Wispy, ephemeral clouds hung over London, the stark white contrasting with the vibrant blue sky, while below giant double-decker buses trundled through the city, beeping and roaring like a circus parade as pedestrians rushed madly from crossing to crossing. Somewhere in the midst of that riotous jungle I clutched a copy of the Book in my trembling inky palm as I stumbled blindly through the crowds, the roaring threat of hellfire fresh in my mind. It was a holy book: Brighton Rock by one of the most famous British writers of the past century, Graham Greene.
Brighton Rock is a thriller that follows Pinkie, a Catholic and psychopathic young gangster, as he tries to cover up one of his mortal sins, murder, from the good-natured but amateur sleuth, Ida. As Greene ratchets up the pressure on Pinkie one questions whether or not Pinkie can maintain his tenuous grip on the situation.
Greene’s measured, laconic prose lessens the suspense of the Book, but it also transforms it from simple thriller to both an enduring description of Brighton, and a thinly veiled discussion of the virtues and vices of Catholicism. The pages sizzle with the fiery language of evil and damnation. If you give the Book your full concentration you can almost feel your fingers burning as you hold it. But the Book cannot be read half-heartedly. You must give that awful, twilight world the devotion it craves to experience it fully. When this happens the Book comes to life in a spectacular fashion, revolving slowly around the madness of Pinkie.
So as I strode along on that bright morning a fire trembled in my eyes and my soul was lit by questions of good and evil and right and wrong. The people around me didn’t know it, but Brighton Rock had left its indelible mark on me, and it ran through me to the core.