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on 11 February 2015
Written in six weeks whilst popping Benzedrine – the popular stimulant of the period and James Bond’s drug of choice – The Confidential Agent, as the author explains in the foreword to this edition, was written as an Entertainment solely for the purpose of making money for Greene’s family whilst he was going to be away in the army. The story concerns an agent of a foreign country called ‘D.’ who is travelling to England to obtain coal in order to stop his side from losing the civil war, pursued by nefarious agents of the other side who will stop at nothing etc. It’s a suspenseful spy story, without too many demands on the reader, and, as you would expect from Greene, well written throughout. The speed of composition doesn’t really show in the early chapters of the book, which are as well plotted and ingenious as most of Greene’s thrillers. Unfortunately the story reaches its high point about halfway through, and never really manages to capture the same excitement afterwards and it is only in the last third of the book that one gets the sense that he might be making it up as he goes along. The plot loses direction, and the ending isn’t thoroughly worked out. In any other writer’s hands this might have spelt disaster, but it is a mark of Greene’s astonishing skill that he still pulls it off, although not perhaps as well as he does in some of his better thrillers.
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In the late 1930's Graham Greene wrote a quartet of novels which share a brooding atmosphere and themes of betrayal, love and death. "The Confidential Agent" is probably the least effective of these novels (the others are "Stamboul Train", "A Gun for Sale", and "Brighton Rock"): the characterisation is relatively weak, and the storyline is thin and meandering. The book is still worth reading though to get a feel for the atmosphere of the period and, even on less than sparkling form, Greene still has something to teach us about writing well.
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on 13 January 2008
Here is what the author says about his novel:
"`The Confidential Agent' was written in six weeks in 1938 after my return from Mexico. The Spanish Civil War furnished the background...I was struggling then through `The Power and the Glory', but there was no money in the book as far as I could foresee. Certainly my wife and two children would not be able to live on one unsaleable book...so I determined to write another "entertainment" as quickly as possible in the mornings, while I ground on slowly with `The Power and the Glory' in the afternoons.
The opening scene between two rival agents on the cross-channel steamer--I called them D. and L. because I did not wish to localize their conflict--was all I had in mind, and a certain vague ambition to create something legendary out of a contemporary thriller: the hunted man who becomes in turn the hunter, the peaceful man who turns at bay, the man who has learned to love justice by suffering injustice. But what the legend was to be about in modern terms I had no idea.
I fell back for the first and last time in my life on Benzedrine. For six weeks I started each day with a tablet, and renewed the dose at midday. Each day I sat down to work with no idea of what turn the plot might take and each morning I wrote, with the automatism of a planchette, two thousand words instead of my usual stint of five hundred words. In the afternoons `The Power and the Glory' proceeded towards its end at the same leaden pace, unaffected by the sprightly young thing who was so quickly overtaking it.
`The Confidential Agent' is one of the few books of mine which I have cared to reread--perhaps because it is not really one of mine. It was as though I were ghosting for another man. D., the chivalrous agent and professor of Romance literature, is not really one of my characters, nor is Forbes, born Furtstein, the equally chivalrous lover. The book moved rapidly because I was not struggling with my own technical problems: I was to all intents ghosting a novel by an old writer who was to die a little before the studio in which I had worked was blown out of existence. All I can say as excuse, and in gratitude to an honoured shade, is that `The Confidential Agent' is a better than Ford Madox Ford wrote himself when he attempted the genre in `Vive Le Roy'".
From `Ways of Escape', pp.69-71
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on 11 October 2014
The Confidential Agent is one of Greene’s early novels, and you can tell – in fact, the author himself was displeased with it that he wanted to publish it under a pseudonym, although it went on to get decent reviews. I can see why – it’s pretty good, on the upper side of average, and for any other writer would threaten to be one of their better novels. Sadly, the case is different for Greene – his output was of such a high quality that this is overshadowed by his best.

It might not be as memorable as some of the author’s other work, but there are still plenty of reasons to pick up a copy, especially if you’re already a fan of Greene’s – the characterisation is pretty good, and the story-line has plenty in it to interest readers of all kinds of novels, although it obviously has an edge if you’re a reader of espionage.

