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Prester John

John Buchan

Book Overview: 

This classic adventure novel by the author of Greenmantle and The Thirty-Nine Steps relates the first-person exploits of young David Crawfurd before the age of twenty.

As a boy growing up on the coast of Scotland, minister’s son Davie and two friends were pursued with murderous intent along the cliffs one night by John Laputa, a visiting black African preacher, whom they had witnessed performing un-Christian rites round a campfire on the beach.

A few years later, when his father’s death forces Davie to quit college and join the tribe of wandering Scots, our hero finds himself in South Africa, assistant shopkeeper in a seemingly sleepy back-veldt store. There he re-encounters Laputa, now charismatic leader of an incipient native uprising, secretly preaching the incendiary creed of “Africa for the Africans,” and proclaiming himself heir to the mantle of Prester John, a legendary 15th-century Christian king of Ethiopia.

Can young Davie possibly penetrate the megalomaniac’s mountain stronghold, foil the insurrection, prevent a massacre of white settlers, and make off with the rebels’ war-chest of gold and diamonds?

It’s going to take some doing – and not a little derring-do!

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .ught that if it were explored the first thing found would be a fine stream of water.

We got to Umvelos' after midday, and outspanned for our three weeks' work. I set the Dutchmen to unload and clear the ground for foundations, while I went off to Sikitola to ask for labourers. I got a dozen lusty blacks, and soon we had a business-like encampment, and the work went on merrily. It was rough architecture and rougher masonry. All we aimed at was a two-roomed shop with a kind of outhouse for stores. I was architect, and watched the marking out of the foundations and the first few feet of the walls. Sikitola's people proved themselves good helpers, and most of the building was left to them, while the Dutchmen worked at the carpentry. Bricks ran short before we got very far, and we had to set to brick-making on the bank of the Labongo, and finish off the walls with green bricks, which gave the place a queer piebald look.

I was not much of a ca. . . Read More

Community Reviews

Published in 1910, this story about a Zulu uprising in South Africa as experienced by a young Scottish immigrant, is a good read, in the spirit of Rudyard Kipling or H. Rider Haggard: adventure in the furthest outposts of the British Empire.

But what makes this book worth reading is ho...more

John Buchan writes an exciting, fast-paced 'thriller' which is full of his love for the Scottish and African landscapes. His hero, David Crawfurd, is a million miles away from the hero of modern movies: he gets tired and hurt to the point that he cries, and there's never any suggestion that he's...more

My fascination with John Buchan is growing thin. Prester John still has all the means of inspiration for the boy adventurer--acts of bravery told with a controlled and admirable dose of modesty, detailed strategies made on the fly, acknowledgement of missteps and miscalculations always righted th...more

I first read about John Buchan a few years ago in an article entitled "G.A. Henty and the Tradition of Adventure Writing for Boys"
by Martin Cothran. You can read it here: (I recommend it highly!--even if you don't have boys)

As a schoolboy in the 1960s I remember the thrill whenever our English teacher Mr Hogan, a bearded man with an American accent, came into the classroom and said "get out your 'Prester Johns' boys!" I was probably about eleven years old, and hearing this book read aloud was one of the rare pleasur...more

Prester John is the story of David Crawfurd, a young scotsman who is sent to South Africa for work, and becomes embroiled in uprisings of the native black South Africans against the whites.

I love Buchan's writing style. It's terse but expressive, compact, so that a massive amount of detail is pr...more

John Buchan, best known as the author of The Thirty-Nine Steps, wrote about 27 other novels (and a great deal more beside). I picked this up at random because I liked the edition which includes some illustrations and I like the myth of Prester John.

It is more or less a Boy's Own colonial African adven...more

John, darling - I wish I could travel back in time and shake that racist/imperialist nonsense out of you, because then we'd have a cracking boy's adventure story, right up there with Stevenson's Treasure Island and Kipling's Kim. You are one of my favorite storytellers: anyone who reads Ian Flemi...more

John Buchan writes adventure stories like none other; i.e. superbly well. The story of Prester John may be as politically incorrect nowadays as most of H Rider Haggard's output; but that doesn't prevent the pace, imagination, content, and sheer descriptive brilliance of his storytelling from tota...more

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