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Gun for Sale, A

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					"A GUN FOR SALE,” 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). It is, I believe, the title given to
Greene’s THIS GUN FOR HIRE, (1936) in America. 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, Raven 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. So was THIS GUN FOR SALE, a
popular noir film starring Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Robert Preston and
Laird Cregar.

The author’s books were very well-written, highly literate; 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, who also worked
as a screenwriter, always created a tight thriller, in a lean, realistic style that
boasted almost cinematic visuals. However, if you've never read him before, I
wouldn’t recommend starting here. It’s one of the grimmest of his books, also
hard to find. Might as well start with something more entertaining, like
THE COMEDIANS, or TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT.

				
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posted:7/30/2011
language:English
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