Tripwire Reviews The Prague Coup

Tripwire Reviews The Prague Coup

Creating The Third Man

♦ Tripwire’s contributing writer Tim Cundle reviews Hard Case Crime/ Titan Comics’ The Prague Coup, out now…

The Prague Coup
Writer: Jean-Luc Fromenthal
Artist: Miles Hyman
Hard Case Crime / Titan Comics

Like most people, before I became thoroughly absorbed in Fromenthal and Heyman’s vision of Vienna and Prague in the immediate aftermath of the Second World war, what I knew about Graham Greene could best be summed up in three words; The Third Man. An author favoured by my parents’ and grandparents’ generations, my lack of familiarity with Greene’s literary career stemmed mainly from the fact that his work, barring the Orson Welles starring vehicle that arguably changed the face of cinema forever, always seemed  to be a million leagues removed from my favourite genres. This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t aware of the fact that he was widely regarded as being one of the foremost authors of the twentieth century. I was and am, it’s just that I’ve never read anything he wrote. However, after immersing myself in The Prague Coup, that will change and I’m going to read every book he put his name to, no matter how long it takes. Why? Because of the portrait that Fromenthal and Heyman have loving and carefully constructed of Greene, a man who lived life to its absolute fullest, in The Prague Coup.

Set in 1948, The Prague Coup follows the journey that Greene took to Vienna and Prague in order to, ostensibly, research and flesh out the plot of The Third Man. Told from the perspective of Elizabeth Montagu who, at the time, was working for London Films and Alexander Korda and was charged with being Greene’s guide and assistant on his trip, The Prague Coup deftly mixes historical fact with the kind of rip-roaring, Cold War espionage thriller that could have emerged from the imagination of its central character. Indelibly tying the writing of the film, and the reason for Greene’s trip, in with his and Montagu’s wartime service in the intelligence communities and the tangled webs they were weaving throughout Europe as the world’s superpowers began their decades-long frozen conflict, The Prague Coup is a masterpiece of intrigue that’s built around a simple supposition: “What if?”

Bearing a striking, and intentional, similarity to the tone and feel of The Third Man, The Prague Coup is a hard-boiled, slow-burn tale that the likes of John Le Carre made their name creating, in which the operatives of various shadow-bound, secret agencies try to outfox each other and discover why, convinced that there must be more to the ex-spy’s journey than his cover story, Greene is really there. And by mixing fact and fiction with a surefooted ease that would make bestselling authors weep with jealousy, Fromenthal keeps his audience guessing right up until the closing moments, when he ties all of The Prague Coup’s threads together in a jaw-dropping finale that, unless you’re incredibly familiar with Greene’s life, you’ll never see coming.  Given an added sense of period and place by the gorgeous noir art of Miles Hyman, The Prague Coup is, for intents and purposes both the prequel to, and story of the creation of, The Third Man and reinforces the idea that truth and fiction, in the right hands, are all too often indistinguishable.  Tim Cundle

The Prague Coup review

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The Prague Coup by Jean-Luc Fromenthal and Miles Hyman
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