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Brighton Rock - Discussion

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Alrighty, I've had a quick dash through the book and I've come up with this : on page 66 Pinkie is in a meeting with Colleoni and Colleoni asks him what happened to Kite. Part of the answer is " It wouldn't have happened if we hadn't been crossed. A journalist thought he could put one over on us"

 

On page 67 it tells how Kite was killed and where he was at the time.

 

However, on page 142 Pinkie says "To think of all this trouble over Hale. He deserved what he got but if I'd known how it would go maybe I'd have let him live. Maybe he wasn't worth killing. A dirty little journalist who played in with Colleoni and got Kite killed.........." Further down the same page it explains a little about what Kite meant to Pinkie.

 

That's just a quick flick through for the moment, but gives some idea.

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I suspect that a modern thriller would be expected to put more flesh on the bones. It doesn't address who Hale was; what he knew; how he knew it; why he wanted to shaft Kite's crew; why he was involved with Colleoni. It's all taken as read but since all the subsequent action hinges on the fact the mob want to kill Hale - but we need to believe that the mob would have killed him. As it stands, Hale feels like a device, not a person who actually lived and died.

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It's not really explicit is it really? The reader does have to surmise the details with the bare bones of information. I didn't get the impression when reading that I knew exactly why Pinkie had murdered this man, or even how exactly he had murdered him. Not like the pushing of the guy over the banister. I just became comfortable with the fact that maybe it wasn't important why just that Pinkie did. It's not a crime novel so the graphic details and ins and outs weren't necessary - it's about this particular character.

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I should say that my copy is the Vintage Classics one, should that make a difference.

 

It doesn't address who Hale was; what he knew; how he knew it; why he wanted to shaft Kite's crew; why he was involved with Colleoni. It's all taken as read but since all the subsequent action hinges on the fact the mob want to kill Hale
I think that we are left to draw our own conclusions. The fact that Hale was an informant would be enough to get him killed in a gang situation apparently (i.e. it's not important who he was, what he knew etc) and since he wasn't a member of any of the gangs perhaps Greene deliberately made him out to be a device that was used by one of the gangs and killed as such by the other. The main action, it seems, centres around Pinkie and what he's willing to do, and we see him early on, talking to Hale.

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Yes, but with Pinkie we see that he decided to:

 

  • kill Hale for reasons unexplored
  • marry Rose to stop her talking
  • kill Spicer when he wanted to leave the gang
  • let Cubitt go when he tried to join Colleoni's gang

 

all this in a context where capital punishment existed and was administered swiftly - Ruth Ellis was dead within 3 weeks of sentence; Derek Bentley was dead within 3 months of his crime (for which he was later pardoned). Pinkie had little to lose from a massacre in the chapters where he would hang, although in other chapters he was convinced he wouldn't.

 

I think it's reasonable to expect some understanding of Hale's demise in order to gauge the subsequent decision making process.

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Yes, but with Pinkie we see that he decided to:

 

  • kill Hale for reasons unexplored
  • marry Rose to stop her talking
  • kill Spicer when he wanted to leave the gang
  • let Cubitt go when he tried to join Colleoni's gang

 

all this in a context where capital punishment existed and was administered swiftly - Ruth Ellis was dead within 3 weeks of sentence; Derek Bentley was dead within 3 months of his crime (for which he was later pardoned). Pinkie had little to lose from a massacre in the chapters where he would hang, although in other chapters he was convinced he wouldn't.

Yes, I wondered about these inconsistencies myself. Why did he not just kill everybody? Maybe it was to underline the fact that he was very young and inexperienced in the art of running a gang but then he does say, several times, that he would end up killing everybody and he didn't want a bloodbath. Also, I think that the reason that Cubitt was not killed is because Pinkie had already killed Spicer and killing all the members in your own gang doesn't appear to be a good idea (although Pinkie doesn't seem to have wanted to do something other than killing to prevent Cubitt leaving). I think this indicates that Pinkie's gang is disintegrating and there's nothing that he can do about it.

 

I think it's reasonable to expect some understanding of Hale's demise in order to gauge the subsequent decision making process.
Thing is though, I don't think that Hale's death was Pinkie's first murder, just another in the line and not important enough to explore, from Pinkie's point of view. He and the rest of the gang seemed to be more concerned with making sure that it was found to be natural causes and not murder. The fact that Ida got involved because she was appalled that nobody cared about Hale, even to go to his funeral, underlines the fact that Hale seemed to be completely unimportant.

 

Even the details of how Hale was killed are sketchy, (we are not actually told how he died) as if it didn't matter at all - in other words, I think that Greene left Hale's details deliberately vague to make a point.

