Regarded by many as one of the leading English novelists of the 20th century, Graham Greene published over 25 novels throughout the course of his writing career which spanned nearly 67 years. Although he objected to being described as a Catholic writer, Catholic religious themes are at the root of much of Greene’s writing, especially in four of his best-known novels: Brighton Rock (1938), The Power and the Glory (1940), The Heart of the Matter (1948), and The End of the Affair (1951); which have been named “the gold standard” of the Catholic novel.
One of the scarcest of Greene’s titles to encounter signed and inscribed, Brighton Rock, was first published by The Viking Press in New York in 1938, preceding the first British edition by a month. Set in 1930s Brighton, the chilling expose of violence and gang warfare in the pre-war underworld is a classic of its kind. Although ostensibly an underworld thriller, the book also deals with Roman Catholic doctrine concerning the nature of sin and the basis of morality.
Graham inscribed the rare presentation copy above to British actor and close personal friend Clive Francis, best known for his roles in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), Inspector Clouseau (1968), and The Crown (2016).
One of the scarcest of Greene’s titles to find in the original dust jacket, The Power and the Glory was first published by William Heinemann in 1940. The novel tells the story of a renegade Roman Catholic “whisky priest” grappling with his tendencies towards both self-destruction and penitence in the Mexican state of Tabasco in the 1930s, a time when the Mexican government was attempting to suppress the Catholic Church. The novel was hailed by John Updike as “Graham Greene’s masterpiece.”
Widely considered Graham’s masterpiece, The Heart of the Matter was enormously popular upon release, selling more than 300,000 copies in the United Kingdom. It tells the story of Henry Scobie, a good man enmeshed in a moral dilemma involving love, intrigue, and deceit in a West African coastal town during World War II. Greene, a former British intelligence officer based in Freetown, British Sierra Leone, drew on his personal experiences in crafting the novel.
Uncommonly found signed and inscribed, The Heart of the Matter won the 1948 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction and was named by The Modern Library as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century.
Set in London just after the Second World War, The End of the Affair first appeared in the United Kingdom in 1951. Greene’s own affair with his goddaughter Catherine Walston informed the novel’s plot which follows a short-lived affair clouded by overt jealousy and obsession. Graham dedicated the book to Catherine; the first British edition is dedicated to “C”, and the first American to “Catherine”, whose husband, Oliver Walston, demanded that the adulterous relationship should cease when the book was published.
Greene’s reputation as a writer was cemented not only by the great Catholic novels, but by his thrillers (or “entertainments” as he termed them), with plots involving the intrigues of international politics and espionage. Based on his short story The Basement Room, The Third Man was “Greene’s first real work for the cinema and his favorite among his film scripts” (Sherry II:239-41). Written in collaboration for the screen with producer Alexander Korda and director Carol Reed, the postwar thriller starred Orson Welles and was was voted by the British Film Institute as the greatest British film of all time. Signed first editions of The Third man are scarce.
Written in 1955 prior to the Vietnam conflict, Greene’s 1955 novel The Quiet American received widespread attention due to its prediction of the outcome of the Vietnam War and subsequent American foreign policy. It was adapted twice for the screen: in in 1958, and again in 2002 into the film of the same name starring Michael Caine and Brendan Fraser.
In the late 1950s, Greene spent time travelling throughout Africa visiting a number of leper colonies in the Congo Basin and in what were then the British Cameroons. The resulting novel, A Burnt-Out Case was published in 1960. He dedicated the work to Docteur Michel Lechat, a medical doctor he met at one of the leper colonies he visited during the excursion. Drawing a comparison between a leper-colony doctor’s work and that of a novelist, Greene noted: “A doctor is not immune from ‘the long despair of doing nothing well”, the same “cafard that hangs around a writer’s life.”
One of Greene’s most chilling and prophetic novels, The Comedians, takes place in a Haiti ruled by Papa Doc and the Tontons Macoute, his sinister secret police. Just as The Quiet American offered a preview of the coming horrors of American involvement in Vietnam, this novel presaged the chaos to come in Haiti. It was adapted into the 1967 film of the same name starring Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, Alec Guinness, Peter Ustinov, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Paul Ford and Lillian Gish.
In addition to the rare Graham Greene first editions featured above, our collection currently includes the rare first edition of A Visit To Morin inscribed by Greene to Ian Fleming and many others. View the complete collection.