(from the archives)
Ed Gorman is the author of THE MIDNIGHT ROOM and many other fine novels. You can find him here.
Ed Gorman: Loser Takes All, Graham Greene
I mean no disrespect when I say that I imagine Graham Greene conceived of Loser Takes All (one of his self-described "entertainments") as a film before he decided to write it as a short novella. It's big and colorful and hangs on two cunning twists that neatly divide the piece into curtain act one and curtain act two.
The story concerns the honeymoon of Mr. Bertram and his bethrothed Cary. They are planning to go on a modest short vacation when fate, in the the person of Dreuther, an incalculably rich man for whom Bertram is a lowly assistant accountant, intervenes. Bertram solves an accounting problem that nobody else in the incalculably vast corporation can figure out so Dreuther rewards him with the promise of a honeymoon on his yacht and nights of glamor in the casinos of Monte Carlo... Cary is thrilled.
Well, they go to Monte Carlo but soon learn that Dreuther has forgotten his promise. They are left to make do with their pitiful finances. They can't even pay their bills. Then Bertram, a math whiz, goes to a casino and tries out his own system for winning. And even more than that he begins to see how he can bring down Dreuther...
The rich men of the Fifties are perfect matches for the Wall Streeters of today. Their greed and lust is literally without bounds. Greene creates four distinctive scenes of black comedy when dealing with them. But even more, at the point when Cary sees her new husband change because of his winnings, Greene begins to examine the morality of greed. He also, in the midst of the action, gives us a painful subplot about adultery.
I was re-reading William Goldman's Adventure's In The Screen Trade the other and found this salute that I'd forgotten: "I think Graham Greene was the greatest novelist in English this century."
If you read Loser Takes All, you'll begin to see what Goldman was talking about.
Yvette Banek, DOUBLE FOR DEATH, Rex Stout
Joe Barone, INNOCENCE OF MURDER ON STEEP STREET, Heda Margolius
Les Blatt, THE HEADLESS LADY, Clayton Rawson
Elgin Bleecker, PICKUP, Charles Willeford
Brian Busby, The Crime of Ovide Plouffe [Le crime d'Ovide Plouffe]
Roger Lemelin [trans. Alan Brown]
Bill Crider, THE DEMON CARAVAN, Georges Surdez
Martin Edwards, THE CASE OF THE LATE PIG, Margery Allingham
Curt Evans, MURDER ENDS THE SONG, Alfred Meyers
Ed Gorman, THE HANDLE. Donald Westlake
John Hegenberger, THE HARDBOILDED DICKS, Ron Goulart
Rick Horton, THE NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS, Robert Louis Stevenson
Jerry House, FOOTSTEPS IN THE ATTIC, Stanley McNail
Randy Johnson, BLACK IS THE COLOR, John Bruner
Nick Jones, THE LIBRARY EDITION OF THE WORKS OF GRAHAM GREENE
George Kelley, TIME TRAVELER'S ALMANAC, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer
Margot Kinberg, CALL FOR THE DEAD, John LeCarre
Rob Kitchin, THE DUNBAR CASE, Peter Corris
B.V. Lawson, FIVE PASSENGERS FROM LISBON, Mignon Eberhart
Evan Lewis, WILDERNESS, Robert Parker
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, DROVER, Bill Granger
Todd Mason, THE MEN FROM ARIEL, Donald A. Wolheim
Neer, THE STRANGE BOARDERS OF PALACE CRESCENT, E.P Oppenheim
J.F. Norris, PICTURE OF MILLIE, P.M. Hubbard
James Reasoner, TARZAN, UNTAMED, Edgar Rice Burroughs
Richard Robinson, THE GIANT RAT OF SUMATRA, Richard Boyer
Kevin Tipple, GATOR KILL, Bill Crider
TracyK, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, James Cain