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Brighton Rock

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ISBN 9780099478478 moved to this edition.
A gang war is raging through the dark underworld of Brighton. Seventeen-year-old Pinkie, malign and ruthless, has killed a man. Believing he can escape retribution, he is unprepared for the courageous, life-embracing Ida Arnold. Greene's gripping thriller, exposes a world of loneliness and fear, of life lived on the 'dangerous edge of things'.


269 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1938

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About the author

Graham Greene

460 books4,863 followers
Particularly known novels, such as The Power and the Glory (1940), of British writer Henry Graham Greene reflect his ardent Catholic beliefs.

The Order of Merit and the Companions of Honour inducted this English novelist, short story writer, playwright, screenplay writer, travel writer, and critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world. Greene combined serious literary acclaim with wide popularity.

Greene objected strongly to description as a “Catholic novelist” despite Catholic religious themes at the root of much of his writing, especially the four major Catholic novels: Brighton Rock , The Heart of the Matter , The End of the Affair , and The Power and the Glory . Other works, such as The Quiet American , Our Man in Havana , and The Human Factor , also show an avid interest in the workings of international politics and espionage.

(Adapted from Wikipedia)

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Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,073 reviews6,805 followers
September 16, 2019
The story is set in Brighton, a Coney Island type beach resort a day-trip by train from London. Pinkie, a young man who is pure evil, is in control of a mob-like gang. It was never quite clear to me where the actual money comes from but it appears they are making money off the numbers racket or illegal slot machines. (The novel was published in 1938.)


Fred, another young man, distributes cards anonymously for a newspaper guessing game competition. Pinkie, the teenage sociopath, is hunting down Fred to stab him for somehow crossing the gang. Fred is desperately trying to hook up with a woman – any woman -- to keep him company so he can’t be stabbed in front of a witness. Doesn’t work – he gets stabbed and killed.

Ida, one of the women Fred had tried to befriend is shocked by Fred’s death and starts acting like a private investigator retracing Fred’s and Pinkie’s paths that day to give evidence to the police.

Pinkie the gangster even goes so far as doing a quickie marriage with a young waitress who knows too much (since a wife can’t testify against her husband). Ida is also trying to save the waitress (of barely legal marrying age) from the scumbag.


Pinkie, completely amoral, goes on to kill other members of the gang who were skimming money or knew too much about Fred’s killing.

There’s a Catholic theme, as in many of Greene’s novels. Both Pinkie and the waitress are Catholic and they talk about morality and the afterlife. The girl is devout but Pinkie is so disillusioned by life that he would just as well be damned.


This is one of Greene’s earliest novels (1938). Greene lived 1904-1991 and published novels and short stories until 1990. The title comes from a candy stick sold locally that has an image all the way through – I guess a metaphor for the evil of Pinkie.

Top photo, a street scene in Brighton, from condenast.cntraveler.com
Candy from www.foodsofengland.co.uk/
Photo of the author from NY Times.com
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,568 reviews55.6k followers
September 17, 2021
(Book 605 from 1001 books) - Brighton Rock, Graham Greene

Brighton Rock is a novel by Graham Greene, published in 1938 and later adapted for film in 1947 and 2010.

The novel is a murder thriller set in 1930's Brighton. The title refers to a confectionery traditionally sold at seaside resorts, which in the novel is used as a metaphor for the personality of Pinkie, which is the same all the way through.

There are links between this novel and Greene's earlier novel A Gun for Sale (1936), because Raven's murder of the gang boss Kite, mentioned in A Gun For Sale, allows Pinkie to take over his gang and thus sets the events of Brighton Rock in motion.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز هشتم ماه دسامبر سال 2002میلادی

عنوان: صخره برایتون؛ نویسنده: گراهام گرین؛ مترجم: مریم مشرف؛ تهران، ثالث؛ روایت، 1380؛ در 404ص؛ چاپ دوم 1388؛ شابک9789646404151؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده 20م

پسر هفده ساله‌ ای که نماینده ی «شر» است، بر اثر رویدادی، با دختری شانزده ساله به نام «رز»، که مظهر خیر است، برخورد می‌کند؛ پسر با تمام وجود، نیمه ی دیگر خود را می‌خواهد، یک چند از او می‌گریزد، سرانجام با او پیوند می‌خورد؛ چندی نیز او را دفع می‌کند، و عاقبت در او گره می‌خورد؛ از سویی، در برابر «رز و پسر»، «آیدا آرنولد» قرار دارد، که سمبل ارزش‌های خاکی، و خوشی‌های زمینی هست؛ «آیدا آرنولد»، کوشش دارد، آنچه خود آن را عدالت می‌پندارد، یک تنه در جامعه‌ ای تباه و فاسد، به اجرا درآورد؛

هر یک از قهرمانان داستان، به امری که بدان دچار شده، عمل می‌کند؛ پسر از نگاه خویش، وظیفه‌ ای را انجام می‌دهد، که از او خواسته شده، که همان جنایت است؛ این سرنوشتی است، که برای او تعیین شده، و اینکه آیا هر تلاشی، برای تغییر آن، به منزله ی نوعی سرپیچی و عصیان، در برابر حکم ازل نیست؟

پرسش دشواری که نویسنده در برابر خوانشگر قرار می‌دهد، به عبارتی چه کس مسئول است، و تصمیم‌ گیری درباره درست و نادرست، برچه پایه‌ ای صورت می‌گیرد؟؛ از نظر «آیدا آرنولد»، پاسخ به این پرسش چنین است «بر اساس عدالت، و رفتاری که آسیبی به دیگران نرساند»؛

اما او آسیب را به میل خود تفسیر می‌کند، و با اینکه هرگز اجازه نمی‌دهد، که هیچ چیز، حتی عرف و سنت، آزادی او را محدود کند، خود، آزادی «رز» را از او می‌رباید، و به جای او، درباره ی زندگی‌ ایشان تصمیم می‌گیرد؛ بخش بزرگی از رخدادهای داستان، روابط یک گروه گانگستری است، و طنز تلخ «گرین»، در این اثر، متوجه فساد در دستگاه اجرایی، و قضایی «انگلستان» است؛ سرمایه‌ داری روزافزون، همراه با قطبی شدن اقتصاد، بر آنست، تا گروه‌های کوچک «دزدان»، «کلاهبرداران»، و «آدم‌کشان» را، در گروه بزرگ «گانگسترها» جای دهد، و از این راه: پلیس، دولت�� و قانون را، در اختیار بگیرد

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 07/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 25/06/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Supratim.
231 reviews446 followers
January 15, 2017
A great story! Fine writing!

Let me begin by saying that this novel draws some materials from Greene's A Gun for Sale. Since I have not read this novel, I do not know the exact relationship between the two books, but I can tell you that this book can be read as a standalone.

The edition I read featured an introduction by Jim Coetzee - the introduction though insightful about Greene's writing and religious beliefs, revealed a bit too much about the plot. I would suggest that you read the story and later come back to the introduction.

The underworld in the seaside resort town of Brighton provides the plot for this story. Like most of the author's novels, this book also "bears the imprint of cinema" and Catholicism exerts a significant influence on some of the characters.

The story starts with the murder of Hale, a reporter who had also played the part of an informer for the Colleoni gang which led to the murder of Kite, a gang leader. Now Kite's protegee, Pinkie has taken control of the gang and kills Hale in revenge.

Throughout the story, the author has addressed Pinkie as the Boy. Pinkie is a young boy - unimposing, the author describes him as a narrow-shouldered boy, shabby in appearance, naturally he suffers from inferiority complex and desires the luxury and status of his arch-rival Colleoni. What makes a man (or boy) like him dangerous is the fact that he is completely amoral - he has no respect for love and loyalty - he can kill anyone who he deems as a threat, whether the threat is real or imagined means nothing to him, how loyal the person is to him has no effect on his decisions. Another fact which makes Pinkie different from the men in his gang is that he is not only a misogynist but abhors sex. important point about Pinkie - he is a Catholic with full faith in hell and damnation, he might not be properly educated but he can utter some Latin sentences. oh, for all his outward bravado, Pinkie can weep in fear when attacked by rivals.

