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

By Bernard Bergonzi | Go to book overview
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4
Brighton

GREENE originally thought that Brighton Rock would be an 'entertainment'. He changed his mind before the book was published, though not in time to stop the first American edition from being so described on the title page. Its roots in popular fiction are evident, both the classical detective story and the tough, fast-moving thriller on the American model. It also provides a mode of fictional massobservation; it is immersed in the social behaviour and the sights, sounds and smells of Brighton on a few days of early summer in the mid-i930s. And it is the first of his novels to introduce overtly Catholic themes; among other things it is a moral fable about sin and damnation.

The novel opens forcefully: 'Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him. With his inky fingers and his bitten nails, his manner cynical or nervous, anybody could tell he didn't belong—belong to the early summer sun, the cool Whitsun wind off the sea, the holiday crowd.' The reasons why Charles Hale, also known as Fred, is in Brighton, and why he is afraid of being murdered, plunge one into the intricacies of the plot, which concerns the rivalry between Brighton racecourse gangs. A gang-leader called Kite has been killed on St Pancras Station by men working for the powerful Mr Colleoni; his death was not intended, but a slashing with razors got out of hand. Hale, a journalist, was in some way responsible for his death, having

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