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4.0 out of 5 stars He Brings The War to England With Him, 7 July 2011
This review is from: The Confidential Agent: An Entertainment (Vintage Classics) (Paperback)
"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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