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The Third Man and The Fallen Idol

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,977 ratings  ·  191 reviews

The Third Man is Graham Greene's brilliant recreation of post-war Vienna, a 'smashed dreary city' occupied by the four Allied powers. Rollo Martins, a second-rate novelist, arrives penniless to visit his friend and hero, Harry Lime. But Harry has died in suspicious circumstances, and the police are closing in on his associates...

The Falle
Paperback, 130 pages
Published 2005 by Vintage Classics (first published 1949)
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Jan 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller, classic, mystery
The Vintage Classics features the two brilliant stories!

The edition I read had an introduction by Ian Thompson. This introduction is insightful but it revealed the plot and climax of both the stories as did the respective prefaces by the author, so I strongly suggest that you come back to these after reading the stories.

The Third Man
The Third Man was not supposed to be published as a book; Greene wanted to write a screenplay for a movie. The author wrote the story to create characterization,
Megan Baxter
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a slim little book, but the two stories in it pack quite a wallop. One, is, of course, the more famous, the basis for The Third Man movie. The other was also made into a movie, but is not as well known.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Aug 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Graham Greene fans
Carol Reed's The Third Man ranks among my favourite noir films. To a large extent, this is because of its stunningly atmospheric black-and-white cinematography (I just love those ruins and shadows...), but it's also because there's something quite compelling about the story about a Brit who is invited to post-war Vienna by a friend, only to discover that said friend is dead and may have been involved in a rather nasty racket. That story was written by Graham Greene, and was published by Penguin ...more
Nancy Oakes
both stories are excellent and I loved them both. Graham Greene is a master storyteller, and is a genius at characterization - and from what I can see, much more about people than plot. It is just a crying shame that he's not as widely read as he should be.

I'll be linking this post directly to my reading journal, since I wrote about this book and The Ministry of Fear together. So read on:
It is no surprise that The Third Man as a novel remains inchoate. It is a signpost, a germinating seed carelessly pitched in frustrated haste. Where does it lead, what will grow? The film’s images travel in any reader’s bloodstream. Cotten, Howard and Welles occupy the dialogue. Greene’s descriptions are wan and undeveloped. What then can possibly pierce a contemporary reader? The crux of The Third Man is the death of loyalty. Reason and Ideology may trade blows in a makeshift ring, governed in ...more
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
The first novella "The Third Man" originally meant to be seen rather than to be read was the 1949 British film while the second one "The Fallen Idol" first published as 'The Basement Room' in 1935, according to the author, was not intended to be the 1948 one (p. 101) and both directed by Carol Reed. I read them because its two-in-one copy was timely available; however, I found reading each a bit tough so, I think, we should read their synopses from Wikipedia, an introduction by Ian Thomson and t ...more
Dillwynia Peter
Feb 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
The Third Man & The Fallen Idol (formerly The Basement Room) share in common theme - being the basis for films directed by Carol Reed. Greene had to write a "story" before he wrote a script & this is the case of The Third Man. It was never meant to be published; therefore, there are interesting differences by the time the film was made. Our lead changes from English to American, the love interest from bland to beautiful and the end is much more dramatic and black under Reed's minor change (also ...more
Much preferred The Third Man to the shorter novella The Fallen Idol but that's just reader preference. Loved the dark, seedy atmosphere of The Third Man and the setting of Vienna after the war. For such a short novella there is everything a mystery/thriller could want. Excellent plot, a hint of romance a "true" villain and wonderful characterisation.

Fallen Idol had a touch of "Mrs Danvers" from Rebecca I felt. Didn't feel the story was quite long enough to bring those dark overtones to the fore
May 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story was written as a premise to the screenplay for the movie,and the movie came out before the book....both are excellent. See the film,and then read it.....Also enjoyed THE FALLEN IDOL.

I am a Graham Greene fan!
Michael Perkins
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First, if you have not seen the classic film noir, "The Third Man," with it's amazing cinematography of mystery and suspense and iconic performance by Orson Welles, then read no further. Do yourself a favor and rent it and treat yourself to one of the greatest films of all time.

If you have at least seen the movie, and preferably also read the novella (which was published a year after the film was released), then treat yourself to this brilliant analysis below comparing the two. I was attempting
Aug 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: graham-greene
I really like Greene and am not sure why I haven't read more of his work - it is something I must put right. After watching the film of 'The Third Man', I turned to this book which contains the original novella (amazingly, Greene wrote this just so that he could adapt it for the screenplay!) and another shorter story which was also adapted for a film directed by Carol Reed, 'The Fallen Idol'. I haven't seen the latter film as yet, but both stories are beautifully written with not a word wasted, ...more
Apr 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
Deservedly under the 'Vintage Classics' label, two of Green's 'written for filming' novellas. The Third Man, even without Orson Welles' incredible 'cuckoo clock' speech, paints a great picture of post-war Europe and its effect on the common man as well as the weakening of the ties between the Russians and the other Allied Forces. The compelling tale of contradictory witness statements of a death by being hit by a car, where one statement talks of a third man at the scene, which does not balance ...more
Karen Coles
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Love the way Graham Greene writes. He tells the story - no fuss, no nonsense - and tells it so well that you're there, in that time and place. Two very different stories in this volume, but both excellent.
Lorenzo Berardi
There seems to be a whole business about "The Third Man" which is still going on in Vienna long after the release of Carol Reed's movie based on a script by Graham Greene. A very peculiar sort of script: this novella.

If you walk around the majestic Viennese Ring or through the polished, Charlotte Russe-like Innere Stadt of today, you will come across a "Third Man Museum", could join a "Third Man Tour - in the footsteps of Harry Lime", get the chance of watching the actual movie at the Burg Kino
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
2.5 stars.

Maybe this wasn't the best choice of Graham Greene to start with, but I usually think that short stories are my best best when starting with an author. Unfortunately, my first outing with Greene fell somewhat flat for me.

The Third Man is a well-known film, and the story was actually written as a precursor to the script (the idea originally being planned as a film script). Greene felt he needed to write it in story form before writing a script, and that story formed the majority of this
Mieczyslaw Kasprzyk
Greene actually states that "The Third Man" was never intended to be read; it was written as a screenplay for the film and a basis on which to discuss how the plot should, or would, unfold. Despite this, it is a good read. Much of the story remains the same with only small differences here and there so we find ourselves on very familiar ground. Already, at the start, we have that sense of deja vu and yet, because it IS Greene, after all, the story maintains its hold on you and keeps you interest ...more
Chris Meigh
Dec 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed
My review is more for The Third Man, rather than The Fallen Idol which I didn’t care for.

Set in post-war Vienna, The Third Man concerns Rollo Martins who has come to the city to visit his long-time friend Harry Lime. Upon arrival he learns that there has been an accident and that Lime has died. Before long, Martins uncovers aspects of his death which are suspicious and goes around the city looking for witnesses to once and for all find out what happened to his friend.

Greene strikes again with hi
Carmilla Voiez
Aug 11, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime
This book contains two of Graham Greene's short(ish) stories that were made into films. The first is set in post-war Vienna occupied by Britain, the US, France and Russia. It is a satisfying thriller, although the surprise twist wasn't so surprising, most of the interest (both drama and humour) comes from the conflicted Rollo Martins. Although it was written simply as a stepping stone towards a screenplay, there is some wonderful imagery.

"... bowing her head against the wind, a dark question mar
Kenneth Iltz
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017-books
Before writing the screenplay for The Third Man, Graham Greene worked out the atmosphere, characterization and mood of the story by writing a novella. He wrote it as a source text for the screenplay and never intended it to be read by the general public. But, of course, it was published. Penguin Classics published it in paperback with the short story The Fallen Idol.

The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir directed by Carol Reed. It stars Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. The fil
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Third Man is quite a different beast to the film, but I liked it just as much. The Fallen Idol I didn't know; it's a sad and uncomfortable story about a small boy who will be affected for the rest of his life by events he doesn't properly understand.
Edgarr Alien Pooh
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
"Graham Greene's Third Man was written as a movie script. The Fallen Idol, while having been made into a movie, was not written as such. In fact, there are numerous differences between the book and movie.

Obviously, the movies of these two books were made many years ago but to read The Third man you get a real feel of an old black and white movie. The book is set immediately after World War 2 in Vienna, the town still divided into four quadrants - Russian, American, British and French.

Rollo Marti
Jun 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very atmospheric. The film was actually shot in war-torn Venice too.
Maureen Lo
Nov 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am beginning to be a fan of Graham Greene...
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three stars for Third Man and five stars for the incredibly distilled novella Fallen Idol.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 26, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
After reading The Third Man, or more specifically, the preface thereof, I was amazed to find out that Graham Greene had written the book just so he could have material from which to make a screenplay, and that he considered the original movie clearly better than the book. I found this a bit surprising at first as this was a solid book - very much a spy/detective novel with some twists and curveballs thrown in, though without the usual degree of moral ambiguity that you find in his other works li ...more
Jan 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone


Graheme Greene wrote this as a precursor to writing the script
to the famous film of the same title, a classic of the film noir.
It is a delicious read and a perfect little gem of a mere 98 pages.
The film script stays faithful to this book mostly.
The director Carol Reed's changes bettered his novel, Greene said.
And I have no complaints.
And Orson Welles added to the film script the famous lines
about the Swiss having only added the cuckoo clock to Western Civilisation.
Artistic collab
May 21, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw both the respective movies first. The Third Man was originally a movie before a novella, and The Fallen Idol a short story before a movie. I recommend, however, The Third Man novella and The Fallen Idol the movie. Those are the better of the pairs.
Fallen Idol is a darling tale about a boy who gets wrapped up in a murder his beloved Baines is wrapped up in, and The Third Man is one of Greene's pseudo-spy novels where ordinary men take up the role of detective--I love it! Both extremely ente
Feb 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, english-lit
Reading The Third Man made me want to rethink my previous dislike for Graham Greene, which was mostly based on reading The Heart of the Matter in high school and hating it. I would say I was biased in favor of The Third Man because I love the movie so much, but Greene’s responsible for that too, and both are wonderful: cynical, mysterious and dark, but not without humor. However, the other story in this collection of two short novellas, The Fallen Idol, brings me right back where I was before ...more
Sep 12, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Second rate Graham Greene, to be sure, but still quite entertaining. The quality of prose is a bit lacking in The Third Man, and it reads like the rushed source material that it is. Still, it works, despite a simplistic twist which would become commonplace a few years later.

The Fallen Idol is a bit better, especially in terms of language. There are some odd choices--flashing forward to the young protagonist 60 years later on his deathbed?-- that leave a strange aftertaste, but the story as a who
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Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer and critic whose works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene combined serious literary acclaim with wide popularity.

Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a “Catholic novelist” rather than as a “novelist who happened to be Ca

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