Brighton rock, p.1
Brighton Rock, p.1Graham Greene
About the Book
About the Author
Also by Graham Greene
About the Book
A gang war is raging through the dark underworld of Brighton. Seventeen-year-old Pinkie, malign and ruthless, has killed a man. Believing he can escape retribution, he is unprepared for the courageous, life-embracing Ida Arnold.
Graham Greene’s gripping thriller was adapted into a British film noir in 1947 starring Richard Attenborough as the razor-wielding Pinkie.
About the Author
Graham Greene was born in 1904. On coming down from Balliol College, Oxford, he worked for four years as sub-editor on The Times. He established his reputation with his fourth novel, Stamboul Train. In 1935 he made a journey across Liberia, described in Journey Without Maps, and on his return was appointed film critic of the Spectator. In 1926 he had been received into the Roman Catholic Church and visited Mexico in 1938 to report on the religious persecution there. As a result he wrote The Lawless Roads and, later, his famous novel The Power and the Glory. Brighton Rock was published in 1938 and in 1940 he became literary editor of the Spectator. The next year he undertook work for the Foreign Office and was stationed in Sierra Leone from 1941 to 1943. This later produced the novel The Heart of the Matter, set in West Africa.
As well as his many novels, Graham Greene wrote several collections of short stories, four travel books, six plays, three books of autobiography – A Sort of Life, Ways of Escape and A World of My Own (published posthumously) – two of biography and four books for children. He also contributed hundreds of essays, and film and book reviews, some of which appear in the collections Reflections and Mornings in the Dark. Many of his novels and short stories have been filmed and The Third Man was written as a film treatment. Graham Greene was a member of the Order of Merit and a Companion of Honour. He died in April 1991.
ALSO BY GRAHAM GREENE
The Man Within
It’s a Battlefield
A Gun for Sale
The Confidential Agent
The Ministry of Fear
The Third Man
The Quiet American
A Burnt-out Case
Travels with my Aunt
Dr Fischer of Geneva or The Bomb Party
The Human Factor
The Tenth Man
England Made Me
The End of the Affair
The Power and the Glory
The Heart of the Matter
The Fallen Idol
Loser Takes All
Our Man in Havana
The Honorary Consul
The Captain and the Enemy
The Last Word and Other Stories
May We Borrow Your Husband?
Journey Without Maps
The Lawless Roads
In Search of a Character
Getting to Know the General
Mornings in the Dark
A Sort of Life
Ways of Escape
Fragments of an Autobiography
A World of my Own
Lord Rochester’s Monkey
An Impossible Woman
The Little Train
The Little Horse-Bus
The Little Steamroller
The Little Fire Engine
Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him. With his inky fingers and his bitten nails, his manner cynical and nervous, anybody could tell he didn’t belong—belong to the early summer sun, the cool Whitsun wind off the sea, the holiday crowd. They came in by train from Victoria every five minutes, rocked down Queen’s Road standing on the tops of the little local trams, stepped off in bewildered multitudes into fresh and glittering air: the new silver paint sparkled on the piers, the cream houses ran away into the west like a pale Victorian watercolour; a race in miniature motors, a band playing, flower gardens in bloom below the front, an aeroplane advertising something for the health in pale vanishing clouds across the sky.
It had seemed quite easy to Hale to be lost in Brighton. Fifty thousand people besides himself were down for the day, and for quite a while he gave himself up to the good day, drinking gins and tonics wherever his programme allowed. For he had to stick closely to a programme: from ten till eleven Queen’s Road and Castle Square, from eleven till twelve the Aquarium and Palace Pier, twelve till one the front between the Old Ship and West Pier, back for lunch between one and two in any restaurant he chose round the Castle Square, and after that he had to make his way all down the parade to the West Pier and then to the station by the Hove streets. These were the limits of his absurd and widely advertised sentry-go.
Advertised on every Messenger poster: ‘Kolley Kibber in Brighton today.’ In his pocket he had a packet of cards to distribute in hidden places along his route; those who found them would receive ten shillings from the Messenger, but the big prize was reserved for whoever challenged Hale in the proper form of words and with a copy of the Messenger in his hand: ‘You are Mr Kolley Kibber. I claim the Daily Messenger prize.’
This was Hale’s job to do sentry-go, until a challenger released him, in every seaside town in turn: yesterday Southend, today Brighton, tomorrow—
He drank his gin and tonic hastily as a clock struck eleven and moved out of Castle Square. Kolley Kibber always played fair, always wore the same kind of hat as in the photograph the Messenger printed, was always on time. Yesterday in Southend he had been unchallenged: the paper liked to save its guineas occasionally, but not too often. It was his duty today to be spotted—and it was his inclination too. There were reasons why he didn’t feel too safe in Brighton, even in a Whitsun crowd.
