A Gun for Sale

A Gun For Sale is a 1936 novel by Graham Greene about a criminal called Raven, a man dedicated to ugly deeds. When he is paid, with stolen notes, for killing the Minister of War, he becomes a man on the run. Tracking down the agent who double-crossed him, and eluding the police simultaneously, he becomes both the hunter and the hunted. The novel was published and filmed in the United States under the title This Gun For Hire.

The novel prefigures Greene's later, more famous, work, Brighton Rock, wherein Pinkie Brown's killing of Hale sets the events of the novel in motion in much the same way that Raven's assassination of the Minister of War sows the seeds for conflict in A Gun For Sale.

A Gun for Sale
First edition
AuthorGraham Greene
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherWilliam Heinemann
Publication date
Media typeHardcover (first edition)

Plot summary

Raven, an English assassin, is hired to kill a government minister in a European country (in fact, Czechoslovakia), an act calculated to provoke a European war. Returning to London, he is paid off in cash by his contact, who uses the false name "Cholmondely". However, when Raven starts spending the notes, he discovers they were stolen. Furious at being cheated and hunted by the police who think he was the thief, without a ticket he follows "Cholmondeley" onto a train going to Nottwich.

Also on the train is Anne Crowder, a chorus girl travelling to start work in a pantomime. Her fiancée, Mather, is the detective leading the hunt for Raven. At Nottwich, Raven uses Anne's ticket to get off the station and, since she has recognised him, he takes her to an empty house to kill her. Escaping, she does not report what has happened, out of sympathy for Raven, but instead goes to the theatre to work. There, she is asked out to dinner by one of the backers, Davis, who is "Cholmondely". After dinner he takes her to a house where, when he realises she knows about his involvement with Raven, he smothers her, though he does not kill her.

The owner of the house helps herself to Anne's smart monogrammed handbag and the next day is seen with it in the street by Raven, who forces his way into the house and finds Anne weak but still alive. She agrees to co-operate with him, since both want Davis/Cholmondely dead, and he takes her to a hideout he has found. While in hiding, they discuss Raven's murder of the government minister; Raven also talks to Anne about his childhood and the difficult circumstances in which he discovered his mother's suicide—details that will anticipate Raven's own death and the imagery the novel uses to depict his final moments.[1]

In the night, the hideout is surrounded by police, led by Jimmy Mather, and Anne decoys them so that Raven can escape. Nonetheless, Raven has to shoot and wound a policeman to flee. There is gas drill practise, in preparation for war, and everyone, except Raven, is wearing a gas-mask, so he forces a student participating in a rag to undress and give him his clothes and gas-mask.

Thusly disguised as a student participating in the rag stunt, Raven spots Davis, sans gas-mask, in the street, and fines him for charity. Davis says he has no cash and will pay him in his office. Going there, Raven discovers it is the headquarters of a giant steel company that will profit hugely from a war and that the boss is Sir Marcus, a corrupt Jewish industrialist. Upon discovering that Marcus is Davis/Cholmondely's boss Raven takes him at gunpoint up to the suite of Sir Marcus. After explaining his reasons, he kills both men and is himself shot dead by police who have surrounded the building.


  • Raven—a cold-hearted assassin for hire. Raven's father was hanged for murder, and his mother committed suicide by cutting her throat. Raven then lived in a home for orphans. He has grown-up in extreme poverty and is highly sensitive about his harelip.
  • Jimmy Mather— a police detective trailing Raven. His brother committed suicide, and Mather found his body. Mather joined the police for the stability its routine provides.
  • Anne Crowder—a chorus girl engaged to Mather, whom Raven uses as a shield. The two develop a fragile friendship, though in the end she betrays him. The novel ends with Anne and Mather planning marriage,
  • Willie Davis (pseudonym,Cholmondeley) —a grossly sensual man employed by Sir Marcus, who betrays Raven by paying him with stolen bank notes. Anne helps Raven get revenge upon him.
  • Sir Marcus, a very old, corrupt, Jewish, steel tycoon, who is responsible for hiring Raven to assassinate the Minister. He hopes this will cause another world war and lead to huge profits.
  • Saunders—a decent police detective with a heavy stammer. He is Mather's loyal protégé and plays a vital role in the novel's climax.


