Picks and Pans Review: The Tenth Man

updated 04/01/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/01/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Graham Greene

In 1944 Graham Greene had a contract to write for MGM films, and eventually wrote for them a short novel called The Tenth Man. He then apparently forgot about it until 1983, when MGM licensed publication rights to British publisher Anthony Blond for $11,000 plus royalties. It now appears with Greene's introduction explaining these curious circumstances, and with a couple of other outlines for screenplays that were never produced. Jim Braddon and the War Criminal is a preposterous tale about an American who just happens to look like a notorious Nazi. The American is the only survivor of a plane that crashes en route to South America after World War II, and when he's identified as the Nazi, he has no reason to doubt it, thanks to the old, overworked amnesia device. Nobody To Blame is much better. It suggests what the movie version of Greene's The Honorary Consul (1983's Beyond the Limit) ought to have been—a kind of parody of secret agents. The Tenth Man itself is something of an oddity. A group of Frenchmen who have been imprisoned by the Germans must draw lots to see which three of them will be executed. When a rich lawyer loses the draw, he offers to turn over all his worldly goods to anyone who will take his place. A younger man who is ill anyway volunteers for the sake of his poor family and is killed. After the war the lawyer must face the problem of life without resources. Eventually he meets and falls in love with the dead man's sister. When an unscrupulous actor shows up, pretending he is the lawyer, the whole plot turns melodramatic, with terribly literary borrowings from Shakespeare and Cyrano, among others. While the setting is World War II and its aftermath, the plot and dialogue and the concerns of the characters seem much more antique. This novel, while readable and briskly paced, probably would have seemed dated in 1944 too. (Simon and Schuster, $14.95)

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