The novel The Thirty-Nine Steps is a political thriller written in 1915 by the Scottish writer John Buchan. In the novel, Richard Hannay, the hero, who has been living in Africa, returns to London. It is the spring of 1914, just a few months before World War I begins. In London, Hannay meets Franklin Scudder, a spy who has faked his own death so that he can spy more freely on a German group called the Black Stone. The Black Stone is trying to steal English war plans. When Hannay finds Scudder stabbed to death, he is dragged into a lively plot to track down the German spies.
Because Hannay becomes a man on the run as he tries to both spy on and avoid being killed by the Germans, who are soon after him, this novel is often seen as one of the first "man on the run" novels. Hannay is also notable as an everyday person who behaves heroically to protect his country. The novel has been made into a movie several times, perhaps most famously by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935.