Literary Anniversaries: 02 October
Today, we try to blow out the candles on the cake of Graham Greene, born in 1904, less than ten miles from where I grew up.
Imagine: Greene was born IN a school, where his dad was a teacher!
Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him. (Brighton Rock, 1938)
Greene was such an interesting character.
Unusually, he converted to the Catholic faith as a young man, and there is certainly an awful lot of religion in his novels. He was also involved with MI6 and became a close friend of one of our most notorious double-agents, Kim Philby, who was also secretly working for the Russian KGB. He felt, like many authors, that he wrote two kinds of books – the ‘literary’ novels and the ‘low-brow’ popular stuff …
Although he is perhaps better known for the gangster novel, ‘Brighton Rock‘ (1938), my favourite novel of his remains ‘The Ministry Of Fear‘ (1943) in which the Ministry in question is modelled on the methods of the Nazi party. Yet the novel is set in suburban England. A man who has recently left prison (he killed his wife) correctly guesses the weight of a cake, after a tip-off, at a village fête. Later, some people come to demand the cake back, claiming there has been a ‘mistake’, and so his troubles begin …
What makes this novel so special? The short answer is the seance scene, which is one of the most tense things I have ever read. Give it a go!