  • An unnamed Central European capital, meant to be Prague,[2] where Raven murders the old politician and his secretary.
  • London, where Raven is paid off by Cholmondeley,[3] where Anne has lodgings but cannot find work, and where Mather is based at Scotland Yard.
  • Nottwich, a fictional version of Nottingham,[4] site of the steel works where Sir Marcus lives in a penthouse, where Anne gets a job in a pantomime, and where Raven goes to find and kill Cholmondeley.

Publication history and adaptations

The novel was first published by Doubleday Doran in the US in June 1936 as This Gun For Hire and by William Heinemann in the UK in July 1936 as A Gun For Sale. Several film and television adaptations have been made: a 1942 film version transposed to wartime California starred Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake under the US title This Gun for Hire, a Turkish adaptation (Günes Dogmasin) was made in 1961, and an Italian television mini-series, Una pistola in vendita, followed in 1970. The 1942 film was remade in 1957 under the title Short Cut to Hell and as a TV movie in 1991 starring Robert Wagner.


  1. ^ Fluet, Lisa, "Hit Man Modernism," in Bad Modernisms Durham: Duke University Press, 2006
  2. ^ Greene, Graham. A Gun For Sale. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1963. p5
  3. ^ Greene, Graham. A Gun For Sale. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1963. p12
  4. ^ Greene, Graham. A Gun For Sale. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1963. p40
1936 in literature

This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1936.

20th century in literature

Literature of the 20th century refers to world literature produced during the 20th century (1901 to 2000).

In terms of the Euro-American tradition, the main periods are captured in the bipartite division, Modernist literature and Postmodern literature, flowering from roughly 1900 to 1940 and 1960 to 1990 respectively, divided, as a rule of thumb, by World War II. The somewhat malleable term of contemporary literature is usually applied with a post-1960 cutoff point.

Although these terms (modern, contemporary and postmodern) are most applicable to Western literary history, the rise of the globalization has allowed European literary ideas to spread into non-Western cultures fairly rapidly, so that Asian and African literatures can be included into these divisions with only minor qualifications. And in some ways, such as in Postcolonial literature, writers from non-Western cultures were on the forefront of literary development.

Technological advances during the 20th century allowed cheaper production of books, resulting in a significant rise in production of popular literature and trivial literature, comparable to the similar developments in music. The division of "popular literature" and "high literature" in the 20th century is by no means absolute, and various genres such as detectives or science fiction fluctuate between the two. Largely ignored by mainstream literary criticism for the most of the century, these genres developed their own establishments and critical awards; these include the Nebula Award (since 1965), the British Fantasy Award (since 1971) or the Mythopoeic Awards (since 1971).

Towards the end of the 20th century, electronic literature developed due to the development of hypertext and later the world wide web.

The Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded annually throughout the century (with the exception of 1914, 1918, 1935 and 1940–1943), the first laureate (1901) being Sully Prudhomme. The New York Times Best Seller list has been published since 1942.

The best-selling literary works of the 20th century are estimated to be The Lord of the Rings (1954/55, 150 million copies), Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997, 120 million copies) and And Then There Were None (1939, 115 million copies).

The Lord of the Rings was also voted "book of the century" in various surveys.Perry Rhodan (1961 to present) proclaimed as the best-selling book series, with an estimated total of 1 billion copies sold.

A Catalogue of Crime

A Catalogue of Crime is a critique of crime fiction by Jacques Barzun and Wendell Hertig Taylor, first published in 1971. The book was awarded a Special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 1972. A revised and enlarged edition was published in 1989.

Alan Ladd

Alan Walbridge Ladd (September 3, 1913 – January 29, 1964) was an American actor and film and television producer. Ladd found success in film in the 1940s and early 1950s, particularly in Westerns such as Shane (1953) and in films noir. He was often paired with Veronica Lake, in noirish films such as This Gun for Hire (1942), The Glass Key (1942) and The Blue Dahlia (1946).

