The tenth man, p.1
The Tenth Man, p.1Graham Greene
The Tenth Man
With an Introduction by the Author
including film sketches for
'Jim Braddon and the War Criminal'
'Nobody to Blame'
In 1948 when I was working on 'The Third Man' I seem to have completely forgotten a story called 'The Tenth Man' which was ticking away like a time bomb somewhere in the archives of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in America.
In 1983 a stranger wrote to me from the United States telling me that a story of mine called 'The Tenth Man' was being offered for sale by MGM to an American publisher. I didn't take the matter seriously. I thought that I remembered—incorrectly, as it proved—an outline which I had written toward the end of the war under a contract with my friend Ben Goetz, the representative of MGM in London. Perhaps the outline had covered two pages of typescript—there seemed, therefore, no danger of publication, especially as the story had never been filmed.
The reason I had signed the contract was that I feared when the war came to an end and I left government service that my family would be in danger from the precarious nature of my finances. I had not before the war been able to support them from writing novels alone. I had indeed been in debt to my publishers until 1938, when 'Brighton Rock' sold eight thousand copies and squared our accounts temporarily. 'The Power and the Glory', appearing more or less at the same time as the invasion of the West in an edition of about three thousand five hundred copies, hardly improved the situation. I had no confidence in my future as a novelist and I welcomed in 1944 what proved to be an almost slave contract with MGM which at least assured us all enough to live on for a couple of years in return for the idea of 'The Tenth Man'.
Then recently came the astonishing and disquieting news that Mr. Anthony Blond had bought all the book and serial rights on the mysterious story for a quite large sum, the author's royalties of course to be paid to MGM. He courteously sent me the typescript for any revision I might wish to make and it proved to be not two pages of outline but a complete short novel of about thirty thousand words. What surprised and aggravated me most of all was that I found this forgotten story very readable—indeed I prefer it in many ways to 'The Third Man', so that I had no longer any personal excuse for opposing publication even if I had the legal power, which was highly doubtful. All the same, Mr. Blond very generously agreed to publish the story jointly with my regular publishers, The Bodley Head.
After this had been amicably arranged mystery was added to mystery. I found by accident in a cupboard in Paris an old cardboard box containing two manuscripts, one being a diary and commonplace book which I had apparently kept during 1937 and 1938. Under the date 26 December 1937 I came on this passage: "Discussed film with Menzies [an American film director]. Two notions for future films. One: a political situation like that in Spain. A decimation order. Ten men in prison draw lots with matches. A rich man draws the longest match. Offers all his money to anyone who will take his place. One, for the sake of his family, agrees. Later, when he is released, the former rich man visits anonymously the family who possess his money, he himself now with nothing but his life..."
The bare bones of a story indeed. The four dots with which the entry closes seem now to represent the years of war that followed during which all memory of the slender idea was lost in the unconscious. When in 1944 I picked up the tale of Chavel and Janvier I must have thought it an idea which had just come to my mind, and yet I can only now suppose that those two characters had been working away far down in the dark cave of the unconscious while the world burned.
The unexpected return of 'The Tenth Man' from the archives of MGM led also to a search in my own archives where I discovered copies of two more ideas for films, and these may amuse readers of this book. The first idea (not a bad one, it seems to me now, though nothing came of it) was called "Jim Braddon and the War Criminal."
Here is how the outline went—a not untimely story even today, with Barbie awaiting trial.
Jim Braddon and the War Criminal
THERE IS AN OLD LEGEND THAT SOMEWHERE IN THE WORLD every man has his double. This is the strange story of Jim Braddon.
Jim Braddon was a high-grade salesman employed by a breakfast cereal company in Philadelphia: a placid honest man who would never have injured anything larger than a fly. He had a wife and two children whom he spoiled. The 1941 war had affected him little for he was over forty and his employers claimed that he was indispensable. But he took up German—he had a German grandmother—because he thought that one day this might prove useful, and that was the only new thing that happened to him between 1941 and 1945. Sometimes he saw in the paper the picture of Schreiber, the Nazi Inspector-General of the concentration camps, but except that one of his children pretended to see a likeness to this Nazi, nobody else even commented on the fact.
In the autumn of 1945 a captured U-boat commander confessed that he had landed Schreiber on the coast of Mexico, and the film opens on a Mexican beach with a rubber dinghy upturned by the breakers and Schreiber's body visible through the thin rim of water. The tide recedes and the land crabs come out of their holes. But the hunt for Schreiber is on, for the crabs will soon eliminate all evidence of his death.
