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A Gun for Sale (1936)

by Graham Greene

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,1542716,966 (3.54)60
Raven is an ugly man dedicated to ugly deeds. His cold-blooded killingof the Minister of War is an act of violence with chillingrepercussions, not just for Raven himself but for the nation as awhole. The money he receives in payment for the murder is madeup of stolen notes. When the first of these is traced, Raven is a manon the run. As he tracks down the agent who has been double-crossinghim and attempts to elude the police, he becomes both hunter andhunted- an unwitting weapon of a strange kind of social justice.… (more)
  1. 00
    Brighton Rock by Graham Greene (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Events in these two Greene novels are loosely related ('A Gun for Sale' first).
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English (22)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 22 (next | show all)
It’s all about betrayal - betrayal of the innocent and the malevolent; betrayal of the individual and the country; betrayal of self and ideals. Crime fiction with a political and ethical undertow. Given Greene’s slightly stiff 1930s style, it mercifully delivers its punches quickly and unsentimentally. The distant lights of faith, hope and charity sputter thinly in the cold yellow fog of the nearly unredeemed nihilism curling through these pages. ( )
  breathslow | Jan 27, 2024 |
This one took me longer to finish than I anticipated.

Story begins when Raven, assassin for hire, book protagonist and all-around anti-hero gets double-crossed after a high profile assassination he executed on Europe mainland. Cold and ruthless Raven is not interested in his marks, he knows only he needs to go to specific location, kill the mark and return back safely.

So when he gets betrayed his rage grows, not because of betrayal itself (risk o business ... I guess?) but because he was betrayed by his own kind, criminal underworld. If there is no honor amongst thieves what can man do - right? So he decides to take revenge and goes to north of England chasing the man that is responsible for putting police on Raven's track. On his way to kill the people that betrayed him Raven will cross paths with Anne, friendly and justice driven member of acting and dancing troupe and Mather, policeman and Anne's fiancee who is not sure what is going on and why is Anne found working alongside Raven.

Unlike stoic gunmen like say Delon's Le Samourai or Leon Professional, Raven is very much self-aware and runs on pure emotions and rage. After very hard childhood and aware that his harelip was cause of so many difficulties Raven thinks everybody is after him because of his scarred face (which I guess was quite an issue when the novel was written). We follow him as he moves from the cold calculated killer to someone truly touched, like an animal that was constantly beaten and then shown true kindness, by friendship and support of Anne (no matter she might have few hidden motives of her own). Raven is a tragic figure, man who survived only by living in great fear, man to be brought down after he accepts other's friendship and kindness.

Besides Raven author gives very good description of society classes - those at the top looking forward to profiteering from war either directly (money) or indirectly (other material or social privileges) and those at the bottom either dumb and witless about the horror of wars and seeking glory in it, or terrified to the very bone [since terrors from the last one are still fresh in memory]. This entire reaction and justification of war have left bitter taste in my mouth because they show how propaganda can direct nations in a very, very, very wrong direction (like last year......brrrr).

Only issue I had with the book was level of details and descriptions author paints in his story. It could be that today we are more or less more visual creatures and do not have problems imagining things [when provided with less information] - authors very detailed descriptions and the ways he handles character discussions (ticks and face expressions included) tend to be verbose, and as a result my reading pace would suddenly drop to very low rate. Again this could be me [English is not my mother tongue] but was a cause for longer than expected time period to finish the book. On the good side when action picks up it truly picks up and pages just fly away.

Very interesting story, recommended to fans of slower burning thrillers. ( )
  Zare | Jan 23, 2024 |
Summary: A paid assassin murders a foreign minister of war, creating an international crisis that could lead to war but is betrayed by the middleman who paid him, who he pursues even as the police pursue him.

Raven is a paid assassin whose life represents a series of betrayals from being born with a hare lip to finding his mother dead by suicide as a child. Taking lives for hire does not trouble him. And so being hired to kill the Minister for War of Czechoslovakia is just another. He cleans up, killing the overly diligent secretary as well.