Now we come to Rose - a mere child, lacking in maturity -- a weak character - the sort of person who is regarded as the ideal victim. She unwittingly becomes witness who can bring down Pinkie and his gang for Hale's murder and Pinkie ends up marrying her so that she can't testify against him. Pinkie has nothing but contempt for Rose yet he feels that Rose somehow "completes him" Pinkie and Rose are unified in their Catholic beliefs of hell and damnation. Both of them look down upon atheists as the latter are ignorant of their Catholic beliefs. Rose adamantly wants to be damned along with Pinkie, she does not care who or what Pinkie is, willing agrees to live in mortal sin for the sake of her husband - they both knew that their marriage is a sham. Alas, men like Pinkie have no value for such love and dedication.

Finally, my favourite character in this novel - Ida Arnold, demimondaine, gritty, secular, brainy. She had only met Hale just before his murder but once she found out about Hale's death, which the authorities ruled as natural she set off to investigate and soon arrived at the conclusion that it was a murder. Ida is a decent person who believes in right and wrong, fair play, has compassion for the less fortunate, won't exploit any human being but most importantly she believes in justice and retribution. Displaying the qualities befitting a detective - at least what we readers expect of our fictional detectives, Ida would plunge into her quest to win justice for Hale. Her repeated attempts to rescue Rose from Pinkie would be constantly thwarted by Rose herself. The poor girl felt nothing but contempt for this woman. I loved the way Ida would manipulate others to further her cause.

Ida is the strongest character in the novel, but as the critics say the story belongs to Pinkie and Rose.

The portrayal of the other characters is also commendable. All gangsters are not gun-toting desperadoes - they also have dreams, fear, empathy, true loyalty.

I would recommend this book to readers of good thrillers. This book is regarded as a thriller but it is much more than that.

I would end my review by saying that this novel features in both the top crime/mystery novel lists published by the British-based Crime Writers' Association and the Mystery Writers of America in the 1990s. Please find the link here - lists.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,101 reviews1,595 followers
August 10, 2022

Il protagonista di questo romanzo, pubblicato nel 1938 e considerato il primo romanzo del ciclo cattolico di Greene (Greene si convertì dal protestantesimo al cattolicesimo romano), è Pinkie, che, a dispetto del nome innocente, è uno spietato capobanda mafioncello, predisposto all’omicidio e al male in genere, antieroe per eccellenza, con l’idiosincrasia per il contatto fisico (sesso, ovviamente, incluso), credente e cattolico, ma alla sua maniera, creativa e fantasiosa: visto che da morto sarò punito per quello che ho fatto in vita, ora che sono vivo posso fare tutto il male che voglio.
A rendere il personaggio particolarmente affascinante è il fatto che ha solo diciassette anni.
E anche nel 1938 non erano poi tanti.
Pinkie beve solo latte.

Richard Attenborough è il protagonista Pinkie nella prima versione cinematografica del romanzo uscita nel 1948. La regia è di John Boultin e Greene collaborò alla sceneggiatura: non era molto contento del finale ‘addolcito’ per superare il visto di censura, ma era invece entusiasta dell’interpretazione di Attenborough, che aveva già portato il personaggio a teatro.

Accanto a Pinkie, c’è l’ingenua Rose, altrettanto e più credente, che lo ama e crede di essere riamata, che vuole redimerlo.
Rose è più giovane di lui, ha sedici anni, fa la cameriera, e accetta di sposarlo perché per la legge inglese una moglie non può testimoniare contro il marito: e visto che Rose lo ha visto uccidere Hale…
Chissà perché Pinkie non pensa di uccidere anche Rose, visto che per lui l’omicidio è all’ordine del giorno.
Invece, addirittura la compra: centoventi sterline ai suoi genitori (forse i personaggi più abbietti del lotto) e la bimba è sua.

Carol Marsh è Rose. Lui è Richard Attenborough/Pinkie Brown.

Hale è la miccia del racconto.
Anche lui fa parte della banda di delinquenti di cui Pinkie ha da poco preso il comando. Scappa da Londra a Brighton, località di mare per eccellenza del regno Unito (come se fosse la nostra Rimini), perché ha tradito l’ex capo della gang (**) e sa che Pinkie lo vuole morto.

Non riesce a salvare la pelle, ma prima di morire incontra Ida, del tutto estranea alla vicenda, donna di mezza età in carne e di buon cuore, che da quel momento giura di vendicare Hale smascherando Pinkie. E così facendo, salvare Rose.
Buffo, strano angelo vendicatore, questa Ida.

Il remake, sempre made in UK, è del 2010, firmato Rowan Joffe. Ida assume le magnifiche sembianze di Helen Mirren, Sam Riley è Pinkie, e Rose è interpretata da Andrea Riseborough.

La Roccia di Brighton non è una fortezza, e neppure un castello nella città famosa per il molo: è una specie di caramella dura (rock).
L’età dei personaggi principali apporta un vigore insolito al dilemma dei credenti.
Il thriller è denso solo nelle prime decine di pagine, poi prende il sopravvento l’aspetto religioso e morale.

Tocco d’epoca con la Vespa che Pinkie guida.

Non è tra i miei romanzi preferiti di Greene: troppa religione, e assenza di location esotica. Due fattori che non me l’hanno fatto amare come altri.
Ma per quanto fresco di conversione, cattolico novello, Greene si addentra subito in dilemmi non da poco: il libero arbitrio, la natura del peccato e della morale…
Alla fine non c’è redenzione per nessuno, né vinti né vincitori, solo umiliati e offesi.

** Sono fatti raccontati nel suo romanzo precedente, Una pistola in vendita (che, per la verità, nell’originale più che in vendita è in affitto).

Il pontile di Brighton.

Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,855 reviews1,888 followers
August 27, 2019
Book Circle Reads 144

Rating: 4.25* of five

The Publisher Says: In this classic novel of murder and menace, Graham Greene lays bare the soul of a boy of seventeen who stalks Brighton's tawdry boardwalk with apathy on his face and murder in his heart. Pinkie, the boy with death at his fingertips, is not just bad, he worships in the temple of evil, just as his parents worshipped in the house of God. Crime, in his dark mind, is a release so deep and satisfying that he has no need for drink or women or the love of his fellows. He is an astounding character, sinister and fascinating—"a chilling specimen of the Adolf Hitler type," in the words of J. M. Coetzee.

Originally published in 1938, Brighton Rock is a novel of profound psychological mystery and chilling suspense. This Graham Greene Centennial Edition features a new introductory essay by Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee.

My Review: Charles "Fred" Hale, aka newspaper columnist "Kolley Kibber," is in Brighton to hand out paper-chase prizes to loyal readers of his paper. He's also running as fast as he can from someone who means to kill him. Why? We aren't told. Who? That's made very plain within the first thirty pages. Well, there goes the suspense, right? Not right.

In a vain effort to live to fight another day, Hale hooks up with Ida, a blowsy pub-crawling broad with a heart of gold and a steely sense of right and wrong. Her trip to the public convenience to wash up a bit before her bit of fun with Hale allows the killer time enough to deal with Hale...permanently.

Ida, once she figures out the gentleman (!) who stood her up (and after she washed and everything!) in Brighton is the murder victim in her next morning's paper, determines that Hale will be avenged despite his lack of family, his murder being ruled a natural death, and her own complete lack of detective experience. The fun of the book, the bulk of the story, is in Ida circling closer and closer to the party we know to be the killer, and the multiple characters trailing in his wake slowly falling to his amoral, sociopathic self-preservation response. In the end, triumph changes Ida. The consequences of her victory over the forces of evil are such that she undergoes a sea change of feeling and desire. Justice never comes without a price. Never. Everyone involved in the story pays. Some with their lives.

