9 November 2021
John Buchan (1875-1940), author of over 100 books including The Thirty-Nine Steps, was a stealth writer of supernatural and Weird fiction. From the beginning of his career to his last works, he brought supernatural elements into his narratives to test his characters and thrill his readers.
His 1932 novel The Gap in the Curtain was his last full-length work devoted to exploring a supernatural theme: if you were able to see one year into the future, what would you do with that foreknowledge? And what would it do to you?
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The Gap in the Curtain tells the story of five country-house guests who are trained by the ailing Professor Moe, an Einsteinian mathematician who has devised a way of seeing into the future. These five guests gain one piece of knowledge from the experiment, and have to decide how to act on it. The episodes vary from high drama to social comedy, and use Buchan’s skill in writing political intrigue and adventure abroad. This is a novel that showcases Buchan’s talents as a storyteller, with an remarkable variety of settings, characters and strange situations. Are these incidents down to suggestive psychologies, or has something weird happened?
The Introduction is by Kate Macdonald, author of John Buchan. A Companion to the Mystery Fiction, and many other works on Buchan’s writing.
‘Leithen’s (Buchan’s) observations of public figures are sometimes brilliantly acute. One Conservative politician who gets a glimpse of the future is decribed at length. “He seemed to have the knack of getting just what he wanted with nothing to spare,” says Leithen, “but, since the things that he wanted were numerous and important, he presented a brilliant figure to the world.” I can think of one or two career politicians of today who would fit that description. Another character reads his own obituary when the page in The Times is revealed. This is the serious core of the book. How much do we want to know about our futures?’ – Sunday Express.
‘Buchan’s strengths as a writer are considerable, and the range covered by the individual stories that make up the novel is impressive. The stories progress from the most trivial to the more serious tales, allowing Buchan to ratchet up the tension whilst exploring his central theme of fate versus free will from a variety of angles. He proves himself adept at both rollicking adventure story and sharply amusing political satire, as he takes the foibles of the British political system and career politicians to task. More dramatically, his stories of Goodeve and Ottery being haunted by their own mortality are both chilling and moving.’ – The Fantasy Hive
You may also be interested in The Runagates Club, John Buchan’s collection of vintage short stories of supernatural adventure from 1928.