In fact, one of the most notable points about the book is that it was written over the course of six weeks, in a rush of Benzedrine – a little like Jack Kerouac was rumoured to do during the creation of On the Road, although I saw a museum exhibition that dismissed that as a fallacy. Still, the book doesn’t exactly feel rushed, and if anything it’s amazing that he managed to get so many words down over such a short period of time – I know that I wouldn’t be able to do it.

But overall, I stand by my initial observations – there are better Graham Greene books on the market, and I’d be doing him a disservice if I recommended this one and then someone went out to buy a copy and felt disappointed. There are just better introductions to his work, like The Quiet American and Our Man in Havana.
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on 30 March 2015
Came quickly.Good condition V. Satisfied.
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on 3 July 2006
This was my first foray into Grahem Greene's works after reading how his prose provided the backdrop for some of Ian Fleming's embroyinic Bond ideas. At first, the language and style are difficult to adjust to given that it was written in the earlier part of the 20th Century, but once you do, the mood, style and pace bring the whole work alive.

D. the main character, is shot full of melancholy, self-pity and paranoia, skulks round a brooding England, aware that the beauty of his first impressions are not so far away from the menacing subterfuge of his own country enveloped in civil war.

The book is short, and picks up pace towards its very Bond-esque, romatic ending.
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"The Confidential Agent," (1939) is an early-career British crime drama/thriller by much honored twentieth century English author/screen writer Graham Greene (The Third Man.,The End Of The Affair (Vintage Classics) ). The book is set in England, a country then close to the start of World War II, whether it was aware of it or not: the so-called "Phony War" would break out in September, 1939.

Denard, the otherwise unnamed protagonist of CONFIDENTIAL AGENT is a Spanish academic who has done some distinguished work in his field. But he is now acting as the confidential agent of the liberal Spanish government, then embroiled in struggle against right-wing rebels led by the fascist Francisco Franco: a smaller but no less intense war, on the eve of World War II. That war, on the Iberian Peninsula, has come to be known as the Spanish Civil War. It deeply appealed to left-wingers all around the globe, who went there to man whole brigades - the American one was known as the Abraham Lincoln--in the early armed struggle against fascism. However, the confidential agent has been sent to the United Kingdom, then still at peace, to try to buy desperately-needed coal for the citizens of his home country, and its armies. He will bring his war with him, as the fascists send agents to try to prevent his successful purchase. And, probably, needless to say, the fascists will play dirty. Also, perhaps needless to say, this being an early Greene work, the confidential agent, widowed when the fascists mistakenly executed his wife, will meet a girl, Rose Cullen, daughter of one of the most powerful mine owners in the land.

Graham Greene (1904-1991) was one of the most illustrious British writers of the 20th century. He enjoyed a very long life, most of the century, and a very long, prolific writing career, during which he gave us The Power and the Glory (Vintage Classics), and Our Man In Havana: An Introduction by Christopher Hitchens (Vintage Classics) among others. These four books mentioned, as many others of Greene's prolific works, were made into notable films. So was Confidential Agent [DVD] [1945] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC], starring Charles Boyer and Lauren Bacall.

The author's books were very well-written, highly literate; greatly honored; much praised by the critics, and enjoyed a wide readership, frequently being best sellers. The writer was also one of the better-known Catholic converts of his time; many of his thrillers, as this one, deal with Catholic themes of guilt and redemption. He created vivid characters with internal lives; they faced struggles and doubt. Sometimes his characters despaired, or suffered world-weary cynicism - they were always self-aware. But Greene always created a tight thriller, in a lean, realistic style that boasted almost cinematic visuals. If you've never read him before, you really might like his work, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend starting here. This early book does not represent Greene in top form, it's a little thin, a little predictable, and it's hard to find today. Might as well start with something more entertaining, likeThe Comedians, OUR MAN IN HAVANA, or Travels With My Aunt (Vintage Classics).
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on 24 March 2011
My first Grahem Greene novel and despite being from a different era of spy novels that i normally read i enjoyed it. Due to my job i tend to get CD novels and play them in the van between jobs. This was being read by Tim Pigott Smith who read it brilliantly. Except Sasha Baron Cohen had based his character "Borat" on Tim's interpretation of D's voice and every time D said Yes....... All i could see was Borat with his Tash and suit! Wished also that D could of lost it and raged through the UK like a madman ;-))
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