THE LAST WORD And Other Stories by Graham Greene

THE LAST WORD And Other Stories

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The grand old man of English letters here collects 12 diverting stories of disparate quality that were written between 1923 and 1989. Although a few appeared in earlier volumes, none were included in the Collected Stories of 1972; three were recently written for The Independent, and one has never before been published--all of them, though, are quintessentially Greene in subject and style. Politics and religion figure prominently in many of these well-told tales. The title story, set in some futuristic totalitarian world, concerns an old man whose memory has been erased, but who turns out to be the Pope, brought from obscurity to be publicly executed now that there are no more living Christians. "The Lottery Ticket"--written in the 40's--finds a befuddled Liberal Englishman mired in a Latin-American political hot-spot, where he must witness the tragic consequences of his good intentions. In "An Appointment with the General," a French journalist on assignment from a trendy left-wing magazine interviews a socialist Latin general whose political correctness is suspect, and finds him a practical, charming, and intelligent leader (shades of Greene's late buddy Trujillo). A smashingly good WW II yarn, "The News in English," chronicles an episode of true Nazi-stopping heroism. Similarly, "The Lieutenant Died Last" relies on dramatic irony for its heroic effects when a drunken poacher manages to foil the only German parachute jump on a small English town. Counter-espionage takes an unusual cover in "A Branch of the Service," in which a restaurant-guide writer uses his job to track suspects, but allows indigestion to outweigh patriotic duty. Outside the usual fare is "The Moment of Truth," a poignant story of a lonely bachelor waiter in London who mistakes the bonhomie of some American tourists for true empathy. The rest here seems filler: a predictable whodunit, a few whimsical bits, and an early, extremely amateurish fable about artistic integrity. Despite three or four outstanding pieces, then, this volume's mainly for Greene scholars.

ISBN: 0141181575
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1990


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