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John Buchan

Forever associated with the classic thriller The Thirty-Nine Steps, Buchan wrote over a hundred books, including a series of ‘shockers’ as he called them, children’s books and tales of the supernatural. He also wrote biographies and was the author of what many regard as the finest history ever written of the Great War.

A man of formidable energy, he had a distinguished career in public life. He ran the Ministry of Information during the First World War, and after eight years as a Conservative MP he ended his career as Lord Tweedsmuir, Governor-General of Canada.

In this, the first biography for thirty years, Andrew Lownie has been able to draw on private papers not used before, which have enabled him to paint a compelling picture of Buchan’s life, and a panoramic view of British political, social and literary circles during the first half of the twentieth century.


‘Admirably readable, this book will be invaluable to those who are now encountering Buchan’s work for the first time. Lownie’s lucid account of Buchan’s life redefines the man as infinitely more complex than he thought he was.’

The Sunday Times

‘This formidably detailed study is a labour of love by a devoted Buchanite, a nuanced understanding of a figure who, for too long, has been regarded as an extension of his fictional heroes.’

The Guardian

‘Trumpets should now sound for Buchan; and I will sound one of my own for Andrew Lownie, who has brought this most extraordinary man to life in a way no previous writer has.’

The Independent

‘This exemplary biography, full of new insights and fresh documents unearthed and published for the first time, makes fascinating reading.’

Robert Carver, Scotsman

‘Andrew Lownie offers a solid and convincing portrait of a complex man and controls the innumerable aspects of Buchan’s life in an exemplary manner.’

Times Literary Supplement

‘The book’s strongest asset is its literary criticism. He is meticulous in exploring Buchan’s non-fiction and poetry, as well as his novels, and a master at teasing out the themes that make Buchan’s work so popular.’

Independent on Sunday

‘Lownie's study is equally well argued and written with an evident, though at times exasperated, fondness for his subject.’

Scotland on Sunday

‘He has been the subject of previous biographies, but Andrew Lownie's is a welcome addition... Mr Lownie has done him proud.’

Financial Times

‘Andrew Lownie's new life of him, though by no means hagiographic, should contribute to the Buchan revival...’

The Times

‘Andrew Lownie's John Buchan tells a different story. It is neither hostile nor debunking, but shows warts absent from the Adam Smith version.’

The Daily Telegraph

Buy Andrew Lownie