The push for postwar trade is also on, and Braddon is dispatched by his firm for a tour of Central and South America. In the plane he looks at 'Life', which carries the story of the hunt for Schreiber. His neighbor, a small, earnest, bespectacled man full of pseudoscientific theories, points out the likeness to him. "You don't see it," he says. "I doubt whether one person in ten thousand would see it because what we mean by likeness as a rule is not the shape of the face and skull but the veil a man's experience and character throw over the features. You are like Schreiber, but no one would notice it because you have led a very different life. That can't alter the shape of the ears, but it's the expression of the eyes people look at." Apart from the joking child he is the only person who has noticed the likeness. Luckily for Braddon—and for himself—the stranger leaves the plane at the next halt. Halfway to Mexico City the plane crashes and all lives but Braddon's are lost.
Braddon has been flung clear. His left arm is broken, he is cut about the face, and he has lost his memory from the concussion. The accident has happened at night and he has cautiously—for he is a very careful man—emptied his pockets and locked his papers in his briefcase which of course is lost. When he comes to, he has no identity but his features, and those he shares with a dead man. He searches his pockets for a clue, but finds them empty of anything that will help him: only some small change, and in each pocket of the jacket a book. One is a papercovered Heine; the other an American paperback. He finds that he can read both languages. Searching his jacket more carefully, he discovers a wad of ten-dollar notes, clean ones, sewn into the lining.
It is unnecessary in this short summary to work out his next adventures in detail: somehow he makes his way to a railroad and gets on a train to Mexico City. His idea is to find a hospital as quickly as he can, but in the washroom at the station he sees hanging by the mirror a photograph of Schreiber and a police description in Spanish and English. Perhaps the experiences of the last few days have hardened his expression, for now he can recognize the likeness. He believes he has found his name. His face takes on another expression now—that of the hunted man.
He does not know where to go or what to do: he is afraid of every policeman; he attracts attention by his furtiveness, and soon the papers bear the news that Schreiber has been seen in Mexico City. He lets his beard grow, and with the growth of the beard he loses his last likeness to the old Jim Braddon.
He is temporarily saved by Schreiber's friends, a gr
Peter, however, is incurably careless. His love of pain and violence gets in the way of caution, and as a result of some incident yet to be worked out, Jim is caught by the Mexican police, while the others escape.
Schreiber could hardly have complained of rough treatment. Nor does Jim complain. He has no memory of his crimes, but he accepts the fact that he has committed them. The police force him to sit through a film of Buchenwald, and he watches with horror and shame the lean naked victims of Schreiber. He has no longer any wish to escape. He is content to die.
He is sent north to the American authorities, and the preliminary proceedings against him start. The new bearded Schreiber face becomes a feature of the press. His family among others see the picture, but never for a moment does it occur to any of them that this is Jim.
Among the spectators at the trial, however, is the little spectacled pseudopsychologist who was on the plane with Jim. He doesn't recognize Jim, but he is puzzled by Schreiber (Schreiber is not acting true to character), and he remembers what he said to the man in the plane, that likeness is not a matter of skull measurements but of expression. The expression of horror and remorse is not one he would have expected to see in Schreiber's eyes. This man claims to have lost his memory, and yet he denies nothing. Suppose after all they have got a man who is simply similar in bone structure...
Meanwhile Peter and Lauren, who escaped from the police trap which had closed on Jim, travel north. They plan a rescue. What their plan is I don't know myself yet. Violent and desperate, it offers one chance in a hundred. But it comes off. Jim is whipped away from the court itself, and the hunt is on again. But this is not Mexico, and the hunt is a very short one. They are trapped in a suburban villa.
But Peter has taken hostages: a woman and her child who were in the house when they broke in. Jim has been obeying his companions like an automaton: there hasn't even been time to take off his handcuffs, but at this last example of Fascist mentality his mind seems to wake. He turns on his friends and the woman he has loved. He knocks out Peter with the handcuffs and gets his gun. The woman too has a gun. They face each other across the length of the room like duelists. She says, "My dear, you won't shoot me." But he shoots and her shot comes a second after his, but it isn't aimed at him: it hits her brother, who has regained his feet and is on the point of attacking. Her last words are, "You aren't Schreiber. You can't be. You're decent. Who the hell are you?"
Braddon gives himself up, and the truth of the psychologist's theory is glaringly exhibited. The likeness to Schreiber has proved to be physical only. I imagine the little man remembers at this point the man he talked to on the plane, he gives evidence, produces Braddon's family. The happy ending needs to be worked out, but the strange case of Jim Braddon really comes to an end with the shots in the suburban villa. After that there's just the reaching for the coats under the seats. Anyone in the stalls could tell you what happens now.
THE SECOND SKETCH FOR A FILM, ENTITLED 'NOBODY TO Blame', was written about the same time for my friend Cavalcanti. He liked the idea, but our work on it never began, for when he submitted it to the Board of Film Censors, he was told that they could not grant a certificate to a film making fun of the Secret Service. So this story too joined the others for a while in the unconscious, to emerge some ten years later as a novel—simplified but not, I think, necessarily improved—called 'Our Man in Havana'.
