My introduction to John Buchan was through “The 39 Steps”, his first, and possibly best known story.

Written with style and wit, I happily read it myself, though I expect it would appeal mostly to the masculine reader.

It does contain a grisly murder (not labored on), and the story is about adults, and I believe for adults, and for this reason I have put a 15yrs rating on it for my own household.

If you have older boys, this book is a good deal more desirable than giving them Robert Ludlum (grossly and unnecessarily violent) or Wilbur Smith (often has girly passages your youth would blush to read aloud). It contains a tight, suspenseful story line without the super hype of other male target authors and overall there is little that would cause a discerning parent stress.

“Greenmantle”, the second book in this series, was another gripping tale. The main characters display decency and moral uprightness, though they all smoke, a consequence of the era it was written in.

There was an area of mild concern, in that one of the central characters of the story was a woman, entirely cold hearted and ruthless, who had the ability to almost hypnotize the average fellow (with her beauty – eye roll!). You would have to make a judgment call on how this may effect your own youth, and it is a reason that again, I would not give this book to young readers.

“Prester John”, contains a different character to the above works. A 19yr old fellow is sent to Africa to be a store keeper, and manages to thwart a plot to overthrow white Africa.

As a story it is certainly a captivating adventure. However, this book gave me much cause for concern. It contains the following ingredients;

  • descriptions of occult activity
  • scene of an animal sacrifice
  • one of the central characters is an “anti-hero”. He commands admiration and respect (he is physically perfect and powerful, the most amazing orator, educated, an incredible tactician etc.) Yet he is the one initiating the occult activity.
  • when the 19yr old finally witnesses the death of the anti-hero, he wants to cry, realizes what a loss this is to the world, and sets up a monument to honor him.
  • the same anti-hero is posing as a Christian minister and believing himself a Christian, while involved in the black arts.
  • There are many overtly racial slurs
  • the story’s narrator (the 19yr old) has issues with greed
  • by far the worst aspect of this book is that it is so interspersed with scripture. The 19yr old was the son of a minister, and began to study to become one, not because he believed in a call, but because he preferred it to working as a clerk.

The book shows him as praying to God, and attributing his narrow escapes to the goodness of God, allowing his Calvinist background to give him confidence that God will not take him before the time appointed etc. This Christian theme is disturbing in a book that makes so many moral blunders, as it is genuinely confusing to read.

I believe it would be very hard for a young person to discern this book as unacceptable, (which I believe it is) because the bad points listed above are wrapped up in a great story, making them less obvious, and because the writer is sounding so Christian.

Very confusing! If I had read the story without all the scripture references, I would have tossed it without a question, long before the story was over.

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