooted in reality, we've had a lot of queries about the historical accuracy of Buchan's plot: Did the Germans really have plans to rile up the Muslims? Well, here's Kaiser Bill in his own words:
The mask of Christian readiness for peace which England has shown to the world must be rudely torn off, and her Pharisaic protestation of peace pilloried! And our consuls in Turkey and India, our agents, &c., must rouse the whole Mohammedan world to a wild rebellion against this hated, deceitful, unscrupulous nation of shopkeepers. If we are to bleed to death, England shall at least lose India.
Of course, the Germans are up against the ramshackle Ottoman Empire's endemic sloth and corruption. In tonight's episode, Richard Hannay arrives in Turkey and makes a powerful enemy in a corrupt local Komitadji, Rasta Bey:
The Turk swaggered up and addressed us. 'You can get back to Rustchuk,' he said. 'I take over from you here. Hand me the papers.'
'Is this Chataldja?' I asked innocently.
'It is the end of your affair,' he said haughtily. 'Quick, or it will be the worse for you.'
'Now, look here, my son,' I said; 'you're a kid and know nothing. I hand over to General von Oesterzee and to no one else.'
'You are in Turkey,' he cried, 'and will obey the Turkish Government.'
'I'll obey the Government right enough,' I said; 'but if you're the Government I could make a better one with a bib and a rattle.'
He said something to his men, who unslung their rifles.
'Please don't begin shooting,' I said. 'There are twelve armed guards in this train who will take their orders from me. Besides, I and my friend can shoot a bit.'
'Fool!' he cried, getting very angry. 'I can order up a regiment in five minutes.'
'Maybe you can,' I said; 'but observe the situation. I am sitting on enough toluol to blow up this countryside. If you dare to come aboard I will shoot you. If you call in your regiment I will tell you what I'll do. I'll fire this stuff, and I reckon they'll be picking up the bits of you and your regiment off the Gallipoli Peninsula.'
He had put up a bluffâ€”a poor oneâ€”and I had called it. He saw I meant what I said, and became silken.
'Good-bye, sir,' he said. 'You have had a fair chance and rejected it. We shall meet again soon, and you will be sorry for your insolence.'
First-day Founding Member Holly Henry is not altogether satisfied by this serialization:
It took me a few episodes to realize what's been missing. This tale has not been prefaced by Mark saying, 'You can enjoy it at bedtime twenty minutes before you lower your lamp.' Maybe I'm nitpicking, but something about that phrase set the mood for listening to these tales. I didn't realize it until it was gone.
Oh, my, I'm forgetting my own catchphrases now. So let me re-take the preceding paragraph:
Members of The Mark Steyn Club can hear this latest episode simply by clicking here and enjoying Greenmantle twenty minutes before you lower your lamp. Or alternatively you can binge-listen to the lot here.
If you've yet to hear any of our first fifteen Tales for Our Time, you can do so by joining The Mark Steyn Club. Or, if you need a special gift for someone, why not give your loved one a Gift Membership and start him or her off with over a dozen cracking yarns? And don't forget to join us tomorrow for another episode of a John Buchan classic.