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A gun for sale by Graham Greene

A gun for sale (original 1936; edition 1965)

by Graham Greene

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8281210,928 (3.55)35
Title:A gun for sale
Authors:Graham Greene
Info:London Heinemann 1973 ix,228p 20cm
Collections:Your library

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A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene (1936)



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This tale of a plot by an armaments manufacturers to spark a profitable little war by hiring an assassin to bump off the British Minister of War showcases everything that Graham Greene does so brilliantly: memorably complex characters, biting social commentary, humor, pathos, a poke or two at Catholicism, empathy for the damaged people of the world, all overlaid by an exquisite patina of irony. (There’s even a bit with a dog!) Only the themes change from novel to novel, the theme of this one being the ease with which we betray one another.

Or so discovers our doomed anti-hero, Raven, the assassin of the piece, an unloved and unloveable gent with a harelip and a justifiable grudge against the world, who experiences betrayal after betrayal: first, his employers pay him with stolen money, ensuring a police pursuit; then, his location is given up by a string of fellow villains; finally, having made the mistake of letting his guard down to the sympathetic woman of the piece, he is betrayed by her as well.

However, Raven isn’t the only one betrayed herein. Greene presents us with betrayal in all its most recognizable forms: children betrayed by their parents, orphans betrayed by the adults who are supposed to protect them, wives betrayed by their husbands, employees betrayed by their employers, war heroes betrayed by their nation, nations betrayed by their own industrial complex. This background of betrayal serves to shine a light on the few relationships in this tale that arise above the murk: the uncomplicated loyalty of a police sergeant towards his superior, the bedraggled affection of an old bawd towards her shop-stained husband, the tragedy-tested love between a courageous young woman and her stalwart beau … the hope and promise of virtue in a worth too often stained by vice.

All of which makes this sound like a bleak novel, which I regret, because in addition to being very funny, there’s also so much compassion here. You’d think after all the Graham Greene novels I’ve read over the years, I wouldn’t be surprised anymore to find myself crying over the downfall of the villain, but I always do and I always am. As Raven contemplates at one point: “Perhaps if we knew all there was to know, the kind of breaks a fellow had had, we’d see his point of view.” Greene’s particular gift is manipulating us into walking in the shoes of his damaged characters, forcing us to see the world through their damaged perspective. Yes, Raven’s an unrepentant murderer, but to what extent can we hold a man accountable for violence when all he has ever known is violence? In perhaps the most moving scene of the tale, Raven dares to drop his guard and confess his sins, revealing a soul as desperate for absolution as that of any saint.

You’ll laugh, you’ll cry; you’ll probably feel a little bit more jaded about the world after this; but I’m also willing to bet that the complex moral questions aroused by this deceptively simple tale will haunt you long after you’ve turned the final page. ( )
  Dorritt | Apr 14, 2017 |
Graham Green, who is one of my favourite authors, wrote two kinds of books: he explored themes of Catholicism in literary novels such as Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair; and using his experience as an agent in MI6, he brought his readers the world of international politics and political intrigues in novels that he called ‘entertainments’, such as The Confidential Agent, The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana, and The Human Factor. A Gun for Sale (1936) is one of his early noir novels, and while IMO it’s not as satisfying to read as some of his later ones, it’s still quite entertaining to read.

The plot revolves around a man called Raven, embittered by life because he has an ugly hare-lip, and as a consequence, he’s indifferent to the lives of others. As a hitman, he takes on a job which has political implications reminiscent of the assassination of the archduke of Ferdinand of Austria. At the time of publication Greene’s readers would have recognised this as an allusion to the catalyst for WW1, and with the rise of Hitler and war clouds gathering in Europe, they would have recognised the implications of the plot.

To read the rest of my review please visit https://anzlitlovers.com/2017/02/28/a-gun-for-sale-by-graham-greene/ ( )
  anzlitlovers | Feb 28, 2017 |
"MURDER DIDN’T MEAN much to Raven. It was just a new job . You had to be careful. You had to use your brains. It was not a question of hatred. He had only seen the Minister once: he had been pointed out to Raven as he walked down the new housing estate between the small lit Christmas trees, an old grubby man without friends , who was said to love humanity."

Another one of Greene's crime thrillers - complete with murder, a man-hunt, a girly side-kick, an evil mastermind, and a main character who is torn apart by life's indifference.

"The only problem when you were once born was to get out of life more neatly and expeditiously than you had entered it."

I'm so ready to move past this "early" stage of Greene's writing. Luckily, I think there's only Brighton Rock left before embarking onto to a different theme.

Review originally posted on BookLikes: http://brokentune.booklikes.com/post/993955/a-gun-for-sale ( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
A psychological thriller about a hired killer. The plot twists and turns seemed almost too incredible at times but it was so well written that I swallowed all of them. There was also a surreal quality to a story written on the eve of World War Two with a political assasination possibly begining the war.
  amyem58 | Jul 11, 2014 |
Maybe even 5 stars after I have had a chance to mull it over a bit. I devoured this thriller in one gulp because I couldn't put it down. As in Brighton Rock, Greene has written a brilliant portrait of an anti-hero. Raven is (in my opinion) less of a psychopath and so I had more feeling of sympathy for him. I liked the way the story moved from Raven to Anne (the innocent girl caught up in the story) to Mather (the policeman hunting Raven and coincidentally engaged to Anne).

Greene's writing is wonderfully evocative and not a word is wasted or in excess. While I enjoyed his satires, his prose really shines in these thriller/crime novels. ( )
1 vote leslie.98 | Sep 2, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Graham Greeneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kranz, H. B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaap, H.W.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Murder didn't mean much to Raven.
Acky was writing a long letter on the kitchen table. He had pushed his wife's mauve ink to one side and was using the best blue-black and a fountain pen which had long ceased to hold ink.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014303930X, Paperback)

Raven is an ugly man dedicated to ugly deeds. His cold-blooded killing of a European Minister of War is an act of violence with chilling repercussions, not just for Raven himself but for the nation as a whole. The money he receives in payment for the murder is made up of stolen notes. When the first of these is traced, Raven is a man on the run. As he tracks down the agent who has been double-crossing him and attempts to elude the police, he becomes both hunter and hunted: an unwitting weapon of a strange kind of social justice.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:22:19 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Raven is an assassin, a hired killer, and his brutal murder of the minister of war is an act of violence with chilling repercussions, not just for Raven himself but for the nation as a whole.

(summary from another edition)

Legacy Library: Graham Greene

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