His other notable credits include Two Years Before the Mast (1946), Whispering Smith, his first Western and color film, (1948) and The Great Gatsby (1949). His popularity diminished in the late 1950s, though he continued to appear in popular films until his accidental death due to a lethal combination of alcohol, a barbiturate, and two tranquilizers.

Brighton Rock (novel)

Brighton Rock is a novel by Graham Greene, published in 1938 and later adapted for film in 1947 and 2010. The novel is a murder thriller set in 1930s Brighton. The title refers to a confectionery traditionally sold at seaside resorts, which in the novel is used as a metaphor for the personality of Pinkie, which is the same all the way through. There are links between this novel and Greene's earlier novel A Gun for Sale (1936), because Raven's murder of the gang boss Kite, mentioned in A Gun For Sale, allows Pinkie to take over his gang and thus sets the events of Brighton Rock in motion.


The Colleoni were a Guelf-allied family in medieval Bergamo. Their Ghibelline opponents were the Suardi family, of which the Colleoni themselves were a branch.

When the Visconti of Milan seized Bergamo, they exiled the Colleoni and other Guelfs. On October 23, 1404, Paolo Colleoni seized Trezzo Castle by wile and held it by force until he was assassinated by his cousins, probably acting on behalf of the Duke of Milan. Paolo's son Bartolomeo became a famous mercenary and Captain-General of the Republic of Venice. He purchased and refurbished the Malpaga Castle in Cavernago as a new base for his family. The Colleoni Chapel in Bergamo was built in his honor and houses his remains and those of his beloved daughter Medea.

Bartolomeo's grandson Count Alessandro Martinengo Colleoni commissioned Lorenzo Lotto's 1516 Martinengo Altarpiece for the Dominican church of Santi Bartolomei e Stefano in Bergamo.

The family's name is derived from the Latin coleus, or testicle, and indeed, the family's coat of arms was two pairs of white testicles on a red field, above one red pair on a white field. The progenitor of the family, Gisalberto, was reportedly proud of this coat of arms which he displayed prominently in his home. Later members of the family modified the testicles on the coat of arms into upside-down hearts.

Far East Air Force (United States)

The Far East Air Force (FEAF) was the military aviation organization of the United States Army in the Philippines just prior to and at the beginning of World War II. Formed on 16 November 1941, FEAF was the predecessor of the Fifth Air Force of the United States Army Air Forces and the United States Air Force.

Initially the Far East Air Force also included aircraft and personnel of the Philippine Army Air Corps. Outnumbered operationally more than three-to-one by aircraft of the Japanese Navy and Army, FEAF was largely destroyed during the Philippines Campaign of 1941–42. When 14 surviving B-17 Flying Fortresses and 143 personnel of the heavy bombardment force were withdrawn from Mindanao to Darwin, Australia in the third week of December 1941, Headquarters FEAF followed it within days. The B-17s were the only combat aircraft of the FEAF to escape capture or destruction.FEAF, with only 16 Curtiss P-40s and 4 Seversky P-35 fighters remaining of its original combat force, was broken up as an air organization and moved by units into Bataan 24–25 December. 49 of the original 165 pursuit pilots of FEAF's 24th Pursuit Group were also evacuated during the campaign, but of non-flying personnel, only one of 27 officers and 16 wounded enlisted men escaped the Philippines. Nearly all ground and flying personnel were employed as infantry at some point during their time on Bataan, where most surrendered on 9 April 1942.The surviving personnel and a small number of aircraft received from the United States were re-organized in Australia in January 1942, and on 5 February 1942 redesignated as "5 Air Force". With most of its aircraft based in Java, the FEAF was nearly destroyed a second time trying to stem the tide of Japanese advances southward.

Graham Greene

Henry Graham Greene (2 October 1904 – 3 April 1991), better known by his pen name Graham Greene, was an English novelist regarded by many as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. Combining literary acclaim with widespread popularity, Greene acquired a reputation early in his lifetime as a major writer, both of serious Catholic novels, and of thrillers (or "entertainments" as he termed them). He was shortlisted, in 1966 and 1967, for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Through 67 years of writings, which included over 25 novels, he explored the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world, often through a Catholic perspective.

