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Russian Roulette

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780349138626

Price: £12.99

ON SALE: 2nd September 2021

Genre: Biography & True Stories / Biography: General

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Probably the greatest British novelist of his generation, Graham Greene’s own story was as strange and compelling as those he told of Pinkie the Mobster, Harry Lime, or the Whisky Priest. A restless traveller, he was a witness to many of the key events of modern history – including the origins of the Vietnam War, the Mau Mau Rebellion, the betrayal of the double-agent Kim Philby, the rise of Fidel Castro, and the guerrilla wars of Central America.

Traumatized as a boy and thought a Judas among his schoolmates, Greene tried Russian Roulette and attempted suicide. He suffered from bipolar illness, which caused havoc in his private life as his marriage failed, and one great love after another suffered shipwreck, until in his later years he found constancy in a decidedly unconventional relationship.

Often called a Catholic novelist, his works came to explore the no man’s land between belief and unbelief. A journalist, an MI6 officer, and an unfailing advocate for human rights, he sought out the inner narratives of war and politics in dozens of troubled places, and yet he distrusted nations and armies, believing that true loyalty was a matter between individuals.

A work of wit, insight, and compassion, this new biography of Graham Greene, the first undertaken in a generation, responds to the many thousands of pages of lost letters that have recently come to light and to new memoirs by those who knew him best. It deals sensitively with questions of private life, sex, and mental illness; it gives a thorough accounting for the politics of the places he wrote about; it investigates his involvement with MI6 and the Cambridge five; above all, it follows the growth of a writer whose works changed the lives of millions.


Perceptive, refreshingly unsolemn, lively, at times funny, and shrewd throughout. It's also a wonderfully bright and entertaining read
John Banville
At last, a biography that does justice to Graham Greene . . . [Richard Greene] writes briskly and engagingly, with a wry wit and an endearing fondness for trivia and puns. He is also less giddy, and less of a hero-worshipper, than most of the previous biographers . . . Greene emerges from these pages in three dimensions, as a uniquely fascinating man
Jake Kerridge, Sunday Telegraph
Well-researched, neatly written
Private Eye
Thank goodness for Richard Greene, whose splendid one-volume biography offers a succinct counterbalance to Sherry's inedible trifle and conjures the man Evelyn Waugh nicknamed "Grisjambon Vert" (French for "grey ham green") in all his perplexing variety. Where Sherry is tactless and indecorous, Richard Greene (no relation) is respectful and considered. Crisply written, Russian Roulette takes its title from Greene's vaunted flirtation with suicide as a teenager in Berkhamsted outside London, where his father was a school headmaster . . . Cogently argued and happily free of jargon, Russian Roulette offers a long-needed antidote to "dirty linen" biographers who have sought to expose a darker shade of Greene and, in consequence, lost sight of the books. At last Graham Greene has the biographer he deserves
Ian Thomson, Evening Standard
Seamlessly and perceptively, Greene's life experiences are melded with the content of his novels, to establish him as a master craftsman who comes close to greatness
Daily Mail
The best biography I read this year . . . Richard Greene never met the author, but he conjures him back to life in a sensible, unsensational way
Nicholas Shakespeare, Spectator
Richard Greene-no relation-says ruefully of Graham Greene that his life is "sometimes boiled down to sex, books and depression" by critics. In his exhaustive, engaging study of Greene, his biographer attempts to reclaim him as a writer who speaks to our "unquiet world" rather than being mired in "Greeneland," a place where betrayal and guilt trudge glumly on together . . . This thoughtful book clearly shows the cost of a life lived on the run
Alexander Larman, Prospect
A brilliant new biography
Daily Mail
Russian Roulette bounds along with fluency, clarity and wry humour
John Walsh, Sunday Times
Nicely written and well-judged cradle-to-grave portrait that needed to be conventional and unshowy, and is all the better for it . . . Richard Greene has mastered a tremendous amount of material
Nicholas Shakespeare, Spectator