Moralistic, yes; marvelously written, oh my yes! Greene's characters are, as in others of his work that I've read, mouthpieces for a worldview. He elevates them from the dreary, tiresome leadenness of Message Characters by imbuing them with a sense of humor as black as the world they inhabit, the world of carneys and racing touts and waitresses trapped forever in second-rate diners and gangsters whose souls are so dead to beauty that they can't see anything but violence as a solution to any and every problem.

It surprised me how often I laughed as I read on in this grisly, blood-soaked bagatelle. And yes, I meant "bagatelle" -- light, airy, almost inconsequential read that Brighton Rock is. I was completely delighted by the tone of the book, I was half in love with Ida, I was even sad for the killer and his parched, wounded soul.

A marvelous entertainment, then, and one whose substantial moral manages to keep itself underneath the story being told, supporting it. As it should be. Well made, worthwhile fiction. One expects nothing less from Graham Greene, no?
Profile Image for Fabian.
935 reviews1,527 followers
December 6, 2020
A near-perfect noir. The Cohen Bros. looked at this type of literature for the basis for "Fargo." Just like that movie, this book takes you inside a world of misfits and fragmented members of a clandestine group: very disorganized mobsters. The bad guys are protagonists & the heroine is (unlike the Frances McDormand character) a cross between Ignacious from "Confederacy of Dunces" & the Wife of Bath! Her old style dogma of enjoying life, no matter how bad a "Christian" this might make you, includes solving crimes just for the hell of it and for the sake of belonging to the side of Good. Pinkie then, is just the opposite: young, male, evil. He is complex in his Catholic mentality. He is doomed because despite his street savvy, he is not without his Hamlet-like search for inner peace of mind. He gets nothing, gets entangled as he tries to overtake the mob at such a green age.

I really dig the atmosphere of the novel. It rivals overrated Gatsby in its encapsulation of an antique age where characters breathed and plotted and lived. The description of the antique penny arcades and games on the pier, the cafes and mafiosos who linger there; the idiots and the innocent... its all too good to be true. The good guy (bad girl/experienced woman) fights the bad guy (innocence personified) by lingering around his digs & making things quite uncomfortable for him while preaching her pagan and carefree lifestyle. The Boy (as he is always referred to, almost in jest) thinks too too much, plots too many misdeeds and is selfish in his self-imposed Hell. He has a Catholic conscience & the woman does not. The woman wins!

The message is clear; but even though the novel works on two distinct levels (the plot is something Hollywood would definitely produce, while the implications of Catholic guilt and immorality highlight what the actual theme of the tale is) it is fast-paced, brilliant & often sublime. A total joy to read.
Profile Image for Steven Godin.
2,284 reviews2,153 followers
June 17, 2022

This seems to go under the radar somewhat when it comes to Greene's most popular novels read these days, but I thought it was great - probably my fave now. Pinkie Brown, the ill-educated and chilling young gangster - who is just a kid really - might have been centre to the piece, but it was a nosy parker, the snooping Ida Arnold who stole the show for me, as she went looking for justice after the man she spent a day with - the reporter and mob informer Fred Hale - winds up dead from a heart attack in which she suspects foul play. A stick of rock used as a murder weapon? That surely would be a first. Greene uses themes such as social inequalities, unemployment, Catholicism, the age old good versus evil and right versus wrong throughout the narrative, and in what turned out to be quite a gripping finale, left me thinking that despite Ida's good intentions towards Rose - Pinkie's timid younger girlfriend turned wife, who loves him but is also fearful of him - Brighton Rock doesn't really have any heroes. This read totally different from what I expected - which was a pre-war out-and-out crime novel as such - but it didn't turn out like that at all. Yes there are rival gangs in Brighton's criminal underworld out baying for blood, and blood is most certainly spilled, but the heart of the novel goes way beyond that. While one could argue that Greene was still refining his style, and that on a technical level his writing is better polished in something like The End of the Affair, it was certain characters here that really stood out more than in any other Greene novel I'd read, and will be remembered for a long time to come. Only second novel of the new year, and I'd be very surprised if Brighton Rock doesn't feature in my faves come the end of it.
Profile Image for Dave Schaafsma.
Author 6 books31.2k followers
June 11, 2021
"The sinner is at the very heart of Christianity. Nobody is so competent as the sinner in matters of Christianity. Nobody, except the saint"—Charles Péguy. This is the epigraph to Graham Greene's novel The Heart of the Matter (1951)

“It didn't matter anyway. . . he wasn't made for peace, he couldn't believe in it. Heaven was a word: Hell was something he could trust"—Pinky, in Brighton Rock

Brighton Rock is the name of hard sticks of candy that are traditionally mint-flavored, generally found at seaside holiday towns. In some towns, it might bear another name, but in Brighton, this candy is called Brighton Rock.

Brighton Rock is also the title of this earlier, 1938, Graham Greene book, which he describes as one of his “entertainments” versus what he called “novels,” thereby disrespecting the thriller and mystery genres he helped enrich. Greene loved darker noir writing, and he was good at writing these books, but here he meshes the brutal murder story with his beliefs in Catholicism. Maybe it might remind readers of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment for that reason.

The story is about Pinky Brown, a cruel and violent 17-year-old wannabe gangster who is also a Catholic. Crime, not drink or sex, is his primary vice, and he worships evil just as much as his parents worship God. He’s a psychopath, which would be the focus of many mid-century noir crime books, but the twist here is that we see Pinky’s pathology here partly in theological terms, as a guy who is not just crazy, but one who chooses sin. Theological noir!

The first line of the book, from the perspective of a man named Hale, grabs you right away:
"He knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him." Pinky murders, early on, marries a(n also Catholic) woman he terrorizes and doesn’t really love, in a civil, not church, ceremony; they both see it as an act of mortal sin. At various times they discuss their beliefs in light of the murder Pinky commits at the beginning of the story:

“But you do believe, don’t you," Rose implored him, "you think it’s true?"

"Of course it’s true," the Boy said. "What else could there be?" he went scornfully on. "Why," he said, "it’s the only thing that fits. These atheists, they don’t know nothing. Of course there’s Hell. Flames and damnation," he said with his eyes on the dark shifting water and the lightning and the lamps going out above the black struts of the Palace Pier, "torments."

"And Heaven, too," Rose said with anxiety, while the rain fell interminably on.

"Oh, maybe," the Boy said, "Maybe.”

Pinky and Rose come from the terrible poverty of the 1930s Brighton slums and they desperately want to escape it in any way. So there are also class dimensions to this story that are interesting; it’s a 1938 World Depression tale that almost makes sense of Hitler arising out of the financial woes of Germany.

“I'll tell you what life is. It's gaol, it's not knowing where to get some money. Worms and cataract, cancer. You hear 'em shrieking from the upper windows- children being born. It's dying slowly.”

No future awaits them except this:

“That was what happened to a man in the end: the stuffy room, the wakeful children, the Saturday night movements from the other bed. Was there no escape—anywhere—for anyone? It was worth murdering a world.”

This is a pretty gripping and visceral story of the slums of 1930s Brighton, submerged in the twisted Catholic beliefs of his damned main characters. Greene was influenced by Charles Péguy, a provocative socialist and Catholic writer, whom he followed for many years. A priest speaking to Rose in confession speaks like Péguy, "challenging God in the cause of the damned." Later, the whiskey priest in Greene's The Power and the Glory would further advance these ideas.

A lively non-believer, Ida, a chance acquaintance of Hale, wants to see justice is done, and she pursues that to a complicated end. She’s a great character, very likable, fun-loving, which is kind of relief from the intense anguish of Pinky and Rose, who are not very likable, though they are very interesting, in Greene’s capable hands.

Great writing, great book. The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair are my three Greene favorites, but this is right up there.
Profile Image for Richard Derus.
2,855 reviews1,888 followers
March 7, 2017
Rating: 4.25* of five

The Publisher Says: In this classic novel of murder and menace, Graham Greene lays bare the soul of a boy of seventeen who stalks Brighton's tawdry boardwalk with apathy on his face and murder in his heart. Pinkie, the boy with death at his fingertips, is not just bad, he worships in the temple of evil, just as his parents worshipped in the house of God. Crime, in his dark mind, is a release so deep and satisfying that he has no need for drink or women or the love of his fellows. He is an astounding character, sinister and fascinating—"a chilling specimen of the Adolf Hitler type," in the words of J. M. Coetzee.

