Best 1943 Adventures (4)
June 13, 2018
One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1943 adventure novels. Happy 75th anniversary!
Graham Greene’s espionage adventure The Ministry of Fear.
At a humble charity fête held in wartime London, Arthur Rowe, a bookish fellow whose guilty conscience has long prevented him from engaging with others, wins a cake… which contains a roll of film that he wasn’t intended to receive. As Luftwaffe bombs rain down on the shell-shocked city, creating a nightmarish dreamscape — “in which familiar people appear in terrible and unlikely disguises” — Rowe must elude German agents who are after his cake. Despite, or because of the peril he faces, Rowe finds himself coming back to life. Is this a comic farce? A psychological thriller? It’s both. There’s an attempt on his life, a murder at a séance, and an air raid that saves his life — but robs him of his memory. For the first time in years, he is a happy man… because he can’t remember what he’s done. But will he let the spies triumph?
Fun facts: Greene credited Michael Innes’s The Secret Vanguard — a witty, Buchan-esque yarn about spies and kidnapping set largely in the Scottish Highlands — as his inspiration, in writing what he intended to be a “funny and fantastic thriller.” Fritz Lang adapted The Ministry of Fear for the screen in 1944.
JOSH GLENN’S *BEST ADVENTURES* LISTS: BEST 250 ADVENTURES OF THE 20TH CENTURY | 100 BEST OUGHTS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST RADIUM AGE (PROTO-)SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TEENS ADVENTURES | 100 BEST TWENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST THIRTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST GOLDEN AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FORTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST FIFTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SIXTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST NEW WAVE SCI FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST SEVENTIES ADVENTURES | 100 BEST EIGHTIES ADVENTURES | 75 BEST DIAMOND AGE SCI-FI ADVENTURES | 100 BEST NINETIES ADVENTURES (in progress) | 1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001 | 2002 | 2003 | NOTES ON 21st-CENTURY ADVENTURES.