|Orson Welles played Harry Lime in the Nelson Reed movie, The Third Man. The script was actually written before the novella, making this a "novelization" of sorts.|
The Third Man (1949)
by Graham Greene
The Third Man is the first title in the 1001 Books project that started as a screen play for a movie. That movie, also called the The Third Man, is a classic, a career highlight for director Carol Reed and an acting highlight for Orson Welles, who plays anti-hero Harry Lime. If Greene himself didn't state the movie first, book second order of things in the preface, it wouldn't be hard to figure out. Unlike Greene's other books, The Third Man has a loose, flowing style and an emphasis on action.
The final scene of the book, with the English police in occupied Vienna chasing the not-dead Harry Lime through the sewers has a visual quality that almost exactly matches the final scene of the film. Greene himself distinguished his spy fiction from his more "serious" (read: Catholic) novels by calling the spy stuff his "entertainments." From this you can tell that he wrote before the collapse of the high/low art distinction that began in the late 1950s. The modern reader is likely more familiar with the "entertainments" than the serious stuff, and while the film The Third Man is an unmitigated triumph, I frankly question whether this book, essentially the novelization of a film, is indeed one of the "1001 books to read before you die."