Brighton Rock

“Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him.”

For the tenth instalment of the Curiously Specific Book Club podcast, we travel to the southern coast of England for Graham Greene’s ‘Brighton Rock’. We discover the Brighton of the 1930s, a place of seedy glamour shoved up against repulsive poverty, a town of razor boys, prostitutes, gangsters and dodgy lawyers.

We find the tunnel where Fred Hale is done in by Pinkie, Dallow and Cubitt, and take tea in the same cafe where the killers eat fish and chips and ponder their next move. We hunt for Snow’s tea rooms, and ponder the meaning of good and evil in a Brighton shelter. We also wonder if the name Pinkie Brown is Greene’s only toilet joke, and why his horror of farting led him to try and take his own life.

Up on the hill above the Old Steyne we find the slums in which Pinkie and Rose spent their childhoods, and then we sit in the empty grandstand of Brighton racecourse, before following Pinkie’s desperate tracks as he scrambles down into the outskirts of Brighton, pursued by Collini’s razor boys.

We end up at Peacehaven, and find an astonishing coincidence of dates as well as the marker stone of the Prime Meridian, the spot where Pinkie Brown, his face bubbling with acid, leaps to his death in the sea below.

Each month we road test a work of fiction that appears to be curiously specific about dates and locations. We go to the places mentioned and see if descriptions are accurate, journey times credible, dates and days all in order. Along the way, we learn things, about the book, and its author.

Sources & credits

Excerpts from the film Brighton Rock, 1971:

Graham Greene speaking in BBC Arena documentary:

Clearing the Slums, British Pathé, 1935:

Jonathan Franzen on Overrated Books:

Now My Heart is Full, by Morrissey:

Brighton Rock, by Tony Crombie:

By The Sea, 1910:

Anthony Burgess on Graham Greene:
Graham Greene’s Brighton: An exploration –

Pinkie: out on the dangerous edge of things: John Carey –

Lobby Lud –

Old Police Cells Museum: Race Course Gang –

My Brighton and Hove: Places –

Carlton Hill, Brighton –,_Brighton

Bedford Hotel, Brighton –

Whit Monday –

I Wonder What It Feels Like to Be Poor – engines:

A Tour Through Graham Greene’s Brighton:

Railway Time:

Colly Cibber and Kolly Kibber:

The Smallest A.1. Two Valve Receiving Set in the World! – a joke circa 1916:

Charles Sabini:

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