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A Gun for Sale (1936)

by Graham Greene

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,0291915,404 (3.54)54
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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» See also 54 mentions

English (15)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (19)
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
aka This Gun for Hire
Review of the William Heinemann hardcover "Uniform Edition" reissue (1947) of the William Heinemann original (1936)

[3.5 rounded up]
I chanced to watch an online posting of the film This Gun for Hire (1942) dir. Frank Tuttle, starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake and enjoyed its old time noir staging. At the library I found a fairly old edition of the Graham Greene novel which was surprisingly still in circulation and borrowed it out of curiousity.

A Gun for Sale was Greene's 7th published novel (he later suppressed publication of his 2nd & 3rd and they've never been reprinted since the early 1930s). Greene categorized A Gun for Sale as one of his "entertainments", i.e. escapist thrillers or comic escapades which he felt didn't qualify as literary "novels."

The film adaptation was surprisingly faithful to the book, except for the casting of the handsome Ladd in the role of the disfigured assassin Raven who originally had a harelip. Raven is hired by an English war profiteer to assassinate a continental Minister in order to set off World War 2. The 1936 scenario is prescient of the war paranoia of the time which was temporarily appeased with Chamberlain's 1938 Munich Pact promising "peace for our time," but which only postponed the war outbreak to 1939.

Raven pulls off the assassination but is betrayed by being paid in stolen bank notes by the profiteer's agent who has the apparently tongue twisting name of Cholmondeley, which, in the usual bizarre English fashion, is actually simply pronounced as "Chumley". The police start a pursuit based on knowing the numbers of the stolen currency and aren't even aware of the assassination connection. Raven starts a pursuit of his betrayer and encounters chorus girl Anne Crowder (played by Veronica Lake in the film) who also has a run-in with Cholmondeley who is a backer of a dancehall show she auditions for. Anne has a sort of Stockholm Syndrome sympathy for the assassin, until she learns of the number of people he has killed. Meanwhile, Anne's policeman boyfriend Mather is one of the lead detectives in charge of the Raven pursuit. It all ends up in a karmic ending with war being averted at the time.

The thriller plot was quite straightforward and marked with a surprising number of coincidences in order to force everything to come together. The most interesting parts of the book were actually the several vignettes of secondary characters which Greene took an extra amount of care with. A subplot of university medical students policing an air raid / gas attack rehearsal in a shockingly sadistic manner was particularly harrowing. ( )
  alanteder | Sep 18, 2021 |
a hired killer goes after employer who double crossed him
  ritaer | Jun 29, 2021 |
It was better than good - even though it could be the least awesome book by Graham Greene. I hate to say it but the movie "This Gun For Hire" is way better. ( )
  arewenotmen | Jan 13, 2020 |
It was a premature beginning to the Greene marathon. I read this early novel, Greene's effort at a thriller which anticipates Brighton Rock in its icy approach. there is a section towards the end where a group of medical students are involved in hazing and the collective cruelty maintained is another variation on the The Destructors. All in all, I have to admit i was thinking of Jim Thompson as this nihilistic fable ends in bloodshed. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
Read this immediately after another of Greene’s The Confidential Agent, which whilst interesting, did not thrill me.

This is much better. As mentioned in mr comments as to TCA, I wonder whether it is merely the use of letters (rather than full names ) for the 3 main protagonists precluded the development of character and rapport.

Here the 3 main characters ( Raven ( though at first I though that might be a code-name; it is not ) , Anne and Mather) have names.

It is an old story; of misunderstandings; prejudices; greed ; love ( in places you may not expect) and hope ( and the lack thereof)

Well worth reading.

Big Ship

2 September 2018 ( )
  bigship | Sep 2, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
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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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First words
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.
Quotations
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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Information from the German Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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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

Graham Greene has a Legacy Library. Legacy libraries are the personal libraries of famous readers, entered by LibraryThing members from the Legacy Libraries group.

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Average: (3.54)
0.5
1 1
1.5 1
2 7
2.5
3 66
3.5 20
4 57
4.5 3
5 15

 

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