This Gun for Hire This by stdepue


									"This Gun for Hire," (1936) is an early-career British crime drama/thriller by much
honored twentieth century English author/screen writer Graham Greene (The Third Man,
The end of the affair). The book is set in England, a country then unhappily anticipating
the start of World War II.

The protagonist/anti-hero of GUN is Christian Raven, an extremely unfortunate young
man who was born to poor parents who didn’t much care for him, who both proceeded to
die in his youth – his mother committing suicide at the kitchen table, leaving her body for
her son to find. So he is sent to an orphanage, where, of course, he isn’t treated well,
either. In addition, he was born with a harelip that has been poorly mended, and he is
ugly. He is, willy-nilly, a loner, who doesn’t care for or trust other people, particularly
women, whom he calls “skirts,” and with whom he has little experience. He does,
however, find it easy enough to use a gun and kill people, and has done so. As the book
opens, he is on the European continent, killing an old man who is minister of defense of
some unnamed small country. Raven is executing this hit at the bidding of a man who
calls himself Mr. Cholmondelay (pronounced Chumley), who will later betray the young
man by giving him marked bills in payment for the job. Raven does some investigation,
and follows his betrayer to a midland town Greene called Nottwich, where the young
killer discovers the man who hired him is actually named Davis and works for the town’s
largest employer, Midland Steel. And the corporation, at the direction of Sir Marcus, its
owner, has ordered this assassination in hopes of starting World War II, similarly to the
way World War I was started. Along the way, Raven will meet a pretty actress, Anne
Crowder, whom he tries to trust, as she helps him somewhat. But she is actually naively
trying to prevent the outbreak of WWII; and she is engaged to Jimmy Mathers,
superintendent at Scotland Yard.

Graham Greene (1904-1991) was one of the most illustrious British writers of the 20th
century. He enjoyed a very long life, most of the century, and a very long, prolific writing
career, during which he gave us The Power and the Glory (Penguin Classics), and Our
Man in Havana (Penguin Classics) among others. These four books mentioned, as many
others of Greene's prolific works, were made into notable films. The author’s books were
very well-written, highly literate; greatly honored; much praised by the critics, and
enjoyed a wide readership, frequently being best sellers. The writer was also one of the
better-known Catholic converts of his time; many of his thrillers, as this one, deal with
Catholic themes of guilt and redemption. He created vivid characters with internal lives;
they faced struggles and doubt. Sometimes his characters despaired, or suffered world-
weary cynicism - they were always self-aware. But Greene always created a tight thriller,
in a lean, realistic style that boasted almost cinematic visuals. If you've never read him
before, you really might like his work, but I wouldn’t recommend starting here. It’s one
of the grimmest of his books, also hard to find today. Might as well start with something
more entertaining, like OUR MAN, or TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT.

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