A Study in Greene: Graham Greene and the Art of the Novel

By Bernard Bergonzi | Go to book overview

3
Entertainments

SOME time after it was published Greene decided that later editions of Stamboul Train would describe it as an 'entertainment'. Then in 1936 he published A Gun for Sale, a novel that was specifically called 'an entertainment' on the title page, establishing a sub-genre of his own fiction. Eventually, when he was preparing the Collected Edition, Greene abandoned the distinction. The entertainments that he wrote in the late 1930s and 1940s were, indeed, not all that different from the books he regarded as novels, but they drew more directly on the conventions of popular fiction and allowed Greene to indulge his liking for melodrama. They were also very conscious of threatening historical forces. A Gun for Sale is a gripping thriller though of a very literary kind, full of quotations from, or allusions to, poems and plays. It opens with a murder and turns into a manhunt, with armed police in pursuit of an armed fugitive. Most of the novel takes place in darkness or fog. I have remarked on scenes that seem indebted to contemporary French films; the presentation of violent action also suggests American crime movies and anticipates the film noir of the 1940s. The opening scene, describing the murder of a Central European statesman by a hired contract-killer, is the most powerful in the book. Its sharp attention to visual detail invites the description 'cinematic', but that is so only in the way in which it is true of Mr Verloc's murder in The Secret Agent. After shooting the minister

-61-

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A Study in Greene: Graham Greene and the Art of the Novel
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vi
  • Contents ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Obsessions and Jokes 12
  • 2: Into the Thirties 22
  • 3: Entertainments 61
  • 4: Brighton 80
  • 5: Mexico 103
  • 6: A Catholic Novelist? 117
  • 7: The Greene Man 142
  • 8: Manic Interludes 167
  • 9: Last Words 174
  • Books by Graham Greene 190
  • Index 193
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