This book is a classic of English literature, but don’t let that put you off. We’re not talking Chaucer, or Shakespeare here. Brighton Rock is a novel by Graham Greene, published in 1938, and later made into films, a 1947 film and a 2011 film. And it is a murder thriller set in 1930s Brighton.
The antihero of the novel, Pinkie Brown, is a teenage sociopath and up-and-coming gangster, who murders Charles “Fred” Hale, who had betrayed the former leader of the gang Pinkie now controls. Ida Arnold, a kind-hearted and decent woman, is drawn into the action by a chance meeting with the terrified Hale, whom Pinkie murders in obscure circumstances shortly afterwards. Pinkie’s attempts to cover his tracks lead to a chain of fresh crimes and to an ill-fated marriage to Rose, a waitress who has the power to destroy his alibi.
Although ostensibly an underworld thriller, the book is also a challenge to religious doctrine concerning the nature of sin and the basis of morality, Pinkie and Rose are Catholics, as was Greene, and their beliefs are contrasted with Ida’s strong but non-religious moral sensibility. Ida, an unlikely heroine, pursues the evil but failed gangster Pinkie Brown relentlessly; she seeks his punishment, while trying to save Rose from his influence.
“Now it was as if he was damned already and there was nothing more to fear ever again. The ugly bell chattered, the long wire humming in the hall, and the bare globe burnt above the bed – the girl, the washstand, the sooty window, the blank shape of a chimney, a voice whispered, ” I love you, Pinkie”. This was hell then; it wasn’t anything to worry about; it was just his own familiar room.”
!Note – Brighton Rock is also a confectionery traditionally sold at seaside resorts.