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I agree that by the time Cubitt left, it was obvious that the gang was breaking up. But at the same time, it seems disproportionate to kill Spicer for simply wanting to leave after long and honourable service and run a pub a long way away. It then seems unduly lenient to let Cubitt away with trying to join the opposition, and then plain bizarre to want to do away with Rose. The time for killing Rose was right at the beginning - and especially if she had just taken a new job she would hardly have been missed either by her employer or her family were she to suddenly vanish. In any case, once the verdict of natural causes had come in, that would have been the end of the matter. They would hardly exhume someone on the say so of a woman from London who simply asserted that the deceased had been a bit paranoid. I'm not sure that anyone much would have cared about the token Rose found. Hale could have employed someone else to leave tokens whilst he drank in a bar; he could have been in disguise to make recognition harder; Rose might have been mistaken. Why would Rose even have been interested - she had her money?

 

I could roll with it all for the first 100 pages. There seemed to be enough intrigue for me to suspend disbelief and not question the odd inconsistency. And it could be argued that Greene is portraying fragmentation of Pinkie's mind as stress builds, but I'm not sure that's enough to make the novel work for me.

 

By the way - did anyone get the oblique references to Brighton Rock?

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By the way - did anyone get the oblique references to Brighton Rock?

 

At one point I thought it symbolised Pinkie, hard all the way through, and at other times that idea combined with thoughts of an instrument hard enough to whack someone round the face with. I don't think it matters too much.

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By the way - did anyone get the oblique references to Brighton Rock?

At one point I thought it was going to be revealed as the murder weapon. Actually that was the main thing that kept me reading - how had Pinkie killed Hale?

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At one point I thought it was going to be revealed as the murder weapon.

I thought the same. There are repeated innuendos relating to rock. I had tried to work out whether the rock could have been forced down Hale's throat and then dissolved or something.

 

I also wondered whether my change in personal circumstances half way through the novel might have changed my perceptions. When I had no visa and was despondent I found the book compelling. Then, when I got the visa and became elated, the book had lost its spell. I'm not saying that you need to be in a bad mood to get the book, but perhaps it doesn't help to have a major mood swing in the middle.

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I agree that by the time Cubitt left, it was obvious that the gang was breaking up. But at the same time, it seems disproportionate to kill Spicer for simply wanting to leave after long and honourable service and run a pub a long way away. It then seems unduly lenient to let Cubitt away with trying to join the opposition, and then plain bizarre to want to do away with Rose. The time for killing Rose was right at the beginning - and especially if she had just taken a new job she would hardly have been missed either by her employer or her family were she to suddenly vanish. In any case, once the verdict of natural causes had come in, that would have been the end of the matter. They would hardly exhume someone on the say so of a woman from London who simply asserted that the deceased had been a bit paranoid. I'm not sure that anyone much would have cared about the token Rose found. Hale could have employed someone else to leave tokens whilst he drank in a bar; he could have been in disguise to make recognition harder; Rose might have been mistaken. Why would Rose even have been interested - she had her money?

 

It seems to me that Spicer was killed because he was against the murder of Hale (and murder in general), and kept saying so, was getting more and more nervous (and thus unreliable) and he knew far too much to be allowed to retire to another county – he did, after all, witness Pinkie murdering Hale. He also failed to pass on the message that Rose left, which looked like betrayal to Pinkie and was getting to be more and more of a liability. Spicer ended up getting his photo taken and put in the photographer’s window, where anybody could see it. Rose, upon seeing said picture, was absolutely sure that he wasn’t Kolley Kibber – Part 3, chapter four explains that.

 

Cubitt, on the other hand, wasn’t considered dangerous by Pinkie (Page 200) so he couldn’t be bothered doing anything with him – on page 265 Ida says that Cubitt wouldn’t talk when he was sober and they couldn’t get him drunk enough.

 

Rose had to die because she could get Pinkie hanged.

 

 

I had tried to work out whether the rock could have been forced down Hale's throat and then dissolved or something.
I took it that that's what happened. The rock was forced down Hale's throat then, after death, removed. Although I don't have a reference for it.

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Spicer ended up getting his photo taken and put in the photographer’s window, where anybody could see it. Rose, upon seeing said picture, was absolutely sure that he wasn’t Kolley Kibber – Part 3, chapter four explains that.

That's another bit that doesn't quite add up. Rose has already made it clear that she knows the chap in the cafe wasn't Colley Kibber - so he had to be somebody. Rose was, frankly, more likely to see Spicer by hanging around Frank's place than by walking past the photo booth - more likely, even, to bump into him on the street. But after seeing the photo, the damage (such as it is) has already been done. Send Spicer away for ever and Rose would never see him again - just a face in a photo. This felt like something being held up as significant when it shouldn't have been.

 

For a plot driven novel, I think it's important that the plot is watertight. I didn't think this one was.

