Late Graham Greene...he's never a writer who gives a strong sense of place but he seems more uncomfortable than usual in the milieu of seventies Soho, and much of the action takes place in gentlemen's clubs that must already have been relics when he was writing the book. A while ago I read a comment somewhere to the effect that Greene initiated a kind of professionalisation of the literary novel (I am probably garbling it hopelessly) which I take to mean that he substituted a craftsman's proficiency for the vaulting ambition of the artist. His prose is polished to a gleam, he supplies the requisite moral ambiguity, but does his work have the scope of take the risks to say something deep or penetrating about life?
Even if it is the case that he is the father of the lack of ambition that seems to afflict modern novelists, The Human Factor is an excellent sabotage of the Ian Fleming myth of the spy, offering instead the civil service mundanity of most intelligence work. In some respects it reminded me of John Banville's fictionalised version of Anthony Blunt's life - The Untouchable. In other respects it's a morose counterpart to Our Man In Havana, but either way, it's among the best of Greene's novels.