How in the world could this be my first adventure with Graham Greene? Seriously — where did I find a rock big enough to hide from this author?? With many, many thanks to an enthusiastic recommendation from my friend June, I am now part of the club that is crazy about Mr. Greene’s imagination and insight.
Our Man in Havana was originally published in 1958, which, incidentally, was one year before Castro’s revolution in 1959. Interesting coincidence, no? Conspiracy theorists have apparently been having a ball with that for years.
If you’re as late to the Greene party as I was, you will want to know that this is the story of English gent James Wormold, who is a Havana-based vacuum cleaner salesman. How’s that for dry? It isn’t. The only thing dry about this fantastic romp is the wit. This is a comedy-thriller that will have you laughing out loud often, and shaking your head, because Mr. Wormold’s predicaments become completely absurd.
Mild-mannered Mr. Wormold, father of shopaholic Milly, and dear friend to wonderful Mr. Hasselbacher (my personal favorite), somehow catches the eye of the British Secret Service, and somehow, incredibly, is recruited. Did I mention that he was recruited in a pub bathroom? No — I won’t give any more details on that. I’m already giggling thinking about the whole scenario. All you need to know is that Mr. Wormold suddenly becomes “Our Man in Havana;” responsible for supplying secret information to London. Trouble is, Mr. Wormold isn’t very good at it. In fact, when you hear the description of his first official “report,” I promise you will be a little stunned. You will also be a little stunned when the British Secret Service believes it. They will want more. He will have to get “more,” and will unwittingly become a “threat” to the Secret Service’s enemies. As this wild ride continues, Wormold is given a secretary, a radio assistant, agents….. and he doesn’t want any of it. The entire scene is hysterical, and brilliant.
If you enjoy a good espionage tale, or perhaps just some truly intelligent (dark) comedy, give Our Man in Havana a try. There’s a long list of books by Graham Greene, so there’s plenty more if you become a new fan.
I also promise that you’ll never look at a vacuum cleaner the same way again.