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Spicer was killed for reasons already stated, not just because Rose recognised him. Pinkie decided to kill Rose after he had seen Ida visit Rose and Rose told him that it was a visit from her mother. Clearly, if Rose was prepared to lie to him she was a liability and had to die. Quite why it was important to keep Rose quiet in the first place, is unclear. She wasn't making a fuss about it, and the police weren't investigating Hale's death, so that left just Ida, who wasn't fussing at the time Pinkie met Rose. Maybe this was a device to underline the instability of Pinkie and his unsuitability as leader, not to mention his lack of experience.

 

I always wondered quite why Ida was never killed either.

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I hadn't thought of that but it would seem to be the obvious solution to Pinkie's difficulties.
It seems that Pinkie just can't make up his mind. He states clearly that he doesn't want a blood bath and asks if he has to kill everybody - with I assume the resulting higher risk of being caught - but the obvious solution to his problems is to kill everybody.

 

Also, he can't make up his mind whether he cares about being hanged or not. When the prospect of being hanged is remote he doesn't care, but when it seems to be a real prospect he clearly does. Sociopath he may be, but intellectual he isn't. Pretty much everything he does is ad hoc, not as a result of being thought out and planned, the only successful example of Pinkie's ad hoc solution being sending his lawyer to France to get him out of the way.

 

Also, he is interviewed by the police after he carves - as they say - Brewer, and knows that the police are keeping an eye on him and Colleoni.

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The reason why Hale didn't died of natural causes. I think it is clear that he had a heart attack. In a rock shop where he fell and broke a box of Brighton Rock. The reason why that wasn't natural causes is because he was frightened to death.

 

Pinkie's inconsistency about how he dealt with people was because he was more concerned with maintaining his alibi and the elaborate steps he had taken to create one; than with dealing with anyone who was investigating him. Therefore Spicer has to die because he may talk. Cubit won't talk (because he is as guilty and would hang) and so isn't a risk. Rose, at various points in the story, may or may not talk and may or may not know enough and is therefore more or less of a threat. Ida isn't a threat because she has no evidence.

 

There! :scratchhe

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I'm sorry to seem argumentative - honestly, I'm posting simply because I'm enjoying reading people's different interpretations - but if Hale had died of fright in a rock shop then it was death by natural causes and all the witnesses in the world would not be able to say otherwise. The gang would have known that Hale had died without having a finger laid on him and been thanking their lucky stars. No need to chase up Rose; no need for the gang to fall apart; all kushti.

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...if Hale had died of fright in a rock shop then it was death by natural causes and all the witnesses in the world would not be able to say otherwise. The gang would have known that Hale had died without having a finger laid on him and been thanking their lucky stars. No need to chase up Rose; no need for the gang to fall apart; all kushti.
Yes, that's just another of the plot flaws that litter this book. Do we think that the medical evidence was somehow tampered with?

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Just been back to the book. Dying in the rock shop doesn't work as they want to make people think that Hale died later than he did - hence distributing the tokens. Therefore, Hale must have been killed somewhere quiet and found later.

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As I recall, and I don't have a reference to hand, Hale was killed in a train station. Medical evidence - such as it was at that time - did indeed conclude that he had a heart attack so it was ruled natural causes and the police weren't looking into it. Spicer witnessed the killing, and I'm certain that Brighton Rock was forced into Hale's mouth and that's how he was frightened to death (again I don't have the reference to hand). A train station being a public place makes it possible for a witness that wasn't spotted to come forward - so how did they know that Ida didn't see the whole thing? - and the handing out of the cards was to convince that Hale died later than he did in order to provide an alibi, which was ruined if Rose stuck to her story that it wasn't Hale that left the card in Snow's.

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At the risk of stating the obvious, you can't fake the time of death when the victim dies in a public place - especially one with lots of clocks. Hale must have been killed somewhere secluded.

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At the risk of stating the obvious, you can't fake the time of death when the victim dies in a public place - especially one with lots of clocks.
Why do you think Pinkie had such a lot of trouble with the planting of the cards and with Rose?

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Wasn't it Kite who was killed in a railway station?
Yes, that'll be where I'm getting confused.

 

I found the reference I was looking for : Part One, Chapter 3, page 30 (in my copy) it states that "For he hadn't dropped at the turnstile: he'd gone back all the way they'd come, sat in a shelter." Ida had just left him at the turnstile to the Pier to go to the ladies and when she came back out he'd gone.

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Just finished this book over the weekend, and have enjoyed reading everyone's comments. I liked the book a lot, found it very atmospheric. The character of Pinkie was intriguing and well-rounded for me - for instance, someone earlier said why didn't he just kill everyone, I thought it showed that he was immature, inexperienced, and a little bit human. I found the religious aspects interesting too, and took the reference to Brighton Rock to mean something along the lines of 'evil' running through someone like Pinkie like the letters in the stick of rock.

 

I have to say that the female characters were a bit disappointing. Rose was too naive and gullible, and whilst I liked Ida at the start, I found as the book went on her character became slightly unbelievable - why was she so interested in the case that didn't, after all, really concern her?

 

All in all though a cracking read, and I look forward to watching the film one day.

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