He leant against the rail near the Palace Pier and showed his face to the crowd as it uncoiled endlessly past him, like a twisted piece of wire, two by two, each with an air of sober and determined gaiety. They had stood all the way from Victoria in crowded carriages, they would have to wait in queues for lunch, at midnight half asleep they would rock back in trains to the cramped streets and the closed pubs and the weary walk home. With immense labour and immense patience they extricated from the long day the gra
Nobody paid any attention to Hale; no one seemed to be carrying a Messenger. He deposited one of his cards carefully on the top of a little basket and moved on, with his bitten nails and his inky fingers, alone. He only felt his loneliness after his third gin; until then he despised the crowd, but afterwards he felt his kinship. He had come out of the same streets, but he was condemned by his higher pay to pretend to want other things, and all the time the piers, the peepshows pulled at his heart. He wanted to get back—but all he could do was to carry his sneer along the front, the badge of loneliness. Somewhere out of sight a woman was singing, ‘When I came up from Brighton by the train’: a rich Guinness voice, a voice from a public bar. Hale turned into the private saloon and watched her big blown charms across two bars and through a glass partition.
She wasn’t old, somewhere in the late thirties or the early forties, and she was only a little drunk in a friendly accommodating way. You thought of sucking babies when you looked at her, but if she’d borne them she hadn’t let them pull her down: she took care of herself. Her lipstick told you that, the confidence of her big body. She was well-covered, but she wasn’t careless; she kept her lines for those who cared for lines.
Hale did. He was a small man and he watched her with covetous envy over the empty glasses tipped up in the lead trough, over the beer handles, between the shoulders of the two serving in the public bar. ‘Give us another, Lily,’ one of them said and she began, ‘One night—in an alley—Lord Rothschild said to me.’ She never got beyond a few lines. She wanted to laugh too much to give her voice a chance, but she had an inexhaustible memory for ballads. Hale had never heard one of them before. With his glass to his lips he watched her with nostalgia: she was off again on a song which must have dated back to the Australian gold rush.
‘Fred,’ a voice said behind him, ‘Fred.’
The gin slopped out of Hale’s glass on to the bar. A boy of about seventeen watched him from the door—a shabby smart suit, the cloth too thin for much wear, a face of starved intensity, a kind of hideous and unnatural pride.
‘Who are you Freding?’ Hale said. ‘I’m not Fred.’
‘It don’t make any difference,’ the boy said. He turned back towards the door, keeping an eye on Hale over his narrow shoulder.
‘Where are you going?’
‘Got to tell your friends,’ the boy said.
They were alone in the saloon bar except for an old commissionaire, who slept over a pint glass of old and mild. ‘Listen,’ Hale said, ‘have a drink. Come and sit down over here and have a drink.’
‘Got to be going,’ the boy said. ‘You know I don’t drink, Fred. You forget a lot, don’t you?’
‘It won’t make any difference having one drink. A soft drink.’
‘It’ll have to be a quick one,’ the boy said. He watched Hale all the time closely and with wonder: you might expect a hunter searching through the jungle for some half-fabulous beast to look like that—at the spotted lion or the pygmy elephant—before the kill. ‘A grape-fruit squash,’ he said.
‘Go on, Lily,’ the voices implored in the public bar. ‘Give us another, Lily,’ and the boy took his eyes for the first time from Hale and looked across the partition at the big breasts and the blown charm.
‘A double whisky and a grape-fruit squash,’ Hale said. He carried them to a table, but the boy didn’t follow. He was watching the woman with an expression of furious distaste. Hale felt as if hatred had been momentarily loosened like handcuffs to be fastened round another’s wrists. He tried to joke, ‘A cheery soul.’
‘Soul,’ the boy said. ‘You’ve no cause to talk about souls.’ He turned his hatred back on Hale, drinking down the grape-fruit squash in a single draught.
Hale said, ‘I’m only here for my job. Just for the day. I’m Kolley Kibber.’
‘You’re Fred,’ the boy said.
‘All right,’ Hale said, ‘I’m Fred. But I’ve got a card in my pocket which’ll be worth ten bob to you.’
‘I know all about the cards,’ the boy said. He had a fair smooth skin, the faintest down, and his grey eyes had an effect of heartlessness like an old man’s in which human feeling has died. ‘We were all reading about you,’ he said, ‘in the paper this morning,’ and suddenly he sniggered as if he’d just seen the point of a dirty story.
‘You can have one,’ Hale said. ‘Look, take this Messenger. Read what it says there. You can have the whole prize. Ten guineas,’ he said. ‘You’ll only have to send this form to the Messenger.’
‘Then they don’t trust you with the cash,’ the boy said, and in the other bar Lily began to sing, ‘We met—’twas in a crowd—and I thought he would shun me.’ ‘Christ,’ the boy said, ‘won’t anybody stop that buer’s mouth?’
