Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Thirty-nine plot holes

I read The Thirty-Nine steps recently. It was awful. Truly terrible. Full of bizarre, utterly implausible 'as luck would have it' moments and some terribly dull chapters in which Hannay scuffs his shoes about a bit and talks with an accent to give the criminal masterminds the slip.

The bits everyone knows from the film(s) - being chase by a plane, escaping from a train, hanging from Big Ben - never happen in the book. N.B. The plane does exist, but it never chases him, just looks for him - YAWN.

It's interesting though that, with so many adaptations, from stage to screen to small screen (I've seen them all) the story doesn't really exist in any one form. It's open to interpretation. In the book the 39 steps, the actually steps, are just some boring steps from the back of a house to the sea. In one film version they are steps to the clock face inside Westminster Tower while in both Hitchcock's films and the stage version they name refers to an organisation of spies.

So often films are berated for ruining the essence, subtle, characters of a book. However, sometimes the touch of an outside who sees that having a character run to the wilds of Scotland, only to just 'happen' to walk into the ring leader of the entire evil organisations' house, is slightly improbably, and could be easily tidied up by making the hero Hannay have to go to Scotland as part of the story involving the The 39 steps. Buchann simply sends him to Scotland as he has family ties there and it’s a good place to hide. Silly.

On to William Golding's Rites of Passage now, which won the 1980 Booker Prize, so should be better. He comes from Cornwall too, which not a lot of people know.

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