Lawyer's Reviews > Brighton Rock

Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
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's review
Dec 07, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 20th-century, crime, good-and-evil
Read from December 01 to 05, 2011 — I own a copy , read count: 1

Graham Greene's "Brighton Rock" is classified as one of his entertainments as opposed to his more serious works. But make no mistake about it, "Brighton Rock" gives the reader plenty to ponder, if you consider it more than the thriller as many have treated it.

Brighton Rock is that stick candy embedded with the letters "Brighton." As the confection diminishes, the letters remain clearly legible. Although the book may bear the name of a popular confection, there's nothing sweet about the story Greene tells.

The racetrack and gambling gangs that operated prominently during the 1920s and 1930s are the villains of the piece here. "Brighton Rock" actually ties into Greene's earlier entertainment, "This Gun for Hire." There, a gang leader named Kite is killed off. An unlikely seventeen year old, Pinkie Brown, takes over leadership of the group, Kite having taken him under his wing in earlier days.

Too young to be diagnosed as an anti-social personality, if you want to apply the Diagnostic Services Manual in a correct manner, "Pinkie" certainly fits all the criteria. He sets out to avenge Kite's death and targets Charles Hale, a journalist responsible for a series of articles that exposed Kite's criminal activities.

The action at Brighton begins with Charles Hale knowing he's going to die. He's spotted Pinkie and the crew. Hale's only chance is to latch on to someone as a witness in the hopes that Pinkie and the boys won't do him in with a witness present.

Hale's at Brighton as part of a newspaper circulation promotion. In addition to being a reporter, he's the paper's character Kolley Kibber. He's dispatched about the circulation area with a sheath of cards advertising the paper, distributing them through the area. Anyone finding one of the cards, presenting it to Kibber wins a cash prize from the paper.

Today's PR route put Hale and Pinkie Brown on a collision course. Hale latches on to a larger than life good time girl named Ida Arnold, inviting her to dinner. But Ida insists on having a wash prior to going to dinner.

In the few moments Ida takes in the loo, Hale vanishes. It's only days later that Ida sees a newspaper photograph of her prospective dinner date with a story he had been found dead beneath one of the piers. Ida immediately suspects something's not quite right, although the inquest showed Hale died of natural causes.

Ida emerges as the heroine who sets wrong to right. She believes in right and wrong. So, if she's had a little fun along the way with a man or two, or three or more, well, it's only human nature, just a bit of fun. Surely, God forgives something that's only human nature.

Pinkie, on the other hand was raised Roman. He knows about good and evil. He believes in Hell and damnation. However, Hell is simply something you need to worry about when you die. In the meantime,you do what's necessary to make your way in the world. As for human nature, Pinkie finds it abhorrent. He witnessed his Mum and Da practice their weekly Saturday night exercise of human nature from the time he was a wee lad. The ladies don't really interest him.

Graham plays Roman Catholicism off against secular morality. While Pinkie might have been an altar boy at one point, Ida's more interested in seances and Quija boards.

But when it comes to covering up a crime, Pinkie's not to be outdone when it comes to being cautious. Even though that inquest showed Hale died of natural causes, one of his mates left a Kolly Kibbler card at Snow's Tea House. Poor Spicer,a good man. But he'll have to go.

Then there's Rose, the young woman who works at Snow's. She found the Kibber card under a tablecloth. She knows the man who left it wasn't Kibber. Pinkie must do something about her. Ah, why he can marry her. A spouse can't give evidence against her husband. His lawyer told him so.

Rose is Roman, too. She's got it figured that Pinkie has his faults, but he's the only husband she's likely to get. So when he proposes, Rose is ready to be a wife and mother, though she may be living in mortal sin.

But for all Pinkie's machinations, Ida is always on his trail. When she realizes that Pinkie's not only taking himself down fool's road, but also an innocent girl, Ida must turn wrong to right and save Rose in the bargain.

Graham Greene plots many a twist and turn. Murder will out. It's just a matter of how to get there.

Pinkie's lawyer, discussing the situation in which Pinkie finds himself says, "This is Hell, we're not out of it." But for Pinkie, Hell is just the room he's been accustomed to living in throughout life. He doesn't have to worry about it until he dies.

Graham Greene was one of those authors who seemed to have a natural instinct for what made good cinema. "Brighton Rock" is no exception. The 1946 version starring a young Richard Attenborough can't be beat. Neither can Greene's little entertainment from which it was drawn.

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