Salute to Adventurers is the second book in my John Buchan reading project, Buchan of the Month 2019. You can find out more about the project and the books I read in 2018 here, and view my reading list for 2019 here.
What follows is an introduction to Salute to Adventurers. It is also an excuse to show off a picture of my Nelson edition of the book with its dust jacket (a little frayed, admittedly). I will be posting my review of the book later in the month.
Salute to Adventurers was published in the UK in July 1915 by Thomas Nelson & Sons and in the US in October 1917 by George H. Doran. Buchan’s second historical novel, it was written in the early months of 1914 and reflects his interest at the time in American history.
Set in the seventeenth century, Janet Adam Smith describes Salute to Adventurers as ‘a grown-up boys’ book’ and notes its similarities with Prester John (last month’s Buchan of the Month). As in Prester John, Salute to Adventurers features a young hero – Andrew Garvald – who is sent overseas to Virginia (rather than to South Africa) to develop the tobacco trade. There, like David Crawfurd in Prester John, Andrew discovers and sets out to foil a native rising, the natives in question this time being Native Americans. Janet Adam Smith notes: ‘The scenes in the Jamestown manors, in the great forests inland, on the Blue Ridge and among the Carolina keys are evoked with vividness and accuracy remarkable in a writer who had never crossed the Atlantic’.
David Daniell is equally enthusiastic about Salute to Adventurers, saying, ‘Those who love Buchan regard this book with special affection.’ He describes it as ‘very fine and written with assurance…the language [..] beautifully modulated to the period.’ Kate Macdonald identifies the character Ninian Campbell (aka ‘Red Ringan’) in Salute to Adventurers as an example of ‘The Expert Friend’ who features frequently in Buchan’s novels. In fact, she describes him as ‘every reader’s dream friend, a pirate and a gentleman, romantically exuberant and ferocious…available to best Andrew Garvald’s enemies with expert swordplay and a fleet of harrying ships’.
No sales figures for Salute to Adventurers are available from Buchan’s publisher, Nelson. (Janet Adam Smith estimates that, up to 1915, John Buchan had not sold more than 2,000 copies of any of his books.) However, she is able to report that between 1952, when Salute to Adventurers was published in paperback by Pan, and 1965 its sales totalled 35,000. Small fry when compared to the millions of copies that The Thirty-Nine Steps has sold since it was published.
David Daniell, The Interpreter’s House: A Critical Assessment of the Work of John Buchan (Nelson, 1975)
Kate Macdonald, John Buchan: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction (McFarland, 2009)
Janet Adam Smith, John Buchan: A Biography (OUP, 1985 )