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A Gun for Sale

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Graham Greene on A Gun for Sale:

The greater part of A Gun for Sale takes place in Nottwich, which I later used again as background for my play The Potting Shed. Nottwich, of course, is Nottingham where, as I have recounted A Sort of Life, I lived for three winter months with a mongrel terrier, working in the evenings as a trainee on the the Nottingham Journal. I don’t know why a certain wry love of Nottingham lodged in my imagination rather as a love of Freetown was to do later. It was the furthest north I had ever been, the first strange city in which I had made a home, alone, without friends.

The main character in the novel, Raven the killer, seems to me now a first sketch for Pinkie in Brighton Rock. He is a Pinkie who has aged but not grown up…

If Raven is an older Pinkie, Mather I can imagine to have been trained as police officer under the Assistant Commissioner of It’s a Battlefield; a little of his superior’s sober temperature has rubbed off on him. He is not, like the Assistant Commissioner, a born bachelor, but I think in time he must have proved a little too square for Anne Crowder with her indiscriminate passion for love.

What can I say of the other characters? Doctor Yogel has something a certain police doctor near Blackfriars to whom I once went in my youth, terrified that I might be suffering from what used to be called by an ironic euphemism a social disease; he told me not to eat tomatoes, an instruction which I have obeyed to this day. His dingy rooms on the top floor of a tenement block and his abrupt furtive manner remained a memory which I think contributed to the sketch of Doctor Yogel.

There are certain scenes which I like in this book. For example I am a little proud of the air-raid practice in Nottwich which enabled Raven to enter the offices of Sir Marcus. I wrote the scene in 1935 and the National Government had certainly not reached that point of preparation, though such a practice would have been plausible enough four years later. I like too the character of Acky, the unfrocked clergyman, and of his wife—the two old evil characters joined to each other by a selfless love. I had not chosen an Anglican clergyman for the part with any ill intent—I doubted at the time whether such purity of love would seem plausible in a married and excommunicated Catholic priest. I was to draw one later in The Power and the Glory, Father Jose, but as a man I prefer poor Acky. He was not the kind of sinner who has the makings of a saint. His sense of guilt led only to innumerable letters to his bishop, of self-justification or accusation…He belongs to the same world of wounds and guilt as Raven and Pinkie.

from Ways of Escape, pp.56-57


Melody Yiu
Email me: greeneland -at- gmail . com

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