My latest Buchan re-read is Castle Gay, the second in the three Dickson McCunn novels which began with Huntingtower. Six years after the end of Huntingtower, the Gorbals Die-Hards--the gang of street boys adopted by the hobbit-like Dickson at the end of the last book--have grown up to make their way in the world. When Jaikie, on holiday from Cambridge after a hard-fought rugby battle with the Australians, and Dougal, with a pocket full of press clippings and a head full of radical political notions, set out together on a walking holiday in the Scottish countryside, the last thing they expect to stumble upon is a kidnapped newpaper magnate (who also happens to be Dougal's boss) and a sinister Eastern European conspiracy. Dougal and Jaikie join forces with a snooping journalist, an aristocratic widow, the girl next door, an exiled prince, two beagles, a terrier, and everyone's favourite grocer, Dickson McCunn, to foil the baddies and save the newspaper magnate's reputation.
And in the process, they may just end up saving his soul.
Even when he's not at the top of his form--and much as I love Buchan, I have to admit that Castle Gay is not the top of his form--Buchan is good fun to read. Castle Gay has a fitful and meandering plot, a good deal of dry humour, character sketches of the Trollopian style, and lots of gentle satire. Like all the Dickson McCunn books, it starts out with a walking-holiday and goes on to feature a mysterious house at the centre of international intrigue, complete with much praise of the merits of conventional middle-class Christendom against the initially well-meaning and quirky but ultimately sinister spectre of modernism and Marxism.
Then there's Mrs Brisbane-Brown, the repository of history and guardian of traditions, an aristocratic lady who expects the men--and even the women--around her to be dauntless and hardy and firm in their minds. The last guardian of a fading world, "Aunt Harriet" stands in stark contrast to the soft and spineless Mr Craw. In the pages of Castle Gay, Buchan issues a challenge not just to his own characters but to the rising middle-class modernism of his times. Have they the humility, the courage, the honour, and the just reverence for the legacy of Christendom, to justify their inheritance of wealth and power?
If Dickson McCunn, the stout-hearted, hobbit-natured grocer is any indication, the answer is yes--with repentance.
Find Castle Gay on Amazon, The Book Depository, or Project Gutenberg.