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Publisher's Summary

Drover, a Communist bus driver, is in prison, sentenced to death for killing a policeman during a riot at Hyde Park Corner. A battle for a reprieve with many participants ensues: the Assistant Commissioner, high-principled and over-worked; Conrad, a paranoid clerk; Mr Surrogate, a rich Fabian; Condor, a pathetic journalist feeding on fantasies; pretty, promiscuous Kay - all have a part to play in his fate.

James Wilby reads Graham Greene’s absorbing novel set in 1930s London.

©1934 1934 by Graham Greene, renewed Graham Greene, 1962 (P)2012 AudioGO Ltd

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  • Mr. R. E. Towers
  • 10-02-21

Corruption of the English establishment

This is a bleak and disturbing novel about the English establishment and class system in the 1930s.

The book is an exposé of just how much the country was corrupt, narrow,  bigoted,  petty, conservative, conventional, unethical, unscrupulous and rotten to the core (some things never change).

The plot centres around the killing of policeman by a communist bus driver (Drover) during a demonstration. The officer was about to strike the man's wife but Drover fatally stabbed him with a knife and was sentenced to hang.

Now the Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, is tasked by the Home Secretary in helping  to decide whether he should be reprieved.

Drover's wife Milly and his brother Conrad both try, in their differing ways to intervene, and end up in a guilt ridden affair. Milly's more carefree sister Kay sleeps with numerous men linked to influence and the officer's widow and a society lady are also lobbied.

Throughout this process all characters consider the implications of Drover's reprieve which will, at best, result in a lengthy prison sentence.

Finally, Conrad, aquires a gun and shoots at the Assistant Commissioner, with blanks but is hit by a car in the process. This is where Greene's writing moves up a level and the final sequence is so shockingly descriptive it is worth bearing with the earlier dispiriting parts of the book.  Unknown to Conrad and the Assistant Commissioner, the Home Secretary has already reprieved Drover.

The Assistant Commissioner, an establishment man previously posted out in the Far East, is left lamenting the futility of justice and he is clearly reflecting Greene view in what he described as his first overtly political novel.

This is a thoroughly sickening tale and reading the book is like watching an old black and white movie.
James Wilby is the ideal narrator for this story.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 07-30-21

Mental illness

This book was totally depressing. Nearer to mental illness than anything. Old world torture gone crazy. Self destruction at its heart. The unreal fantasies of a young man to paranoia of an older man. The society drifts along into avoidance. The characters thinking was haphazard using the real world to confuse. Women are treated as stupid. I wouldn't recommend this book to the sensitive or vulnerable. Why men write to deeply wound their readers is beyond me