THE QUEST FOR GRAHAM GREENE – W. J. West (1997, Phoenix, £8.99, ISBN: 0-75380-136-1)

Graham Greene used to be one of my most favoured writers until I realized that I disliked more of his novels than ones I liked. The one that ruined everything was The End of the Affair. However, I think most of his short stories are brilliant, and I still like his non-fiction.

The first volume of his autobiography, A Sort of Life, remains a key text. (The standard Greene biography, by Norman Sherry, is an inferior work – it is so bad that I came to the conclusion Greene had subversively appointed Sherry as his ‘official’ biographer believing that Sherry’s long-winded ramblings would put other more effective writers off the scent, at least for a few years.) I came across W. J. West’s book in a secondhand shop and read it with some interest. I have always believed that Greene was the ‘fifth man’ in the Philby defection, and although this book does not go so far as to claim that, there is nothing in it to contradict the idea. I always found Greene’s obsession with Roman Catholicism the least interesting thing about him, but his ambivalent politics remain an enigma.