Travel: Murder, suicide and a sticky pink sweet

Graham Greene created a notorious image of Brighton in

his novel, Brighton Rock. Now you can relive it on a guided

walking tour - yes, sleaze sells.

"BRIGHTON IS famous for irregular relationships," says our guide Maire as we set off to retrace the steps of the most sinister social misfit ever to haunt the pages of 20th-century literature. It is 60 years since Graham Greene first terrorised the book world with his pubescent milk- drinking gangster, Pinkie Brown, but the scene of his villain's crimes still hasn't recovered. Brighton can't decide whether to hail the author as its patron saint or to excommunicate him for being the town's most ineffectual spin doctor since Dr Johnson.

Picture Brighton in the Thirties and images of razor-wielding racketeers stalking the narrow "twittens" or Lanes come to mind. The publication of Brighton Rock in 1938 did nothing to deter the pundits from crowning the resort "Queen of the Slaughtering Places". And yet, as we huddle beneath the dank underbelly of the Palace Pier to hear how the hapless Kolly Kibber meets his grisly end, it strikes me that Brighton should make more of its nefarious past, not less. If the success in Savannah of John Berent's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is anything to go by, resurrecting a few local ghouls will get the tourists flocking in by the coachload.

Maire McQueeney of 20th Century Walks is one of the few to see the potential. Her Brighton Rock tour is billed as the seaside excursion to hell and back - well it does take in the suburb of Peacehaven - and promises murder, mayhem and abduction all before Sunday brunch.

Sporting a grubby Thirties sailor's cap to get us in the mood, and clutching a dog-eared copy of the novel, Maire reads the opening line: Hale knew, before he had been in Brighton three hours, that they meant to murder him. An elderly lady shivers and draws her cardigan tighter round her body.

"Murder," Maire declares, "is more prevalent in the Nineties than ever it was in the Thirties." We all shiver now. But the Chief Constable's report for 1938 bears her out: one Malicious Wounding, one Murder and 16 offences related to Gambling. No wonder then that, as Greene said, "the Brighton authorities proved a little sensitive to the picture I had drawn of their city".

We begin at the book's end, taking the coastal road out towards Peacehaven and the cliffs from where Pinkie plunges to meet his maker. The old workhouse at the top of Race Hill looms up at us like some Gothic horror. Just below the race course, the valley dips to reveal the concrete blot on Brighton's landscape - Whitehawk housing estate. Further on are the manicured lawns and restrained turrets of Roedean School for Girls, then the newly restored Art Deco lido at Saltdean.

Built in 1919 as a place fit for heroes and originally known as New Anzac, Peacehaven lives up to its name and is deserted. We stop at the spot where the Greenwich meridian leaves the land and enters the sea, standing with one foot in the western hemisphere and the other in the east. It is here on this very clifftop that Pinkie blinds himself with vitriol before being whipped away into oblivion.

Backtracking from the grave to the cradle, we return to Brighton to hunt out Paradise Piece, birthplace of the enfant terrible. The Salvation Army citadel is long gone and there is no trace of the wretched slums that were Pinkie's stamping ground. But higher up at Nelson Place, where poor misguided Rose lived, decay hangs heavy in the air.

Back yards that were once used to smoke herrings are strung with lines of greying washing. In a Tarmacked play area, two pigeons have the faded hopscotch court to themselves. Graffiti on a nearby wall reads "Join the Jesus Army in our Holy Crusade against drugs", and the church tower bears the slogan "Thy Word Is Truth", scorched into the brick. Pinkie would have felt right at home.

Down on the seafront, the sun is shining and Brighton is at its best. Just as Greene describes, the Grand Hotel is "dozing out the day like an old statesman" while next door the Metropole basks raffishly in the sun's glare. At the erstwhile Aquarium where, in 1874, the exhibition of a live Norwegian lobster apparently caused a furore, hordes of sticky- fingered children queue up to poke fun at the sharks in what is now a ubiquitous Sea Life Centre.

Further along the esplanade, no less than four candy-coloured shops proudly proclaim Biggest and Best Selection of Rock in Brighton. Fred Hale, alias Kolly Kibber, chokes to death on a stick of the same evil pink sweet and this is where we end our tour, at the beginning, in a dark damp corner beneath the Palace Pier.

"There's always something new on the Palace Pier," says one of the novel's few redeeming characters, Ida the blousy saloon bar singer. In her day it cost threepence to push through the turnstile to the peepshows and quoits housed in the Palace of Pleasure. Now, you can have your fortune told by Dale from the Yorkshire Dales as seen on Kilroy, eat hot hog roast or simply smooch up and down with a loved one. "The Palace Pier is still providing alibis for people all of the time," laughs Maire.

Perhaps somewhat unfairly nowadays, Brighton and dirty weekends continue to go together like a bucket and spade. "I suppose I'm real Brighton," claims Pinkie, as if a single heart contained all the cheap amusements, the Pullman cars, the unloving weekends in gaudy hotels, and the sadness after coitus. Over half a century on, the town sparkles and shimmers as if it's just been given a lick of new paint. But scratch the surface and a shadowy underworld frequented by baby-faced mobsters, cut-throat razor gangs and....

Above us, a volley of screams pierces the sky. The pier's rollercoaster wheels and loops and a hundred thrill seekers shudder, hearts in mouths. "Have a stick of Brighton rock," Maire chuckles.

Maire McQueeney, 20th Century Walks, 22 Warleigh Road, Brighton, BN1 4NT, 01273 607910. Maire runs tours primarily for adult clubs, schools, colleges and interested associations. She also leads walks for the public during the annual Brighton Festival in May; details on 01273 676926. A half-day (up to four hours), costs pounds 150 per group - Brighton Rock lasts a little over three hours - and the recommended group number is between 20 and 25

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015