The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchan - John Buchans The Thirty-Nine Steps was the novel that introduced readers to the cunning Richard Hannay and became a foundational work in the spy-thriller genre. Taking place only months before the outbreak of World War One (and written during the conflict) it focuses on Hannays attempts to warn the government of an unfolding plot to steal Great Britains military plans. Throughout the book Hannay must escape from German spies and the British police, who falsely believe that he has murdered the very man who revealed the plot to him. The book would prove incredibly popular upon its release and has been cited as the first man-on-the-run style story which has been re-used in films in literature ever since. The novel itself has been adapted for the screen no less than four times.