The Confidential Agent

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The Confidential Agent
First edition
Author Graham Greene
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Thriller novel
Publisher William Heinemann
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)

The Confidential Agent (1939) is a thriller novel by British author Graham Greene. Fueled by Benzedrine, Greene wrote it in six weeks.[1] To avoid distraction, he rented a room in Bloomsbury from a landlady who lived in an apartment below him. He used that apartment in the novel (it's where D. hides for a day) and had an affair with the landlady's daughter.[2] He wrote the book for money[3] and was so displeased with his work that he wanted it published under a pseudonym.[4] But critics took a far different view; The New York Times, for example, called the novel "a magnificent tour-de-force."[5]

Plot summary[edit]

"D", a patriot from a country suffering a civil war, is in England to secure a contract with coal magnate Lord Benditch that will greatly assist the faltering loyalist cause. His country is nameless and the details of its history, geography, and current politics remain vague. However, the reader could have little doubt — and Greene himself admitted as much[6] — that the Spanish Civil War was his main inspiration for the book's depiction of a left-leaning, popular revolutionary republic. Like Spain, the country in The Confidential Agent is embroiled internally in bitter factional fights while fighting a brutal civil war and a land-owning aristocracy determined to destroy the republic to regain its centuries-old privileged position. Underscoring the Spanish connection, in the novel's final section, a ship travelling from England to the unnamed country must sail westward in the Channel and then cross the Bay of Biscay.


The novel was also the basis for the 1945 film Confidential Agent, starring Charles Boyer, Lauren Bacall, and Peter Lorre. In the book, the nationality of the agent is not stated; in the film, he is Spanish.

The Confidential Agent was adapted for the radio program Escape by Ken Crossen and broadcast on April 2, 1949, starring Berry Kroeger.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bergonzi, A Study in Greene, p. 69
  2. ^ West, The Quest for Graham Greene, p. 87
  3. ^ Reid, Movie Mystery and Suspense, p. 81
  4. ^ West, op cit, p. 87, 91
  5. ^ Greene: An Annotated Bibliography, p.22
  6. ^ Graham Greene on The Confidential Agent

External links[edit]