Although Greene objected strongly to being described as a Roman Catholic novelist, rather than as a novelist who happened to be Catholic, Catholic religious themes are at the root of much of his writing, especially the four major Catholic novels: Brighton Rock, The Power and the Glory, The Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair; which have been named "the gold standard" of the Catholic novel. Several works, such as The Confidential Agent, The Quiet American, Our Man in Havana, The Human Factor, and his screenplay for The Third Man, also show Greene's avid interest in the workings and intrigues of international politics and espionage.

Greene was born in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire into a large, influential family that included the owners of the Greene King Brewery. He boarded at Berkhamsted School in Hertfordshire, where his father taught and became headmaster. Unhappy at the school, he attempted suicide several times. He went up to Balliol College, Oxford, to study history, where, while an undergraduate, he published his first work in 1925—a poorly received volume of poetry, Babbling April. After graduating, Greene worked first as a private tutor and then as a journalist – first on the Nottingham Journal and then as a sub-editor on The Times. He converted to Catholicism in 1926 after meeting his future wife, Vivien Dayrell-Browning. Later in life he took to calling himself a "Catholic agnostic". He published his first novel, The Man Within, in 1929; its favourable reception enabled him to work full-time as a novelist. He supplemented his novelist's income with freelance journalism, and book and film reviews. His 1937 film review of Wee Willie Winkie (for the British journal Night and Day), commented on the sexuality of the nine-year-old star, Shirley Temple. This provoked Twentieth Century Fox to sue, prompting Greene to live in Mexico until after the trial was over. While in Mexico, Greene developed the ideas for The Power and the Glory. Greene originally divided his fiction into two genres (which he described as "entertainments" and "novels"): thrillers—often with notable philosophic edges—such as The Ministry of Fear; and literary works—on which he thought his literary reputation would rest—such as The Power and the Glory.

Greene had a history of depression, which had a profound effect on his writing and personal life. In a letter to his wife, Vivien, he told her that he had "a character profoundly antagonistic to ordinary domestic life," and that "unfortunately, the disease is also one's material." William Golding praised Greene as "the ultimate chronicler of twentieth-century man's consciousness and anxiety." He died in 1991, at age 86, of leukemia, and was buried in Corseaux cemetery.

Graham Greene bibliography

This list is of books by Graham Greene.

James Cagney

James Francis Cagney Jr. (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) was an American actor and dancer, both on stage and in film (though primarily known for the latter). Known for his consistently energetic performances, distinctive vocal style, and deadpan comic timing, he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of performances. He is best remembered for playing multifaceted tough guys in films such as The Public Enemy (1931), Taxi! (1932), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), and White Heat (1949), finding himself typecast or limited by this reputation earlier in his career. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among its list of greatest male stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Orson Welles said of Cagney, "[he was] maybe the greatest actor who ever appeared in front of a camera". Stanley Kubrick considered him to be one of the best actors in history.In his first professional acting performance, Cagney danced costumed as a woman in the chorus line of the revue Every Sailor, in 1919. He spent several years in vaudeville as a dancer and comedian, until he got his first major acting part in 1925. He secured several other roles, receiving good notices, before landing the lead in the 1929 play Penny Arcade. After rave reviews, Warner Bros. signed him for an initial $500-a-week, three-week contract to reprise his role; this was quickly extended to a seven-year contract.

