Friday, July 1, 2011

The Thirty-Nine Steps

Most films and television shows are based on books. Everyone knows this.
When I watch a film or television show, especially a period drama (like Pride & Prejudice), and especially one I haven't heard of before, I want to discover where the story came from.
This past winter, I decided to watch Masterpiece Theatre on PBS. I hadn't watched it in a very long time.
And I mean a very long time. Try years.
Lucky for me, there was a single episode period drama/mystery being shown on that particular Sunday evening.
This drama was entitled The Thirty-Nine Steps.

I enjoyed the story, and soon afterwards learned from a friend that Alfred Hitchcock had filmed an adaptation of this same story in 1935. I then was lucky enough to find a DVD set of 20 early Hitchcock films for five dollars at Target and it had this film on it! So, I watched it. Black and white films are bloody brilliant! No, really. There is just something about old B/W films. They have a certain charm. But at the moment, that's not really the point of this story.

The best part about this story, however, is not the film versions. I had searched Amazon for an edition of the original book shortly after watching the BBC adaptation. I discovered that it was a very old story, almost one hundred years old. Naturally. There were a few editions of the book available online, but at the time I decided not to order one. I was finishing up college, after all. So, I forgot about the story for awhile.
Until yesterday. A friend and I were at Babbitt's Books, an awesome used bookshop in Normal, and we were just browsing. She shares my love (read: obsession) with books. While I was scanning the top shelves of the fiction section, I noticed a book that said The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan. I was slightly unsure of the author's name right then, but I stood on my tiptoes and plucked the red volume carefully from the shelf.
I flipped through the pages, noting that the book was old and in good shape. The price was thirty dollars, which made me curious. Most books I buy at Babbitt's are between two and seven dollars, so there had to be something special about this one. Sure enough, it was a first edition. From 1915.
Naturally, I bought it. Now I just need to read it, but the discovery of the book itself was quite amazing.

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