Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

Vulpes Random: The Thirty-Nine Steps

Buchan as Director of Information showing Queen Mary the war art his department had commissioned

Buchan as Director of Information showing Queen Mary the war art his department had commissioned

I was on the radio on Tuesday, on BBC Radio Three, on a late-night discussion programme called Free Thinking, talking about John Buchan, The Thirty-Nine Steps, and the run-up to the First World War. John Buchan is MY subject: I wrote my PhD on him, I’ve been researching his writing for many, many years, and have published oodles of academic books and articles on him.

So naturally, while staring out of the window in the BBC studio in Brussels, seeing nothing because I was concentrating fiercely on listening to my fellow discussionees in the London studio, I made blooper after blooper. This morning I got an email from a pedant (his self-identification) putting me right about the name of a character I’d dredged up from memory while flailing through an impromptu summary of plot at 2 seconds’ notice. Yesterday a dear friend corrected me haughtily on my pronunciation of Erskine Childers’ name. I’m just grateful that no-one yet has spotted the date I got wrong in mid-flow. It’s been been haunting my dreams ever since.

You can hear the programme here online for about a year: enjoy!

Kate podcasts about books that she really, really likes on

About Kate

Blogger, lecturer, podcaster, writer, critic, reviewer, researcher, and publisher (, in and on British literary history. Preferred occupation while listening to podcasts: cooking or knitting. Preferred soundtrack while reading: the sound of silence.

5 comments on “Vulpes Random: The Thirty-Nine Steps

  1. Thom Hickey
    June 26, 2014

    Thanks Kate. I’ll take a listen and promise not to join the judgemental jeremiahs!

  2. Moira
    June 26, 2014

    Oh Kate … No-one who has never been in a studio with a pair of headphones clamped to their head and a microphone shoved up their nose can ever understand how easy it is for your mouth to detach from your brain. Been there, done that …

  3. Hilary
    June 26, 2014

    Congratulations, Kate. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must have been to do this ‘on the line from Brussels’ as Matthew Sweet informed us. I’d never have known you were not all conversing away in a companionable huddle. It was a great listen, and taught me a lot about the novel and its author and their context. I have no bloopers to report 😉

  4. Rebecca
    June 26, 2014

    Oh, I love Buchan’s books! Ashamed to say I have read exactly none of his ‘serious’ historical works, although I did read some of his historical novels when I found them in the university library (and took them out to the woods beyond Hallow Hill and lay on the sandy path beneath the beeches to read them). I’ve only been on the radio once to be interviewed as a Young Scot candidate and it was terrifying! (although fun too, once I’d got over the fear…) I’ll definitely have a listen of this today.

  5. Rebecca
    June 26, 2014

    On a more frivolous note – does anyone else think that John Buchan and Peter Cushing look scarily similar? 😉

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This entry was posted on June 26, 2014 by in Entries by Kate, Fiction: 20th Century, Fiction: thriller, Vulpes Randoms and tagged , .



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