‘Poor Father. Are we on the edge of ruin?’ Milly Wormold wants a horse and her father, a seller of vacuum cleaners, assumes he must get it for her. For want of money he takes up the invitation of a spy named Hawthorne to join MI6 and begins to weave an intricate fantasy of spooks, killers, lovers, dancers and missile emplacements. That is the plot of Graham Greene’s Our Man in Havana, published in October 1958, shortly before Fidel Castro drove the Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista into exile and four years before American U2 spy planes spotted Soviet missiles in Cuba.
Greene gets a lot of credit for predicting the Cuban Missile Crisis, from people who presumably don’t understand the book. In his novel the missiles are a hoax that MI6 ought to have detected. But Greene did prophesy something that lay forty-five years in the future: the sexed-up