Cagney's seventh film, The Public Enemy, became one of the most influential gangster movies of the period. Notable for a famous scene in which Cagney pushes a grapefruit against Mae Clarke's face, the film thrust him into the spotlight. He became one of Hollywood's leading stars and one of Warner Bros.' biggest contracts. In 1938, he received his first Academy Award for Best Actor nomination for his subtle portrayal of the tough guy/man-child Rocky Sullivan in Angels with Dirty Faces. In 1942, Cagney won the Oscar for his energetic portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy. He was nominated a third time in 1955 for Love Me or Leave Me. Cagney retired from acting and dancing in 1961 to spend time on his farm with his family. He came out of retirement 20 years later for a part in the movie Ragtime (1981), mainly to aid his recovery from a stroke.Cagney walked out on Warner Bros. several times over the course of his career, each time returning on much improved personal and artistic terms. In 1935, he sued Warner for breach of contract and won. This was one of the first times an actor prevailed over a studio on a contract issue. He worked for an independent film company for a year while the suit was being settled, establishing his own production company, Cagney Productions, in 1942 before returning to Warner four years later. In reference to Cagney's refusal to be pushed around, Jack L. Warner called him "the Professional Againster". Cagney also made numerous morale-boosting troop tours before and during World War II and served as president of the Screen Actors Guild for two years.

List of Railway Series books

A list of The Railway Series books by both the Rev. W. Awdry and his son Christopher.

No Man's Land (novel)

No Man's Land is a novella by Graham Greene which was commissioned in 1950 by the film director Carol Reed, although it was not made into a film. The plot is set in Soviet-occupied East Germany shortly after World War II. No Man's Land was published, with a 1949 novella The Stranger's Hand and a foreword to both by David Lodge, in 2005.

Short Cut to Hell

Short Cut to Hell is a 1957 American film noir, filmed in black-and-white VistaVision, starring Robert Ivers and Georgann Johnson. The film is the only directorial effort by famous actor James Cagney.

Short Cut to Hell is a remake of the 1941 Alan Ladd film This Gun for Hire, which in turn was based on the Graham Greene novel A Gun for Sale.

The Stranger's Hand

The Stranger's Hand (Italian: La mano dello straniero) is a 1954 British-Italianinternational co-production thriller-drama film directed by Mario Soldati. It is based on the draft novel with the same name written by Graham Greene. The plot follows the son of a British MI5 agent kidnapped in Venice by agents of Yugoslavia as he searches for his father.

The first two chapters of The Stranger's Hand had been entered by Greene anonymously under a pseudonym to a competition in the New Statesman to write a book in the style of Graham Greene – a competition in which Greene was amused to win second prize. Soldati had seen the chapters and persuaded Greene to complete the novella to make the basis for a film. Greene expanded it to 30 pages of a "film story", on which Giorgio Bassani and Guy Elmes completed the screenplay.

This Gun for Hire

This Gun for Hire is a 1942 American crime drama film directed by Frank Tuttle and starring Veronica Lake, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar, and Alan Ladd. It is a film noir based on the 1936 novel (published in America with the same title, and in Britain with the title A Gun for Sale) by Graham Greene.

Zephyr Books

Zephyr Books were published by The Continental Book Company, a subsidiary of the Swedish Bonnier Group, from 1942 to 1950. The imprint took its name from the Greek god of the western wind, indicating its speciality.

During World War II no books in English could be imported into Sweden. The Continental Book Company was established in 1942 with the object of publishing books in English in Stockholm. The intended market comprised Sweden and other parts of the European continent where it was possible to sell English books in spite of the war, namely Switzerland, Portugal and Turkey. Considerable quantities of Zephyr Books were also exported to Hungary, Italy, occupied Denmark and the non-occupied zone of France.

After the war it was decided to continue, and even expand, the series. The intention was to replace the English book series published by Tauchnitz before the war. The total destruction of the Leipzig book industry made it clear that Tauchnitz would not be able to start work again for some

time. Sweden, on the other hand, had its means of production intact and abundant supplies of paper.

Publication was extended as fast as the continental market was reopened for freer trade, and the number of volumes was doubled within a year. The series was given a distinctive note by its "special volumes", such as its anthologies of prose and verse, and an edition of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" with illustrations by Mervyn Peake, which appeared as a Zephyr Book in 1946, two years before it was published in London.

Soon, however, competition from British and American publishers became too strong, and the publication of the Zephyr series ended in 1950. By then 167 volumes had been published.

The covers were colour-coded depending on the content: red for modern American authors, blue for modern English authors, green for classics, yellow for detective fiction and thrillers, grey for anthologies and special volumes, light blue for poetry and drama, and purple for memoirs and biographies.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.