He was born Henry Graham Greene in Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, where his father was headmaster of Berkhamsted School, which he attended. He went on to Balliol College, Oxford, and his first work (a volume of poetry) was published in 1925, while he was an undergraduate. In his autobiography, he gives many details of his difficult childhood. After graduation, he became a Catholic, was briefly married, and took up a career in journalism. Amongst other things, he was a film critic, until he caused the closedown of the magazine for which he worked by getting it involved in a libel action as a result of a comment he made about Shirley Temple.
His novels are written in a contemporary realistic style, often featuring characters troubled by self-doubt and living in seedy or rootless circumstances. The doubts were often of a religious nature, perhaps echoing the author's Roman Catholic beliefs.
Greene's books were originally divided into thrillers, mystery/suspense books that were cast as "entertainments" but which often included a notable philosophical edge, and the high literary books such as The Power and the Glory, on which his reputation was thought to be based. As his career lengthened, however, Greene and his readers both found the "entertainments" to be of nearly as high a value as the literary efforts, and Greene's later efforts such as The Human Factor, The Comedians, Our Man in Havana and The Quiet American combine these modes into works of remarkable insight and compression.
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