Strand Magazine to Serialize Early, Unpublished Graham Greene Novel

At Jacket Copy, LA Times deputy books editor Nick Owchar breaks the news reports that a long-lost, unfinished novel Graham Greene wrote when he was 22 will be serialized in five parts by the Strand Magazine, starting with the July issue. “To me what is wonderful about all of this is that Greene published a

few short stories in the old Strand,” said Andrew Gulli, the Strand’s

managing editor, “so I feel we’re continuing the tradition.” The Wall Street Journal broke the news of this last week.

What’s first interesting about this news is that the first chapter, titled “The Empty Chair”, actually made its literary debut back in December 2008, appearing in the Times of London unbylined along with a request to readers to identify the author. The following week, Greene’s name was revealed in tandem with an essay by Francois Gallix, a professor of contemporary literature at the Sorbonne who was a recent fellow at the Harry Ransom Center (and knows a thing or two about crime fiction.) It turns out “The Empty Chair” wasn’t the only whodunnit Greene started and left unfinished in his youth:

The year 1926 was a crucial one for the young Greene. In February he was
received into the Roman Catholic Church; in March, he was accepted on trial
as a sub-editor by The Times and, as Norman Sherry pointed out, he decided
he would become a successful author. This resulted in starting several
stories and leaving them unfinished. Thus in July 1926 he began a spy story
called A Sense of Security and a novel entitled Across the Border: an
African story starting in Berkhamsted about a timid boy's blackmail of the
housemaster who had protected him (published as incomplete in 1947).

There was also a detective story that he left unfinished, Fanatic Arabia – a
title he had borrowed from Charles Doughty, in fact taking place in London
and in the Midlands. If The Empty Chair does not seem to have been mentioned
in Greene's correspondence or in his diaries, a few interesting parallels
can be drawn between the two “whodunnits”, particularly in the cast of
characters consisting, in both cases, of a young governess, a local priest
and a young girl in an English country mansion.

Then again, maybe “The Empty Chair” wasn’t mentioned because, as Owchar found out after reading that first chapter, it’s “(understandably) a far cry from the one who went on to produce “The

Third Man,” “The Power and the Glory” and “The Human Factor.” But that isn’t stopping Gulli from hoping “The Empty Chair” will be completed by someone else down the line: “We have several candidates in mind, but in the end I want to respect

the decision of Greene’s son and Mr. Gallix,” he said to Owchar, adding that he

doesn’t know if there will be plans to eventually publish the

manuscript as a book. But my bet, too, is that it’s pretty much a fait accompli, especially in light of the upcoming publication of Nabokov’s “The Original of Laura” – not to mention Playboy’s 5,000 word serial in advance of the November publication of that book…