Originally published in 1938, Brighton Rock is a novel of profound psychological mystery and chilling suspense. This Graham Greene Centennial Edition features a new introductory essay by Nobel laureate J. M. Coetzee.

My Review: Charles "Fred" Hale, aka newspaper columnist "Kolley Kibber," is in Brighton to hand out paper-chase prizes to loyal readers of his paper. He's also running as fast as he can from someone who means to kill him. Why? We aren't told. Who? That's made very plain within the first thirty pages. Well, there goes the suspense, right? Not right.

In a vain effort to live to fight another day, Hale hooks up with Ida, a blowsy pub-crawling broad with a heart of gold and a steely sense of right and wrong. Her trip to the public convenience to wash up a bit before her bit of fun with Hale allows the killer time enough to deal with Hale...permanently.

Ida, once she figures out the gentleman (!) who stood her up (and after she washed and everything!) in Brighton is the murder victim in her next morning's paper, determines that Hale will be avenged despite his lack of family, his murder being ruled a natural death, and her own complete lack of detective experience. The fun of the book, the bulk of the story, is in Ida circling closer and closer to the party we know to be the killer, and the multiple characters trailing in his wake slowly falling to his amoral, sociopathic self-preservation response. In the end, triumph changes Ida. The consequences of her victory over the forces of evil are such that she undergoes a sea change of feeling and desire. Justice never comes without a price. Never. Everyone involved in the story pays. Some with their lives.

Moralistic, yes; marvelously written, oh my yes! Greene's characters are, as in others of his work that I've read, mouthpieces for a worldview. He elevates them from the dreary, tiresome leadenness of Message Characters by imbuing them with a sense of humor as black as the world they inhabit, the world of carneys and racing touts and waitresses trapped forever in second-rate diners and gangsters whose souls are so dead to beauty that they can't see anything but violence as a solution to any and every problem.

It surprised me how often I laughed as I read on in this grisly, blood-soaked bagatelle. And yes, I meant "bagatelle" -- light, airy, almost inconsequential read that "Brighton Rock" is. I was completely delighted by the tone of the book, I was half in love with Ida, I was even sad for the killer and his parched, wounded soul.

A marvelous entertainment, then, and one whose substantial moral manages to keep itself underneath the story being told, supporting it. As it should be. Well made, worthwhile fiction. One expects nothing less from Graham Greene, no?
Profile Image for Michael.
Author 2 books1,324 followers
August 2, 2017
A lurid, compelling, and profound look at a small-time criminal enthralled with evil, the young woman he deceives, and the detective who hunts him down. Wonderfully chilling.
Profile Image for Lisa.
1,182 reviews
September 11, 2015
This book is a multi-layered and rather startling portrayal of gangster life in the thirties in Brighton, England. This is not a cheery read so be prepared to feel out of sorts.

It starts with 'Fred' Hale who knows he's to be killed but tries to keep someone by his side to prevent it happening - his chosen mate to this end is Ida who is a brassy sort but with a good sense of right and wrong.
When she discovers that the date she thought had stood her up has been found dead she suspects foul play and sets about finding the proof to bring someone to justice.

It's not easy though - Pinkie is the young leader of a gang who knows what happened to Fred and furthermore is hell-bent on making sure the truth does not surface...and if this means engaging the affections of a girl called Rose then so be it.

This book is beautifully written in that it captures Brighton at that time and the feelings of all the characters involved perfectly, but it does not make for pleasant reading.

It is a very sad depiction of what happens to people starved of love and affection. Greene shines a spotlight on ordinary people whose lives have sunk so low that all they can aspire to is violence and envy.

This book was brilliant and compelling all the way but it was not comfortable or happy at all. The characters were superbly drawn but difficult to like - even Ida who set herself in the role of heroine, well I'm not sure she achieved that at all...in the traditional sense! But then there's nothing traditional about Brighton Rock. It is unique - superb but horrid!

Profile Image for Jason Koivu.
Author 7 books1,199 followers
June 7, 2016
I'd just finished a book about 1940s/50s Cuba, in which Graham Greene is mentioned as having visited and enjoyed a place where "one could obtain anything at will, whether drugs, or women, or goats". Since I've been meaning to read more Greene, I figured now would be a good time for Our Man in Havana.

A couple days pass, things come up, apparently my memory is shit, and for some reason I start reading Brighton Rock. Hey, why the fuck not?! I'm an idiot...

This book has very little to do with Cuba. Zero actually. It's set in beach-resort south England in which some young hoods roll a newspaper man for his holiday money and have to spend the rest of the time looking over their shoulders, because some random and tenacious woman won't let the matter rest even though the police have dropped the case.

Greene created some great characters here. I wanted to wring their necks, the violent little brutes. His wastrel criminals remind one of Fagin's children from Oliver Twist, but with a touch more dimension to the focus gangster than say the Artful Dodger receives. It's that fold of character that makes you see Greene's creation as human, pitiably human.

At times the novel seems simplistic, especially to mystery readers, who easily can suss out the herrings and what seems like heavy-handed foreshadowing. But Greene should not be underestimated. His work is solid in Brighton Rock.
Profile Image for Zoeb.
148 reviews25 followers
December 19, 2018
'It's like those sticks of rock; bite it all the way down, you'll still read Brighton'.

Why, Graham Greene, why? Why do you always have to break my heart and take my breath away in one single stroke? I stepped into the murky world of 'Brighton Rock' with a sense of reluctance; I had heard glowing things about it from fellow readers and I wondered, after finishing 7 novels and loving every one of them to their bits: would this be the book that would let me down a little and get the first 4-star review that I would give to Greene? I was aware of these mixed feelings that some Greene fanatics have for his 1930s novels and I was, I admit, slightly skeptical.

And then, right from the first page, right from those opening lines that gripped me by my collar and plunged me into a dark, morbid world of murder and sin, of crime and guilt, of virtue and damnation, I knew that I was reading nothing less than a pitch-dark masterpiece; I was eating a piece of Brighton rock of the bitterest flavour and I could feel its hard, unyielding, unrelenting grit down my throat, almost choke the life out of me in the heart-pounding climax, before finally going down and leaving an unforgettable aftertaste of chocolate with 85% cocoa.

Yes that is how brilliant a noir classic it is, as Greene hands us, at first, the bare bones of an intense, dramatic and potent narrative: a man who dies one afternoon in strange circumstances, a woman who was the last person he had talked to, a young boy who may or may not have anything to do with his death and a girl who knew too much. And these four characters, with their arcs intersecting at ingenious levels, are all it takes for the master storyteller to weave a web of lies and inconvenient truths, of twisted love and toxic masculinity, of the incorruptible desire to do good and defeat evil and of the obstinate anger and hatred that brews venom in souls.

Greene makes us see this amoral, simmering world through his brilliantly carved and fleshed-out characters and surprises, even astounds us with a flawless balance of perspective. No other author, in my opinion, can be this adept at stepping into the shoes of each and every person in his narrative and seeing and reacting to the situation in a style that is his or her own to possess. If the book gives us a magnificently ruthless character for ages (I won't reveal anything in my review because even the slightest giveaway will rob one of the incredible pleasures that await discovery), it also gives us a rousing, endearing heroine for ages, who reminded me, in her warmth and determination to do good, so much of a similar one in an iconoclast film of crime and consequences that I wonder if the Coen Brothers read Greene too.

And then, it also gives us other characters in the fray, men and women doomed and destined to a life of damnation and dystopia and yet people with real lives, with aspirations, hidden dreams and hopes, so much that even as they might be an unsavoury, even unlikable bunch of pitiful freaks and cowards, the author makes their failings resonate with us so powerfully that we feel for them. Like his other works, 'Brighton Rock' is an uncomfortably intimate and staggeringly plausible portrait of a world, of a milieu of moral compromise and genuine warmth, of unfathomable depths of treachery and equally profound depths of honesty and compassion. It is like life, with all its grey shades and its not-too-dark corners.

And then, there is the writing. Lucid, crisp yet so, so beautiful; the spare wordplay and pointed allegories are so potent in their stark beauty that you are, at times, hit hard between the eyebrows and alternately moved and touched by the raw intimacy that resonates through Greene's prose. And we already know his mastery of nuance, his eye for the smallest, most sneakiest detail and ear for conversations crammed with layers of wit, tension and pathos. His Brighton is a city that comes alive in the night, with its quirky slot-machines, shops selling the eponymous Brighton rock, amusements for the mooning young couples and its unmistakable air of promiscuity, intoxication and sin that the writer, typically, must have himself found so alluring. The uneasy contrast between one character's pig-headed mindset and another's freewheeling, hearty goodness is where the writer, with his equal flair at metaphysical drama, locates his eternal battle between a Catholic idea of virtue and an atheist concept of good and evil. And somewhere, with pure trademark cheek, an Oujia board is thrown into the game.

I cannot recommend 'Brighton Rock' more highly enough. Suffice to say that, living upto its name, it will be hard to swallow in its almost poetic nihilism and there are many times when the overwhelming darkness, of the night and the dark truths it conceals, will get stuck in your gullet, refusing to let go. But as it finally settles down at the end of a total of 269 pages of blistering, burning brilliance, you will feel satiated, even cleansed.

Thank you, with all my heart, Graham Greene.
Profile Image for Algernon (Darth Anyan).
1,464 reviews927 followers
January 29, 2019

Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him. With his inky fingers and his bitten nails, his manner cynical and nervous, anybody could tell he didn't belong – belong to the early summer sun, the cool Whitsun wind off the sea, the holiday crowd.

The quintessential noir story: which one to pick? When I first started reading crime stories, I would point without hesitation at Chandler and/or Hammet. Much later, I settled on the French school, starting with Jean Gabin in "Quai de brumes" and ending with Truffaut's "Tirez sur le pianiste". But Graham Greene takes the game to a whole (higher) level. I started backwards with "The American", followed by "The Third Man", to finally find here, on the bracing seaside pier at Brighton, what 'noir' is all about. For the moment this crime story sits at the top of my favorite list

Her big breasts pointed through the thin vulgar summer dress, and he thought: I must get away from here, I must get away: sadly and desperately watching her, as if he were gazing at life itself in the public bar.

Despair, pain, implacable fate on one side of the balance. Hope, justice, kharma to restore the balance. Fred Hale is a walking corpse: a man whose past mistakes are catching up to him on a Sunday afternoon among a carnival crowd ( From childhood he had loved secrecy, a hiding place, the dark, but it was in the dark he had met Kite, the boy, Cubitt, the whole mob. ). The novel is not about him. It's about the eternal battle between good and evil, between angels and demons, between faith and cynicism.

The role of the angel is assigned to Ida Arnold, a brash, vulgar woman singing loud tunes in a bar for a drink more. She's had more than a fair share of hard knocks from life, and she hasn't been exactly saintly in her behavior. But she's a fighter, a pragmatist, a lover of the small pleasures of life, devoted and tenacious as a bulldog when one of her friends is in trouble, even if she has just met him.

'I don't like to see a fellow throw up the sponge that way. It's a good world if you don't weaken.'

Ida Arnold is the self-appointed sleuth who investigates the disappearance of Fred Hale when nobody else, including the police, seems to care.

As the devil we are presented with Pinkie - a seventeen years old boy who runs a mob of gangsters out of Brighton. It's a tough underworld, and Pinkie must be the toughest of them all to keep the gang running after Hale defects and after the old boss dies. Pinkie does this mostly through attitude, a short-fuse temper and a deft hand with a razor blade.

His own [nerves] were frozen with repulsion: to be touched, to give oneself away, to lay oneself open – he had held intimacy back as long as he could at the end of a razor blade.

Pinkie's future looks bleak when a bigger shark starts to muscle in on his territory, and when Ida Arnold begins to sniff around the murder of Fred Hale. From this point forward, every step Pinkie takes seems to be predetermined, decided by a higher power, already written in the Book of Fate.

Not a single false step, but every step conditioned by a pressure he couldn't even place.

What I find amazing about Graham Greene (beside his literary style) is the humanity of his symbols. Both Ida and Pinkie read like avatars of good and evil yet alive, real flesh and bone people, with all their little faults and sudden urges and unexpected moments of grace. Because this is, after all, a Graham Greene novel, and religion (Sin, Hell, Redemption & all that jazz) is an integral part of the story.

The questions of Sin and Redemption become a central part of the story when a third actor comes into the limelight. Rose, a waitress at a popular restaurant, even younger than Pinkie, may be the key witness to the murder, and both Ida and Pinkie are fighting to save her soul. Her portrait is a fine example of the magic of Greene's pen:

She had an immense store of trivial memories and when she wasn't living in the future she was living in the past. As for the present – she got through that as quickly as she could, running away from things, running towards things, so that her voice was always a little breathless, her heart pounding at an escape or an expectation.

I don't want to spoil the plot developments, but there's romance blooming in the strangest of places, and at the most inopportune times. Can Pinkie be saved? Or will he drag Rose down to the Abyss with him?

More than ever yet he had the sense that he was being driven further and deeper than he'd ever meant to go. A curious and cruel pleasure touched him – he didn't really care so very much, and all he had to do was to let himself easily go. He knew what the end might be – it didn't horrify him: it was easier than life.


Instead of the plot, I would like to continue with a few more words about style – something that makes Greene unique, alongside his ability to tackle the religious dilemma of the modern man (how to hold on to faith in a materialistic world). Many other writers are capable of catching the local flavor in snappy dialogue or clever similes. There's a lot of that in "Brighton Rock" : 'milky' stand for 'yellow' or coward; a 'polony' is a gangster's 'moll', and so on. But few other writers can write inner torment like Greene, or can throw away a line of poetry like diamonds scattered upon the sand:

The sun slid off the sea and like a cuttle fish shot into the sky the stain of agonies and endurances. (about a sunset)


A stranger: the word meant nothing to her: there was no place in the world where she felt a stranger. She circulated the dregs of the cheap port in her glass and remarked to no one in particular, 'It's a good life.' (Ida Arnold in a boozy mood)


He began to fear recognition and feel an obscure shame as if it were his native streets which had the right to forgive and not he to reproach them with the dreary and dingy past. (Pinkie going back to his childhood tenement row)


"People change," she said.
"Oh, no they don't. Look at me. I've never changed. It's like those sticks of rock: bite all the way down, you'll still read Brighton. That's human nature."
(Ida explaining to us the meaning of the novel's title, a sugar confectionery sold on the pier)


... he had the sense that somewhere, like a beggar outside a shuttered house, tenderness stirred, but he was bound in a habit of hate. (this is the end, my friends)


Finally, I highly recommend, after reading the book, to watch the 1948 movie version. Richard Attenborough nails the role of Pinkie, but all the rest of the cast are incredible in their roles, and Greene himself worked on the screenplay.
Profile Image for Bill.
877 reviews157 followers
February 6, 2017
A dark, wet & windy day (like today!) is probably the ideal time to stay indoors & listen to this BBC full cast audio version of Graham Greene's classic story Brighton Rock. I must admit that I really like this novel. I've probably read Brighton Rock too many times & I even enjoyed the 1947 & 2010 film versions. This audio adaptation & is well cast, & the only things missing are Greene's prose & one of my favourite closing lines of any novel I've ever read.
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,279 reviews21.3k followers
June 1, 2019
When I started reading this I thought to myself, ‘I bet he wanted this to be made into a film’ – and now I’ve checked and it was made into a film – twice, it seems – but after reading it there are things that make me think that it might not work as well as a film as it does as a novel.

