Even if its author had died peacefully in bed instead of before a firing squad in a dingy barracks, "The Riddle of the Sands" would have been a noteworthy book. To many it was the classical Secret Service novel; to successive generations of amateur yachtsmen it has been the preeminent yanr about inshore sailing in fair weather and foul; while to its author and original readers on the eve of World War I it was above all a cautionary tale, admonishing the British Government and people to look to their North Sea defenses while there was yet time.
More like fact than fiction, it holds a special place in the affections of spy-novel fans for its richness of technical detail about inshore sailing, its highly sympathetic characters, a setting and plot that recapture the European political scene of the time, and an unsurpassed narrative style which is evident from the very beginning:
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The book was made into a German and an English movie (each with a somewhat different ending!), the English version starring Michael York and Simon MacCorkindale as Carruthers and Davies, who discover nefarious doings by Germans while on a yachting holiday off the Frisian Islands in the North Sea. For much of the time, you might be forgiven for thinking that the film might've been better titled "Two Men in a Boat", but I loved the detail about sailing and all the scenes of the sea and the German coast (it is the Dutch coast that was filmed, I think).
A perfect to book to read, a perfect movie to watch, a perfect radio play to listen to on a cool and grey day by the river! Here are all three: