On Writing

A Gun for Sale

Brighton Rock

The Confidential Agent

The Power and the Glory

The Heart of the Matter

The Third Man

The End of the Affair

The Quiet American

Our Man in Havana

A Burnt-Out Case

The Comedians

Travels With My Aunt

The Honorary Consul

The Human Factor



Graham Greene on A Gun for Sale:

The greater part of A Gun for Sale takes place in Nottwich, which I later used again as background for my play The Potting Shed. Nottwich, of course, is Nottingham where, as I have recounted A Sort of Life, I lived for three winter months with a mongrel terrier, working in the evenings as a trainee on the the Nottingham Journal. I don’t know why a certain wry love of Nottingham lodged in my imagination rather as a love of Freetown was to do later. It was the furthest north I had ever been, the first strange city in which I had made a home, alone, without friends.

The main character in the novel, Raven the killer, seems to me now a first sketch for Pinkie in Brighton Rock. He is a Pinkie who has aged but not grown up…

If Raven is an older Pinkie, Mather I can imagine to have been trained as police officer under the Assistant Commissioner of It’s a Battlefield; a little of his superior’s sober temperature has rubbed off on him. He is not, like the Assistant Commissioner, a born bachelor, but I think in time he must have proved a little too square for Anne Crowder with her indiscriminate passion for love.

What can I say of the other characters? Doctor Yogel has something a certain police doctor near Blackfriars to whom I once went in my youth, terrified that I might be suffering from what used to be called by an ironic euphemism a social disease; he told me not to eat tomatoes, an instruction which I have obeyed to this day. His dingy rooms on the top floor of a tenement block and his abrupt furtive manner remained a memory which I think contributed to the sketch of Doctor Yogel.

There are certain scenes which I like in this book. For example I am a little proud of the air-raid practice in Nottwich which enabled Raven to enter the offices of Sir Marcus. I wrote the scene in 1935 and the National Government had certainly not reached that point of preparation, though such a practice would have been plausible enough four years later. I like too the character of Acky, the unfrocked clergyman, and of his wife—the two old evil characters joined to each other by a selfless love. I had not chosen an Anglican clergyman for the part with any ill intent—I doubted at the time whether such purity of love would seem plausible in a married and excommunicated Catholic priest. I was to draw one later in The Power and the Glory, Father Jose, but as a man I prefer poor Acky. He was not the kind of sinner who has the makings of a saint. His sense of guilt led only to innumerable letters to his bishop, of self-justification or accusation…He belongs to the same world of wounds and guilt as Raven and Pinkie.

from Ways of Escape, pp.56-57

Melody Yiu
Email me: greeneland -at- gmail . com

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