The Courts of the Morning is the eighth book in my John Buchan reading project, Buchan of the Month 2019. You can find out more about the project and my reading list for 2019 here. What follows is a (spoiler-free) introduction to The Courts of the Morning. I will be publishing my review of the book later in the month.
The Courts of the Morning was published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton on 12th September 1929. In the United States, it was published a month earlier by Houghton Mifflin.
Richard Hannay, hero of The Thirty-Nine Steps, (by this time, Sir Richard Hannay) makes only a brief appearance in the book by way of the prologue. The job of leading character is passed to Sandy Arbuthnot, although he is joined by various other characters from previous Hannay adventures.
The Courts of the Morning is set in a fictitious South American republic, Olifa, and involves disputes over mineral rights, insurrection, kidnapping and the kind of guerrilla warfare utilised by T. E. Lawrence (a personal friend of Buchan’s) against the Arabs. In fact, the original title of the book was to be Far Arabia and Buchan’s first biographer, Janet Adam Smith, notes that the enthusiasm which drove the book was military.
The book features an example of what have been termed Buchan’s ‘charmer villains’ – the scheming and ruthless Castor. Another unsavoury character in the book will turn up again in the last Richard Hannay novel, The Island of Sheep (1936) which is November’s Buchan of the Month.
Janet Adam Smith reports that combined sales for the Hodder & Stoughton edition (1929) and Nelson edition (1932) of The Courts of the Morning totalled 96,000 copies by 1960.
Janet Adam Smith, John Buchan: A Biography (OUP, 1985 )
Kenneth Hillier and Michael Ross, The First Editions of John Buchan: A Collector’s Illustrated Biography (Avonworld, 2008)
Kate Macdonald, John Buchan: A Companion to the Mystery Fiction (McFarland, 2009)