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Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 120 x 180mm
  • Random House Children's Publishers UK
  • Corgi Childrens
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • 0552110728
  • 9780552110723

Review Text

For anyone who hasn't read Graham Greene, this taut variation/1978 on the national anthem of Greeneland - a world-weary loner caught up in mysterious, manipulative cross-currents - will provide unadulterated satisfaction. Greene readers, on the other hand, may find second-string sales executive Conrad Jessup ("foxy mustache, sly melancholy eyes") something of a literary clone, especially since Alvarez provides him with a beloved dog, just like the one in The Human Factor. Either way, Conrad's psychic baggage is piled on with witty relentlessness, in clipped, knowing prose: a disenchanted wife who worships television and has a jolly TV-repairman lover (Conrad's only reaction is relief); kids who ignore him; coarse co-workers who bore him; and two passions only - painting and gambling. It's after a great late-night poker win (latest windfall in an atypical lucky streak) that Conrad's nightmare/joyride begins: while walking the dog before dawn, he chances on an unconscious woman - "an expensive young lady, not easily surprised and not of this world" - lying injured on Hampstead Heath. Conrad phones the police anonymously, trying to duck involvement, but even before the police track him down, he finds himself wanting to follow up on this fateful, backhand invitation to adventure. Bullied by strangely omniscient cops, harassed by thugs who object to his wooing the injured girl (is she involved in drugs and/or espionage?), and evicted by his fed-up wife, Conrad has only one friend - Abe, a Jewish-American gambler-about-town who gives him advice, a place to stay, and entrees to all the chic-est gambling clubs. But can Abe really be trusted? Of course not, and Conrad's blind maneuvers cost him his dog - an emotional devastation that is no less moving for being thunderingly predictable. Admirers of Alvarez's critical writing may find this all a bit insubstantial, and there's that deja vu for Greene's audience to contend with. But whatever the limitations of the quasi-existential blueprint, Alvarez builds on it with a quiet mastery of prickly, moody seduction. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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