The reason why is that we are often in the head of one of the characters at a time – basically seeing out of their eyes – and part of the mystery involved here is due to the limited perspective of the character who has been chosen at any one point in time to drive the narrative forward. The narration is omniscient – but directed through only one character’s eyes at a time. This means that whose eyes we get to see through in the novel tells us interesting things that wouldn’t be available to us if we happened to be in someone else’s head in that scene. So, Pinkie’s revulsion at Rose can only really be apparent to us because we are in his head. The gramophone he makes at one point is one of Chekhov’s ‘guns’ that never goes off in this novel.

Greene also makes it clear at one point that the reason the book is called Brighton Rock is because Pinkie is, like the sugar sweet of the same name, the same all the way through. But it would be too easy to think this meant that he is simply evil. To be honest, I spent a lot of this book thinking of Macbeth and “it will have blood, they say, blood will have blood”. I think it was very clever to have the boy and girl in this so very young – 17 and 16. There is an innocence to the two of them that is only possible in the very young. Even as they choose to be ‘bad’, and Pinkie is very bad, but still, there is a childlike innocence to him that is all black and all white in a world that is essentially all grey – and that makes some of the decisions that they make that would otherwise be difficult to ‘suspend disbelief’ over much more believable.

I was also reminded of an experiment that I read about years ago while reading this. They got some young man to walk into a university lecture hall and sit at the front of the room and then walk out again through the exiting crowd at the end. Except, he had to wear a Barry Manilow t-shirt. He was, unsurprisingly, mortified by the experience. The experimenters asked him what he believed people in the lecture hall would have thought, and he decided that all of them would have noticed his t-shirt and thought he was some sort of freak. The thing was, though, that when the experimenters did ask virtually no one had even noticed.

In large part this is one of those books where someone does one bad thing and then they have to do ten more worse things to ensure that no one finds out about the first bad thing – except, like the Barry Manilow t-shirt, maybe, if they didn’t try to cover it up, maybe no one would have noticed after all.

Of course, saying that does assume that the irrepressible Ida would be put off the scent, but even then, many of the improbably connections that led her to track down the bad guy in the end did seem to be only possible on the basis of the bad guy, ironically enough, doing everything he could to cover his tracks.

There are very strange inversions in this – not least with Pinkie being 17, the youngest member of the gang but still the guy in charge. Like I said earlier, I don’t think this would have worked as well if he was much older, but the other think I thought throughout this was that it was set in the 1950s, whereas it was actually written in the 1930s. Pinkie almost reminded me of Holden Caulfield, someone I just associate with being necessarily a ‘post-war’ teenager. Hmm. So Pinkie is a kind of cross between Macbeth and Caulfield…hmm. I also really liked his revulsion at sex and how that made him an interesting counterpoint to the big breasted Ida to whom sex was just one of life’s little pleasures and, if not actually meaningless, was also nothing to get too worked up over either – more than a handshake, perhaps, but less than a mortal sin too.

There was more going on in this book than I thought was going to be going on – it looks at first blush a bit light and simple, but really it plays with big themes like the nature of good and evil and the nature of compassion and our obligations to strangers.

I particularly liked the idea that Hale, at the start of the novel, is someone everyone ought to be looking for – since to ‘recognise’ him means you win a daily prize of ten pounds. And while this isn’t exactly incidental to the plot, this ‘financial’ reward wasn’t what ended up ‘catching the bad guy’ but rather his all too brief and very human connection with Ida.

I should read more Greene.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book448 followers
January 24, 2022
Graham Greene has many different faces, as I have discovered in reading his other novels, and Brighton Rock seemed to me to offer yet another side of a multi-faceted writer. Brighton Rock is a murder story, which follows the brief career of Pinkie, a seventeen year old who has taken over as leader of the mob after the murder of its previous leader, Kite. Pinkie is a paranoid who has obviously had a rough life and has learned the ways of the street. He is overconfident, cruel minded, and in over his head. He is a ruthless character.

Rose is a young girl who knows something she should not know, information that might threaten Pinkie. He needs to keep her close, so he pretends to woo her, and in her naivety, she believes. Her involvement with Pinkie leads her into places a young innocent should not go, and we see her struggle with her feelings and beliefs.

At one point in the story, Pinkie pushes a group of blind musicians off the roadside because they are blocking his way.

but he hadn’t realized they were blind, he was shocked by his own action. It was as if he were being driven too far down a road he only wanted to travel a certain distance.

What Greene seems to be saying in much of the book is that once we begin to depart into the path of evil, we find ourselves trapped on a road that has no exit.

As he so often does, Graham tackles the question of morality and sin, personal responsibility, and Roman Catholic doctrine through several of his characters: The ruthless Pinkie, the naive and innocent Rose, and the worldly but good-hearted Ida. He explores the difference between religion and morality and the nature of mercy. The surface of the tale might be rather simple, the underside, of course, is not. Greene is nothing if not complex and insightful.

Despite the depths Greene attempts to plumb, this is not his best work, from my point of view. I did not find a single character to relate to or invest in, and I even found the story tedious in spots. But, a lesser Greene novel is better than many another author’s best work, for he always has something of import to say. It is an early work, with the spark of genius skimming the surface and never truly reaching the heights that his later works do. Brighton Rock does not have the humor that underpins Our Man in Havana, the emotional impact of The End of the Affair, the character development of The Quiet American, or the philosophical intelligence of The Power and the Glory. I have come, in fact, to expect so much excellence from Greene that anything less than tremendous seems a letdown. I am still quite glad to have read this, and excited to see what his other novels that I have yet to read will have to offer.
Profile Image for Nancy Oakes.
1,914 reviews706 followers
November 14, 2017
Between the cover blurb and that amazing first line, I was fully expecting a crime novel here, but it didn't take too long before I discovered that this book goes far beyond the reach of a thriller and deep into the zone of existential and metaphysical complexity, turning it into a novel that I will never, ever forget.

Profile Image for Kelly.
878 reviews3,951 followers
January 9, 2009
"I know one thing you don't. I know the difference between Right and Wrong. They didn't teach you that at school."
Rose didn't answer; the woman was quite right: the two words meant nothing to her. Their taste was extinguished by stronger foods- Good and Evil. The woman could tell her nothing she didn't know about these- she knew by tests as clear as mathematics that Pinkie was evil- what did it matter in that case whether he was right or wrong?

That's pretty much the book right there.

This is a fun pulp fiction novel, layered over with Graham Greene's usual Catholic obsessions. He's always believed that Catholics experience the decisions of the world and the tawdry carnival of life (represented in this by Brighton's seediest underworld) in a fuller, more satisfying way than the rest of the world does. George Orwell wrote that Greene "appears to share the idea, which has been floating around since Baudelaire, that there is something rather distingue about being damned." I don't think that that's really the case. I think the argument is more that it is better to feel damned by everything you do, be obsessed with the feeling of sin, relish in it, need more of it, need more to rebel against, as Pinkie does, than to just feel tepidly, to accept everything as just "human nature," as Ida Arnold does, the mistress of temporal right and wrong. Although it is easy to laugh at Pinkie's thrashing about, and exaggerated, inexperienced sense of sin, its also equally easy to sympathize with him and his compatriots and their miserable place at the bottom of the heap that they will never, ever escape.

Good writing, by far the most readable, most widely accessible Graham Greene novel I have yet to read.
Profile Image for Lawyer.
384 reviews823 followers
December 7, 2011
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.

Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,648 followers
January 30, 2012
Greene's Catholic novels are amazing. His prose rips the scabs off humanity and the reader is left at once holding both the pain of sin and the healing of faith all at once. It doesn't matter if you are Catholic, Mormon, agnostic or an atheist ... Greene's struggles with faith and the ambiguities of existence are about as large a tribute to man as you are likely to find.
Profile Image for Dfordoom.
434 reviews101 followers
April 24, 2008
Graham Greene's Brighton Rock tells the story of a young leader of one of the infamous razor gangs in 1930s Brighton who murders a journalist and then finds that his attempts to avoid any possibility of arrest lead him into ever-increasing complications and violence. A woman who had befriended the journalist sets out to bring his killer to justice. This is a remarkably dark and pessimistic novel. It’s a crime novel, but Greene has other agendas as well in this book. Greene was a Catholic, but he was an interesting sort of Catholic. One assumes he gained some kind of comfort from his religion, and one assumes it gave him the strength to go on living after his early struggles with depression, boredom and obsessive thoughts about suicide, although sometimes it’s difficult to see that exactly the attraction was. Greene was fascinated by evil, and he was fascinated by the harm that religion could do, as well as the good. Pinkie, the teenage gangster who is the main character in Brighton Rock, is thoroughly evil, and it is a particular kind of Catholic upbringing that has made him evil. Pinkie is obsessed with guilt and disgust over sex, and when he feels the stirrings of sexual desire the guilt and disgust spill over into self-hatred and anger. Pinkie does not try to justify his actions, he does not try to pretend that he is a good person forced to do evil things. He welcomes his damnation, he glories in it. He is certainly offered the chance of redemption, but he struggles against it. Ida Arnold seems to represent the life force, she represents good without hypocrisy. Interestingly enough she is the most positive and decent character in the book, and she appears to have no religious beliefs. Like I said, he was an interesting kind of Catholic! In contrast to Pinkie’s horror of sex, Ida accepts sex as part of life and attaches no moral significance to it. The third main character is Rose, an innocent who becomes involved with Pinkie as a result of having been a witness to events that could implicate Pinkie in murder. Greene’s great strength as a novelist was that he was not only concerned with moral issues, he was capable of dealing with such issues in a complex way and without being tempted by simplistic explanations. Brighton Rock is an outstanding book by a great novelist.
Profile Image for Somethingsnotright.
31 reviews57 followers
September 4, 2019
I read this most recently a couple of years ago but I am desperately behind in my reviews and ratings. I have now fired my secretary and she is currently drowning her sorrows in Applaws on the kitchen floor and wondering where it all went wrong. Anyway...

Brighton Rock is an exquisitely and thoroughly sinister thriller. I have re-read it occasionally hoping against hope that I could trick it into revealing its secrets to me. But that is a fruitless exercise - they are just words, flawlessly selected and delicately placed on pages. A bit like scraping and pulling apart the Mona Lisa only to discover she is made of oil paint and canvas like every other painting in the world but still being no closer to why she is a masterpiece.

I think the very first paragraph gives a small clue as to the ingredients of Brighton Rock's special sauce / pixie dust. It begins, "Hale knew before he had been in Brighton three hours, they meant to murder him", juxtaposed with a description of the seaside town with its "early summer sun, the cool Whitsun wind off the sea, the holiday crowd." The dark and the light. The good and the evil. The carefree and the dreadful. Heaven and hell. Side by side. Brighton Rock is also a stick of bright pink candy with a message embedded all the way through it - just below the surface and inescapable. This is the violent gang culture in 1930s Brighton and Pinkie Brown.

Pinkie Brown is an astonishingly well written character. Ignore the movie depictions. The best imagining of Pinkie I ever heard was a young Johnny Rotten. That is how I see him. Scrawny, pale, spotty, looking like he was weaned on fish and chips. A deeply malevolent, ironically Catholic, sociopath who believes in hell and knows he is going there. It is too late for him already at 17.

Sweet, virginal Rose adores and fears him in equal measures in a way only a sweet, virginal teenage girl can become fatefully attracted to a very bad boy.

Ida is my favourite character. Actually do note she was played extremely well by Helen Mirren in the 2010 film. She is brave and bold.

Do read this. Surrender to the unsettling, tragic and sinister nature of this masterpiece.
Profile Image for Joshie.
338 reviews62 followers
June 19, 2019
This tale of mob and murder does not always hit and strike but the appeal of its blasphemy suffices to keep my attention throughout. As there is also, of course, the intriguing moral blind spots occasionally seized by nagging guilt, Brighton Rock loses its steam with its seemingly shakable logic as violence and deceit accelerate. The dry faith in god crumbles, so is the saturated gangsterism loyalty. And whilst the suspense and thrill do take a large amount of its narrative they slowly dissipate as the keen awareness of the characters’ sinful leanings gear towards either self-consuming avarice or self-consuming veracity (or self-consuming romanticism). These characters do flatten themselves at times to give way to some action that Graham Greene’s prose tries to dangerously balance itself between being piquant and insipid. It does succeed I say though it lacks the quality of a page-turning thriller. Still, Brighton Rock is quite an agreeable story long enough to settle both its moral and immoral accounts satisfyingly and short enough not to completely infuriate.

I have yet to see the 1948 film adaptation for this but looking at the screencaps around the web, as is the case with Welles’ brilliant The Third Man, it seems it will do this novel justice (or perhaps more).
Profile Image for Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly.
755 reviews330 followers
January 29, 2011
There are only human beings here. No ghosts, demons, haunted houses, strange creatures, aliens or mysterious apparitions. Just human beings. But I've never read any novel more horrifying than this.

Here's a frail-looking boy with a feminine name: Pinkie. He doesn't drink, smoke or gamble. Just seventeen years old and still a virgin. But he is the leader of a small gang and he kills.

Then here's a sixteen-year-old, equally frail, waitress, Rose. She loves Pinkie. She knows something which could implicate Pinkie in two of the murders he had committed. Pinkie marries her to prevent her possible testimony.

Midway through the book you might get the impulse to throw it away already, complaining about the sparse, unreal-sounding dialogues and the seeming lack of "action". But trust me. Towards the end you will be like a woman having an orgasm, uttering oh god, oh god, oh god repeatedly. And even up to the end, after the very last sentence which reads: "She walked rapidly in the thin June sunlight towards the worst horror of all.", you will still be reeling from the sheer brilliance of the story-telling done here.

Enough said. I don't want to spoil your horror. Five, strong stars this time for Mr. Greene
Profile Image for Drew.
238 reviews121 followers
March 1, 2014
This was an epilogue to my Graham Greene phase from six months or so ago; I couldn't find a copy until now. And it's weird to read it after having read a bunch of his later, more accomplished work. Brighton Rock isn't as polished; you won't find too many sly jokes or profound philosophical thoughts in it. But it's amazing to see how complex his attitude towards Catholicism was even at that point in his career (or, more accurately, since every Catholic's attitude towards Catholicism is complex, how complexly he was able to articulate said attitude).

So Pinky, the main character, who is often and somewhat annoyingly referred to as The Boy, has just inherited a kind of gang from this guy Kite, whom I desperately want to believe is the inspiration for DFW's narcotics salesman/addict Trent Kite (can't back this up, as we don't learn much about Greene's Kite). And he rules with an iron fist, because he has to; he's 17, and wants nothing more than to be taken seriously. His ambition knows no bounds, but his competence leaves a lot to be desired.

He commits a gruesome (but left-undramatized) murder near the beginning of the book, making the rest of it a Crime-and-Punishment sort of thing, but with a twist: he marries a potential witness so that she won't have to testify against him. (Enter Catholicism, Greene's obsession.) Pinky's seduction scenes with Rose constitute some of the most uncomfortable scenes in the book. He's a bit of a psychopath, so he never believes the sweet nothings he so unconvincingly tells her. We see his fraud, but she doesn't, because she's a 16 year old girl.

I won't give anything more away, and though I've spoiled a few things, I've certainly done better than preface-writer-extraordinaire JM Coetzee and whoever wrote the teaser on the back, who would have totally ruined it had I read those things first.

But I was going to say some sort of not-so-profound something about Greene's Catholicism stuff. So you have the first aspect of it, that the Church is a maniacal patriarchy that breeds misogyny and racism and hatred. Pinky's a virgin and a teetotaler, the former of which because he is totally disgusted by women. And I, at least, was pretty convinced that this could have come about because of the influence of the Church. The result of all this of course being a hopeless double bind - can't live with sin, can't live without it - further compounded by the fact that suicide itself, the ultimate "I don't want to play this game" statement, is a mortal sin. Not that anybody gets punished for it. By the way, the idea that there may or may not be a Heaven, but that Hell is definitely real, is pervasive in Brighton Rock.