‘I’ll give you a fiver,’ Hale said. ‘It’s all I’ve got on me. That and my ticket.’
‘You won’t want your ticket,’ the boy said.
‘I wore my bridal robe, and I rivall’d its whiteness.’
The boy rose furiously, and giving way to a little vicious spurt of hatred—at the song? at the man?—he dropped his empty glass on to the floor. ‘The gentleman’ll pay,’ he said to the barman and swung through the door of the private lounge. It was then Hale realized that they meant to murder him.
‘A wreath of orange blossoms,
When next we met, she wore;
The expression of her features
Was more thoughtful than before.’
The commissionaire slept on and Hale watched her from the deserted elegant lounge. Her big breasts pointed through the thin vulgar summer dress, and he thought: I must get away from here, I must get away: sadly and desperately watching her, as if he were gazing at life itself in the public bar. But he couldn’t get away, he had his job to do: they were particular on the Messenger. It was a good paper to be on, and a little flare of pride went up in Hale’s heart when he thought of the long pilgrimage behind him: selling newspapers at street corners, the reporter’s job at thirty bob a week on the little local paper with a circulation of ten thousand, the five years in Sheffield. He was damned, he told himself with the temporary courage of another whisky, if he’d let that mob frighten him into spoiling his job. What could they do while he had people round him? They hadn’t the nerve to kill him in broad day before witnesses; he was safe with the fifty thousand visitors.
‘Come on over here, lonely heart.’ He didn’t realize at first she was speaking to him, until he saw all the faces in the public bar grinning across at him, and suddenly he thought how easily the mob could get at him with only the sleeping commissionaire to keep him company. There was no need to go outside to reach the other bar, he had only to make a semicircle through three doors, by way of the saloon bar, the ‘ladies only’. ‘What’ll you have?’ he said, approaching the big woman with starved gratitude. She could save my life, he thought, if she’d let me stick to her.
‘I’ll have a port,’ she said.
‘One port,’ Hale said.
‘Aren’t you having one?’
‘No.’ Hale said, ‘I’ve drunk enough. I mustn’t get sleepy.’
‘Why ever not—on a holiday? Have a Bass on me.’
‘I don’t like Bass.’ He looked at his watch. It was one o’clock. His programme fretted at his mind. He had to leave cards in every section: the paper in that way kept a check on him; they could always tell if he scamped his job. ‘Come and have a bite,’ he implored her.
‘Hark at him,’ she called to her friends. Her warm port-winey laugh filled all the bars. ‘Getting fresh, eh? I wouldn’t trust myself.’
‘Don’t you go, Lily,’ they told her. ‘He’s not safe.’
‘I wouldn’t trust myself,’ she repeated, closing one soft friendly cowlike eye.
There was a way, Hale knew,
‘Where shall we go, Sir Horace? To the Old Ship?’
‘Yes,’ Hale said. ‘If you like. The Old Ship.’
‘Hear that,’ she told them in all the bars, the two old dames in black bonnets in the ladies, the commissionaire who slept on alone in the private, her own half dozen cronies. ‘This gentleman’s invited me to the Old Ship,’ she said in a mock-refined voice. ‘Tomorrow I shall be delighted, but today I have a prior engagement at the Dirty Dog.’
Hale turned hopelessly to the door. The boy, he thought, would not have had time to warn the others yet. He would be safe at lunch; it was the hour he had to pass after lunch he dreaded most.
The woman said, ‘Are you sick or something?’
His eyes turned to the big breasts; she was like darkness to him, shelter, knowledge, common sense; his heart ached at the sight; but, in his little inky cynical framework of bone, pride bobbed up again, taunting him, ‘Back to the womb. . . be a mother to you. . . no more standing on your own feet.’
‘No,’ he said, ‘I’m not sick. I’m all right.’
‘You look queer,’ she said in a friendly concerned way.
‘I’m all right,’ he said. ‘Hungry. That’s all.’
‘Why not have a bite here?’ the woman said. ‘You could do him a ham sandwich, couldn’t you, Bell,’ and the barman said, Yes, he could do a ham sandwich.
‘No,’ Hale said, ‘I’ve got to be getting on.’
—Getting on. Down the front, mixing as quickly as possible with the current of the crowd, glancing to right and left of him and over each shoulder in turn. He could see no familiar face anywhere, but he felt no relief. He thought he could lose himself safely in a crowd, but now the people he was among seemed like a thick forest in which a native could arrange his poisoned ambush. He couldn’t see beyond the man in flannels just in front, and when he turned his vision was blocked by a brilliant scarlet blouse. Three old ladies went driving by in an open horse-drawn carriage: the gentle clatter faded like peace. That was how some people still lived.
Brighton Rock by Graham Greene / Mystery & Detective / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes