Welcome to Episode Eighteen of our nightly audio adventure: Greenmantle, a Great War thriller racing across the fault line of Islam and the west. In tonight's episode Richard Hannay finds himself assisting his plucky but not exactly nimble American comrade out of a tight spot:
I had quite enough to think of in getting Blenkiron along that ledge. He was pretty nearly foundered, he was in a sweat of terror, and as a matter of fact he was taking one of the biggest risks of his life, for we had no rope and his neck depended on himself. I could hear him invoking some unknown deity called Holy Mike. But he ventured gallantly, and we got to the roof which ran across the street. That was easier, though ticklish enough, but it was no joke skirting the cupola of that infernal mosque.
I'm not sure you could get the phrase "infernal mosque" past the average British or American editor these days. But John Buchan and his hero Hannay are not immune to the beguiling charms of Islam:
As I descended I heard, thin and faint and beautiful, like the cry of a wild bird, the muezzin from the minarets of Erzerum.
Several readers have queried Major Hannay's sense of direction - ie, if you're going from Turkey to Russia, why are you crossing the Euphrates? John Wilson, a Steyn Club Founding Member from Colorado, asks:
Were the borders of Russia drawn differently in those days?
Everybody's borders were drawn differently in those days, John. In particular, the Russian Empire extended south of present-day Georgia and Armenia into what's now Turkey. Erzerum itself was taken several times by Tsarist forces over the years, most recently in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78. Nevertheless Hannay's route makes perfect sense: They're going from Ankara to Erzerum, which is a straight shot due east. The Western Euphrates runs through Erzerum Province and drains the fields around the city before converging with the Eastern Euphrates just north of Keban.There are, in fact, more miles of the Euphrates in Turkey than in Iraq - and once in a while over the years the very northernmost reaches of the river have been under the control of the Russian Bear.
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