Greene's not ready to give up on it yet, though. Observe his feminist atheist Good Samaritan gumshoe, Ida Arnold. She's the foil to Pinky in all those ways and one more: she's an incurable bawd, always DTF. But I can't help but notice that Greene's descriptions of her aren't always that charitable: she's not particularly attractive, with weird teeth and a crazy laugh. More importantly, she has very definite ideas of Right and Wrong (sic) and she's perfectly willing to impose those idea(l)s upon other characters, for their own Greater Good. This doesn't ultimately sound that much different from religion, does it? Is Greene saying there's no real alternative, that atheism is just as dangerous? Maybe, although Ida certainly doesn't murder anyone.

Ida ties into another aspect of Catholicism: that of the repository of secret knowledge. I mean, the history of the Church is powerful and its rituals intoxicating. So it's no surprise that Pinky and Rose both look at Ida and say, "She doesn't know". I don't think Greene disagrees with this; Ida clearly can't know firsthand of the double-binds that control the lives of even (maybe especially) less devout Catholics.

I thought I was going to try to boil this stuff down into a précis of Greene's feelings about religion and moralism and all that, but I'm realizing that would be so reductive as to be worthless. I mean, the guy has a whole body of work devoted to it, so maybe I should just shut up.
Profile Image for Sketchbook.
672 reviews213 followers
July 31, 2016
Truman Capote calls this, "An incredibly beautiful, perfect novel." Why argue? He then adds, "It has the greatest last four paragraphs of any modern novel I can think of."
Profile Image for Alex.
1,419 reviews4,281 followers
October 17, 2016
Graham Greene sometimes categorized his own novels. He drew a line between the "Entertainments" like Stamboul Train and The Third Man (none of which I've read) and the more serious "Novels." You could break it down further: he wrote some political novels like the Quiet American and Our Man in Havana, and a number of religious (Catholic) ones like Power and the Glory, End of the Affair and Brighton Rock.

But they're all entertainment, is the thing with Greene. No matter what weighty matters he is or isn't tackling, there's always thrill, drama, plot. He was influenced heavily by Henry James, whom he called "as solitary in the history of the novel as Shakespeare in the history or poetry," but he'll never be accused of whacking off into a tissue, as James can be - a lot of flustering about and not much done.

So Brighton Rock is about salvation, good and evil, hope - heavy shit. Brighton Rock is candy, like this:

"Bite it all the way down, you'll still read Brighton," says Big Blonde Ida. And is the Boy rotten all the way through? And is poor Rose, who "belonged to him like a room or a chair," doomed? And whose face will Chekhov's vitriol end up on? (Vitriol is sulphuric acid. I had to look it up.)

But it can be enjoyed as a pure thriller, too: The Boy is an ambitious teenage gang leader who finds himself in the middle of an escalating conflict, driven to increasingly desperate measures to cover up the previous desperate measures. Murder - and worse yet, marriage, which means, "The truth came home to him with horror that he had got to keep her love for a lifetime." Yikes, right?

This is my favorite kind of book: it's cracking entertainment, and it comes with human insight as a sort of door prize if you want it. And that's why Graham Greene is one of my favorite writers.
Profile Image for Alan.
Author 10 books159 followers
February 20, 2011
ordered this from the library so's I can read it for the Greene group thingie, but have read it back in the 60s (as a teenager). Wonder if my star count will go down (it can't go up)?
...finished this on Saturday and went straight out to watch the film. Won't file my review until what is it - Feb 20th, but just to say
a) my star count has not gone down
b) the new film is worth watching but seek out the original, it's better. Rose is very good in the new film however...

..Feb 20th - had to go out for a family thing, and it's getting on now, so will shape up my notes and post here now (haven't read anyone else's yet):

This novel has settled deeply within me, I realise, from the first time I read it in 1969. Stories I have written have themes that probably came from that reading so far back: my story ‘Background Noise’ has a girl getting caught up with a gang and realising she is out of her depth; another has a young group of criminals living together in a house, monitored by an older set. I reckon Greene must have set me on this path.

Possibly, if I'd read it for the first time now I'd baulk a bit at how some of the minor characters are slightly caricatured (eg Colleoni), possibly the plot is melodramatic, but this is a totally absorbing read. Greene is a master of prose that is tight and wraps round you, detailed, full of naunce. The characters (Ida, Pinkie and Rose in particular) become people you’ve met and know. The dialogue is realistic but serves the novel’s purpose…

The greatest moments in the book for me lie in the detail of the everyday, Greene has a good grasp of popular culture, the photograph booths, the music and dancing, the teashops and holidaymakers, and of course the recording booths. The passage, the pages that made me love this book and Greene were the ones after Pinkie is razored on the racecourse, runs and finds refuge in a garage:

The garage had never been used for a garage; it had become a kind of potting shed. Little green shoots crept, like caterpillars, out of shallow boxes of earth: a spade, a rusty lawn mower.. an old rocking horse, a pram which had been converted into a wheelbarrow, a pile of ancient records.. they lay with trowels, what was left of crazy paving, a doll with one glass eye and a dress soiled with mould.

[which leads to Pinkie, bleeding on its floor wondering about the owner of this garage]

this, the small villa under the racecourse, was the best finish he could manage.. like the untidy tidemark on a beach, the junk was piled up here and would never go farther.

He sidled out of the garage. The new raw street cut in the chalk was empty except for a couple pressed against each other out of the lamplight by a wooden fence. The sight pricked him with nausea and cruelty. He limped by them, his cut hand closed on his razor, with his cruel virginity which demanded some satisfaction different from theirs, habitual, brutish and short.

He knew where he was going. He wasn't going to return to Frank's like this with the cobwebs from the garage on his clothes, defeat cut in his face and hand. They were dancing in the open air on the white stone deck above the Aquarium, and he got down on to the beach where he was more alone, the dry seaweed left by last winter's gales cracking under his shoes. he could hear the music - 'The One I Love'. Wrap it up in cellophane, he thought, put it in silver paper.

How accurately Greene can portray - through simple detail like the plants in the garage, the dancers above the waves - Pinkie consumed with anger and disdain for those who don't feel the perpetual pain and absurdity of life, like Ida (life's good if you don't weaken, it's all a bit of fun); his teenage contempt for the adult life and its daft comforts; but also his loneliness and bitterness and acceptance of the inevitable, the fact that humans are the fallen, the last cry of innocence is given at birth (a remembered quote).

Greene has a bit of fun with new age religion at the crematorium (we don’t believe in medieval hell…), but he is serious about the loss of innocence. Pinkie's telephone number is 666. Him and Rose are the realistic ones, knowing they are damned, accepting it. It might break your heart to see Rose submit to the pain that Pinkie inflicts, but she sees no problem in it, pain is the natural state of being on earth. They are both Catholics, they ‘complete each other’ (Pinkie has this feeling about her even though he is constantly running her down and telling his gang he will kill her etc..) They both come from grinding poverty. They wear cheap clothes, have a limited vision, both are outsiders (Rose never been to a dance, the scene where she is the victim of the other waitresses' sniggers). The most telling scene for me is the meeting of Pinkie and her parents where he ‘buys’ her from them, for £15 (I think, it’s a £150 in the 60s set film). They know hell already.. Pinkie’s message on the record will maybe devastate her, maybe not.

So so glad I re-read this book, utterly mesmersing.

In the recent film I missed the horseracing, the Kolley Kibber plot, and although it wasn't a bad attempt, the mods and rockers scenes were lovingly done, the block of flats where Rose lives would have been brand new (or fairly) and not have the 20-year-neglect look it has in the film. Pinkie I though didn't have the complexity given him by Greene, three expressions, but, as I said, Rose was spot on. Ida wasn't bad, Mirren was as good as she normally is, but it wasn't the Ida I pictured.

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