The Runagates Club
First published in the UK 1928, Hodder and Stoughton
It was the sad occasion of my 40th birthday last week, and to celebrate my impending senility Mrs Offences took me off on a surprise visit to the fantastic Gunton Arms near Cromer in Norfolk. If this were a hotel review blog, I’d be praising its lovely rooms, top-notch food, and collection of contemporary art (Gilbert and George, Julian Opie, all sorts). Seriously, you should visit. And it’s cheaper than a Travelodge. Get over there.
Anyway, all lovely, but Mrs Offences didn’t pack my book. I repeat: no book. Left to my own devices I went on the forage, and it was in the special little library they have for guests that I picked up a lovely first edition copy of John Buchan’s The Runagates Club. And proceeded to read a big chunk of it in front of a massive open fire, in a leather armchair, whilst an unseasonal blizzard went about its business in the deer-park outside. There wasn’t a ticking grandfather clock or a wheezing labrador at my feet, but there should have been.
Founded just after the close of the War by a few people who had been leading queer lives and wanted to keep together, it was a gathering of youngish men who met only for reminiscences and relaxation. It was officially limited to fifteen members–fifteen, because a dozen was dull, thirteen was unlucky, and fourteen had in those days an unpleasing flavour of President Wilson and his points.
The Runagates – all heroes from different Buchan novels – gather to tell each other stories, twelve of which are gathered together in this volume.
It opens with ‘The Green Wildebeest’ a reminiscence of Richard Hannay – an adventure set during his African years, surprising me by developing along mystical rather than adventurous lines. ‘The Wind in the Portico’ is a ghost story of sorts, reminding me of H. P. Lovecraft (ancient evil lurking in a ruined temple). ‘Ship to Tarshish’ is the tale of a bankrupt playboy discovering his courage in the Canadian wilds. ‘Divus Johnstone’ is about a Scotsman worshipped as a god by a remote tribe. ‘Sing a Song of Sixpence’ is perhaps closest to The Thirty-Nine Steps, a slightly preposterous adventure with Latin American anarchists set in contemporary London.
The stories – or to be more accurate, yarns – are a mix of boys’ own adventure and the supernatural. Some are comic; some serious. All had that air of solid, perhaps stolid, Britishness. They were perfect for the location.
Final destination: Left in our room.
Past Offences by Rich Westwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.