Buchan of the Month: Introducing Salute to Adventurers by John Buchan

buchan of the month 2019 poster

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.

20190202_150326What 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 [1965])

buchan of the month 2019


Book Review: The Phoenix of Florence by Philip Kazan

The Phoenix of FlorenceAbout the Book

15th century Italy, deep in the Tuscan countryside, a long-held feud between two aristocratic families ends in tragedy, leaving only one young girl alive. Having barely escaped with her life, she vows to survive at all costs…

Years later, amidst the winding streets and majestic facades of Florence, two murders are not all they seem. As Onorio Celavini, commander of the Medici police force, investigates, he is horrified to find a personal connection to the crimes, and a conspiracy lurking beyond. The secrets of his past threaten to spill out and Celavini is forced to revisit the traumatic memories hidden deep within him to lay the ghosts of history to rest.

Format: Hardcover (pp.)    Publisher: Allison & Busby
Published: 21st February 2019      Genre: Historical Fiction

Pre-order/Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com  ǀ Hive.co.uk (supporting UK bookshops)
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find The Phoenix of Florence on Goodreads

My Review

I absolutely loved Philip Kazan’s The Black Earth (read my review here) and have his previous two books – Appetite and The Painter of Souls  – in my TBR pile. Therefore I approached The Phoenix of Florence with a sense of eager anticipation. I’m happy to report I was not disappointed. Far from it. I loved every compelling page of the book.

Based on the book description, you’d be right in expecting an intriguing historical mystery, an enigmatic central character and an evocative depiction of 15th century Tuscany. However it’s a fair bet that, like me, you won’t be expecting everything that unfolds.

As Onorio Celavini diligently and methodically embarks on the investigation into two deaths, a name is mentioned that triggers very personal and painful memories from the past. Suddenly the story is moving in an entirely different but totally enthralling direction. The reader gains an insight into many of the perplexing facets of Onorio’s character: the source of his disturbing “soldier’s dreams”, his remarkable expertise at fencing, the reason for his decision to live alone and the origin of the scars people cannot fail to notice.

It seems Onorio has much to hide, things he is fearful may be revealed. “Like all things, concealment becomes a habit.” In fact, concealment and imitation are themes that run through the book, whether by necessity, through treachery or by inclination.

The Phoenix of Florence is a compelling, powerful, multi-layered historical mystery that serves up one unexpected delight after another. There are action-packed scenes of battle, insights into the life of a mercenary and the politics of Florence, as well as evocative descriptions of landscape and details of everyday life that really immerse the reader in the period. I absolutely loved it. Historical fiction fans, this is one to look out for when it’s published on 21st February 2019.

My grateful thanks to Allison and Busby for my proof copy.

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In three words: Compelling, immersive, powerful

Try something similar…The Poison Bed by E. C. Fremantle (read my review here)

Philip Kazan GRAbout the Author

PHILIP KAZAN was born in London and grew-up on Dartmoor. He is the author of two previous novels set in fifteenth-century Florence and the Petroc series following a thirteenth-century adventurer. After living in New York and Vermont, Philip is back on the edge of Dartmoor with his wife and three children. (Photo credit: Goodreads author page)

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