The Man Within was Graham Greene's first published book, and a big best seller back in 1929. He was very young when he wrote it, 25 years old,and you can feel it, especially in the love scenes, but heck, it's still Graham Greene, and he writes like a god. All the elements that appear in his later, more famous books--great plot, lush description, beautifully turned sentences, themes of love and God and faith and betrayal, of struggles with the dark side of human nature, they're all here.
A young man called Andrews has ratted on his friends, a gang of smugglers. He hides out from them in the first place he can find, an isolated cottage. A beautiful and saintly girl lives there and gives him shelter. He falls in love with her. She urges him to do the right thing, to go to court and testify against the smugglers.
Since this is Greeneland, everything is in shades of gray; the man he has betrayed is actually the only man who has ever been good to him, a kind of father figure. And Andrews is no hero; he didn't rat on his gang because they were criminals, he ratted on them because they treated him like he was a nobody. And nobody wants these men to go to jail; the townspeople, the police, and the courts are rife with corruption.
Throughout the book, Andrews continually steps outside himself to question his motives and to struggle against his baser instincts. As the quote by Sir Thomas Browne says, "There's another man within me that's angry with me."
The Man Within begins as a standard Hollywood gangster movie, and ends as a soul-searing story of redemption. It's not The Heart of the Matter, it's not The End of the Affair, but it is a bit like going back in a time machine and seeing the first glimmerings of what turned out to be a world-straddling, God-given talent.