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Richard Hannay Books In Order

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Publication Order of Richard Hannay Books

By: John Buchan, Ford Madox Ford
The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915)Description / Buy at Amazon
Greenmantle (1916)Description / Buy at Amazon
Mr. Standfast (1919)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Three Hostages (1924)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Courts Of The Morning (1929)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Island of Sheep (1936)Description / Buy at Amazon

The name ‘Richard Hannay’refers to a series of action adventure novels about an ordinary man who keeps stumbling into extraordinary situations. Richard Hannay is also the name of the protagonist in the novels.

+The Story

Richard Hannay was born in 1877 in Scotland. He learned to speak German fairly early on because his father, a Scot, had German business partners and their frequent company allowed Hannay to master the language.

Hannay proceeded to spend some time in South Africa as a child. He gained an affinity for mining and became an engineer in that arena, a skill that saw him go to Germany where he prospected for copper.

Hannay’s big break came when he participated in the Matabele Wars. It was that experience that led him to become an intelligence officer in the Boer War which in turn saw him commissioned captain during World War I.

The protagonist of the Richard Hannay series, Hannay is officially introduced to readers in ‘The 39 Steps’, the first book in the series. ‘The 39 Steps’ finds Hannay in dire straights in London.

Hannay intended to leave London because it was simply too boring for his tastes. But then an acquaintance of his, an American, got murdered in his flat and Hannay realized that he would have to go on the run, not only to escape the assassins that killed the American but to also steer clear of the police who would, no doubt, single him out as the main suspect.

Hannay’s adventure in ‘The 39 Steps’ isn’t his first and the various mishaps he had encountered in his past provide him all the physical and mental capabilities he needs to unravel a conspiracy, unmask a murderer and clear his name.

And that only opens the door for Hannay to partake in further adventure down the line, first as a soldier and then as a spy. The Richard Hannay series is primarily set during and after World War I.

As such, the author makes thorough use of the language and jargon of the time, which might prove confusing to some people. Mention is also made of historical events of note such as the Boer wars that some readers might find insightful but which might bore other audiences.

John Buchan, the author, wrote the Richard Hannay series during an era vastly different from contemporary times. And it shows in the author’s prose and the adventures his hero undertakes.

It is worth mentioning that Richard Hannay is an action-adventure series to the core, and Buchan clearly wrote these novels with male readers in mind. Richard Hannay definitely feels like a tamer version of James Bond.

The spy has a knack for getting into trouble but his wit, charm, and skills always see him shake free. There is no end to the bullets, explosions, and violence constantly going off around Hannay.

And he definitely relishes in them. The absence of notable romance doesn’t come as much of a surprise. A woman eventually comes into Hannay’s life but the author rarely bothers to flesh out the relationship between the hero and what should be the love of his life.

While the earlier novels in this series are light-hearted and feature Richard Hanney as he gathers companions and traverses Europe stopping villains, later books get darker. They also get slower paced as John Buchan begins to delve into the philosophical minutiae of the wars in Europe and the Middle East.

The complaints the author attracts typically revolve around his inability to give Hannay a personality. Buchan waits too long to delve into Hannay’s backstory. And even when the nature of his origins is revealed, Buchan doesn’t do that impressive a job of giving Hannay an easily distinguishable personality.

Buchan’s fans argue that his prose make up for any weaknesses in his storytelling and character development skills.


The Richard Hannay story has been adapted on numerous occasions, though it is normally ‘The 39 Steps’ that producers and directors prioritize.

The most popular adaptation of that first book was the 1935 version directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Robert Donat played the part of Richard Hanney in that movie.

There was also an ITV series called ‘Hanney’ in the late 1980s; Robert Powell played Hanney in that one. Besides the movies, 39 steps also became a radio play. Orson Welles played Hannay in the 1938 version while Glenn Ford filled the part in 1948.

Not quite as well known is the television adaptation of ‘The Three Hostages’ in 1977.

+The 39 Steps

Richard Hannay is living in London and he is pretty bored. The city has nothing of note to keep him occupied. However, he decides to stick it out for one more day. If London is unable to offer up further entertainment, Hannay is ready to seek more exciting alternatives abroad.

The delay ends up costing him. An American acquaintance Hannay met a few days earlier is murdered. Hannay isn’t necessarily going to mourn for him. But the occurrence leaves him disturbed because the man’s murder happened in Hannay’s own flat.

That tells him that the people who killed the American were likely after him and they could try to finish the job. Additionally, because the murder took place in his flat, Hannay surmises that the police will come after him as the main suspect.

So Hannay packs up and runs to Scotland. There he tries to make sense of things. This is as evades his two sets of pursuers, one of whom wants to kill him while the other wishes to see him imprisoned.

This book is often compared to Alfred Hitchcock’s film adaptation. The book differs from the movie in many ways. For instance, the book doesn’t give Hannay a love interest.


It is 1915 and Richard Hannay is a spy that has been tasked with investigating a plot to drown the Middle East in the flames of a holy war. To execute his mission, Hannay and his friends traverse war-torn Europe in search of a mysterious prophet.

The second book in the Richard Hannay series finds Hannay summoned by the Foreign Office to undertake a difficult mission. It seems like Germany has a special weapon with which they will unite all the countries were Islam is strong and entice them into war against the allies.

Hannay must figure out what that German Weapon could be and put a stop to it.

Book Series In Order » Characters » Richard Hannay

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