There is no censorship for novels, but I learned later that MI5 suggested to MI6 that they should bring an action against the book for a breach of official secrets. What secret had I betrayed? Was it the possibility of using bird shit as a secret ink? But luckily C, the head of MI6, had a better sense of humour than his colleague in MI5, and he discouraged him from taking action.
Nobody to Blame
RICHARD TRIP IS THE AGENT OF SINGER SEWING MACHINES in some Baltic capital similar to Tallinn. He is a small inoffensive man of a rather timid disposition with a passionate love for postage stamps, Gilbert and Sullivan's works and his wife, and a passionate loyalty to Singer Sewing Machines. Unofficially he is Agent B720 of the British Secret Service. The year is 1938/39.
Mrs. Tripp—Gloria—is much younger than Tripp and it is to give her a good life that he has allowed himself to be enlisted in the Secret Service. He feels he must spend more money on her than Singer provides in order to keep her, although she has a genuine fondness for her dim husband. She knows nothing, of course, of his activities.
At HQ in London Tripp is regarded as one of their soundest agents—unimaginative, accurate, not easily ruffled. He is believed to have a network of sub-agents throughout Germany and he keeps in touch with HQ through the medium of his business reports written to his firm. What HQ does not know is that in fact Tripp has no agents at all. He invents all his reports and when London expresses dissatisfaction with an agent he simply dismisses one notional source and engages another equally notional. Naturally he draws salaries and expenses for all the imaginary agents.
His active imagination, from which he has drawn the details of a large underground factory near Leipzig for the construction of a secret explosive, does on one occasion lead to a little trouble with the local police. From an independent source London learns that B720 is being shadowed, and they send him an urgent warning, but the warning arrives too late.
At the end of a program of Gilbert and Sullivan opera by the Anglo-Latesthian Society in which Tripp takes a leading part, the Chief of Police, who is sitting in the front row, hands up a bouquet with a card attached and the request that he may have a drink with Tripp immediately in his dressing room. There he tells Tripp that the German Embassy have complained of his activities. Tripp confesses to his deception.
The Chief of Police is amused and pleased that Tripp's presence will keep out any serious agents, and he accepts the gift of a sewing machine for his wife. He will ensure that Tripp's messages go safely out of the country—and to keep the German Embassy quiet, he decides, they can have a look at them on the way. London's warning comes on the heels of the interview, and Tripp sends back a message announcing that he has appointed the Chief of Police himself as one of his agents, enclosing that officer's first report on the chief political characters of Latesthia and requesting that as first payment and bonus the Chief, who he says is an ardent stamp collector, should receive a rare Triangular Cape, and when the stamp arrives of course he sticks it in his own album. This gives him an idea, and soon the Chief of the Secret Service is commenting to the HQ officer in charge of Tripp's station, "What a lot of stamp collectors he has among his agents."
"It might be worse. Do you remember old Stott's agents? They all wanted art photos from Paris."
"Stott's at a loose end, isn't he?"
"Send him over to take a look at Tripp's station. He may be able to give Tripp some advice. I always believe in letting two sound men get together."
STOTT IS A MUCH OLDER MAN THAN TRIPP. HE IS BOTTLE-nosed and mottled with a little round stomach and a roving eye. Tripp is naturally apprehensive of his visit and expects to be unmasked at any moment, but to his relief he finds that Stott is much more interested in the foods and wines of Latesthia, and in the night life, than in the details of Tripp's organization. There are even fleeting moments when Tripp wonders whether it could possibly be that Stott also had run his station on notional lines, but such a thought of course can hardly be held for long.
He has a night round the town with Stott and gets into trouble with his wife for returning at two in the morning. Stott moves on to Berlin, but he has sown seeds in Tripp's mind. His notional agents in future follow a Stott line. London is asked to approve in rapid succession the madame of a high class "house," a cafe singer, and, his most imaginative effort to date, a well-known Latesthian cinema actress who is described as Agent B720's (i.e. Tripp's) mistress. Of course he has never spoken to her in his life, and he has no idea that she is in fact a German agent.
A SECOND CRISIS—NEEDING MORE DELICATE HANDLING THAN Stott's—blows up. The threat of European war is deepening and London considers that Tripp's position in Latesthia is a key one. He must have a proper staff: Singer Sewing Machines are persuaded in the interests of the nation to build up their agency in Latesthia and they inform Tripp that they are sending out to him a secretary-typist and a clerk. Tripp is innocently delighted that his work for Singer has borne such fruit and that sewing machines are booming. He is less pleased, however, when the clerk and typist arrive and prove to be members of the Secret Service sent to assist him in handling his now complicated network of agents.
The clerk is a young man with a penetrating cockney accent and an enormous capacity for hero worship and heroine worship. His devotion is equally aroused by what he considers the experience and daring of Tripp and by the legs and breasts of Tripp's wife. His name is Cobb, and he has an annoying habit of asking questions. He says himself, "You don't have to bother to explain things, Chief. Just let me dig in and ask questions, and I'll get the hang of things for myself."
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