Back in England, he discovers that the payment from Mr. Cholmondeley (pronounced “Chumley”) is in stolen notes and police, in the person of detective Jimmy Mather is on his tale. He’s betrayed again by a doctor he asks to operate on the telltale hare lip. His picture is in the papers and serial numbers in the possession of shopkeepers. Betrayed. He has to flee and wants to find Cholmondeley. He spots him on a train to Nottwich, to visit a theatre he supports under the name Davis, using his patronage to pick up women actresses. Anne Crowder, Jimmy Mather’s girl is on the same train, to try out for a part at the theatre.

In short order, Anne escapes attempts of both Raven and Cholmondeley to kill her only to be taken hostage again by Raven as the police, including Mathers, converge on a coal shack where the two are sheltering. A “Stockholm syndrome” type of situation arises as Raven trusts Anne and Anne learns of the plot behind the assassination, to create an international crisis leading to a war that will profit a steel company Cholmondeley/Davis works for. But will Anne survive to tell the story and Raven to exact revenge?

Greene crafts a story at a personal level around trust and betrayal. Raven, as noted, has crafted his life story around betrayal. Anne, the hostage, is in the midst of it. She’s torn between betraying Jimmy and betraying Raven, all to save her life. The story is also about betrayal at a larger level–powerful companies manipulating foreign policy at the cost of many young lives in war (and the expendability of their assassin). Greene includes several scenes showing the vapid social relations among the elite who indulge themselves while preparing to sacrifice young lives. He reminds me of Dwight Eisenhower’s famous and prescient warning about the military-industrial complex.

This was one of Greene’s earlier novels, and in my opinion, not one of his best. Anne’s ability to get into and out of trouble stretches credulity as does the setup that she just happens to be Jimmy Mathers girl. Still, the relationship that forms between Anne and Raven, and the dialogue in the coal shack signals to me what Greene would become as a writer. ( )
  BobonBooks | Jan 21, 2024 |
A dud. The setting was interesting with the backdrop of an approaching WW2, but otherwise Raven with his hare-lip was a dull villain. ( )
  karatelpek | Dec 15, 2023 |
A Gun For Sale by Graham Greene was originally published in 1936. It is a story about a professional assassin, Philip Raven, who kills the Czech War Minister and leaves behind evidence that points to other European nations. This is a ploy by those who hired him to push Europe towards war, but they make the mistake of betraying Raven by paying him off in counterfeit money. Now Raven is being sought by the police for passing phony money, but he is also on the trail of those who betrayed him. He manages to lures a young woman into helping him even though he plans on murdering her when she is no longer useful.

I found this to be a story of contrasts. Raven is a dark, damaged character who speaks in a hard-boiled manner. Anne, the girl he uses, is idealistic and has hope for the future. The times are politically difficult as war is looming over Europe and the general population is fearful and uncertain. Yet Raven was hired to provoke war as there are some who would profit greatly from war.

Graham Greene has produced a claustrophobic manhunt novel that immediately grabs the readers attention. His writing skill is such that Raven, the main character, is someone who the reader can both hate and empathize with. While the story is quite bleak and chilling, the use of Anne with her innocence and idealistic hopes for the future helps to lighten the tone. A Gun For Sale is a tight, well crafted story that captures the pre-war jitters and sentiments of the times. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Dec 14, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (12 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Graham Greeneprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hogarth, PaulCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kranz, H. B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schaap, H.W.J.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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 little lit Christmas
trees--an old rather grubby man without any friends, who was said to love humanity.
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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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Raven is an ugly man dedicated to ugly deeds. His cold-blooded killingof the Minister of War is an act of violence with chillingrepercussions, not just for Raven himself but for the nation as awhole. The money he receives in payment for the murder is madeup of stolen notes. When the first of these is traced, Raven is a manon the run. As he tracks down the agent who has been double-crossinghim and attempts to elude the police, he becomes both hunter andhunted- an unwitting weapon of a strange kind of social justice.

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Legacy Library: Graham Greene

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