Friday, 14 July 2017

Volker Kutscher talks to Shots Magazine

One of the delights of the recent Crimefest 2017 event in Bristol was meeting German writer Volker Kutscher, a writer who is gathering acclaim not only in his native Germany, but also internationally.

In the UK he is published thanks to Sandstone Press.

Volker Kutscher was born in 1962. He studied German, Philosophy and History, and worked as a newspaper editor prior to writing his first detective novel. Babylon Berlin, the start of an award-winning series of novels to feature Gereon Rath and his exploits in late Weimar Republic Berlin, was an instant hit in Germany. Since then, a further four titles have appeared, most recently Märzgefallene in 2014. The series was awarded the Berlin Krimi-Fuchs Crime Writers Prize in 2011 and has sold over one million copies worldwide. Volker Kutscher works as a full-time author and lives in Cologne. 

We were delighted to hear that the first two Gereon Rath novels have been released by Sandstone Press, and coming to Sky TV in the UK in a multi-million Euro miniseries – read more Here and Here

Babylon Berlin

Berlin, 1929. Detective Inspector Rath, was a successful career officer in the Cologne Homicide Division before a shooting incident in which he inadvertently killed a man. He has been transferred to the Vice Squad in Berlin, a job he detests, even though he finds a new friend in his boss, Chief Inspector Wolter. There is seething unrest in the city and the Commissioner of Police has ordered the Vice Squad to ruthlessly enforce the ban on May Day demonstrations. The result is catastrophic with many dead and injured, and a state of emergency is declared in the Communist strongholds of the city.

Shots have copies available from our bookstore HERE

The Silent Death

Berlin 1930. Sound film is conquering the big screen, leaving many by the wayside: producers, cinema owners – and silent film stars. Investigating the violent on-set death of actress Betty Winter, Inspector Gereon Rath encounters the dark side of glamour and an industry in turmoil. When his father requests that he help his friend, the mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer, and his ex-girlfriend Charly makes a renewed attempt at rapprochement, things start to get out of hand. Trapped in the machinations of rival film producers, he roams Berlin’s Chinese quarter and the city’s underworld as he works ever closer to the edge of legality. Meanwhile the funeral of the murdered Horst Wessel leads to clashes between Nazis and Communists.

Shots have copies available from our bookstore HERE

So with acclaim from Peter James who stated ”Set in atmospheric 1930s Berlin where a maverick detective is hunting a serial killer The Silent Death, like its predecessor, Babylon Berlin, owes much to its author’s commitment to historical accuracy and the cynical feel of the times.”; Shots after meeting Volker at Crimefest tracked the author down in Cologne as we had a few questions - as part of our investigations into the life and times of Gereon Rath.

Ali       So how did an academic with an interest in philosophy and history find himself a published author?

Volker : Many years I worked as a journalist and writing fiction was nothing but a hobby to me. But then the Gereon Rath plan came up and I realised that for a project this large, I had to give up my newspaper job and had to try to change my writing hobby into a profession, a novelist.

AK       Wow you gave up the day-job; that was very brave!

VK      Well fortunately, it all worked out well.

AK       So tell me about what books you enjoyed and which made you decide to pen your own?

VK      There are so many books I enjoyed over the years, far more than I can mention here. But there are two authors who were favourites from my youth that I still re-read - namely Mark Twain and Erich Kästner. While the Berlin novels of Erich Kästner, Alfred Döblin, Hans Fallada or Irmgard Keun resonate deeply. I would even state that they inspired me to write the Rath novels. In fact I would say that Babylon Berlin is my attempt to combine the world of the authors I mentioned, with the world of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett.

AK       In the UK you are published by Sandstone Press, so tell us how your work has been received outside of Germany?

VK      Happily it’s been received very well. There are translations in many languages: French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, Hungarian, Serbian and even Japanese. But, of course, I’m more than happy that Sandstone Press made the English translation possible thanks also to Niall Sellar, and published my books in the UK.

AK       I worked in Munich many years ago, and was often told by my colleagues in this historic city, that ‘we’re Bavarian first, and Germans second’, so tell us where the fascination of the era of the Weimar Republic came from? And of course Berlin of that era?

VK      I think it’s Weimar Berlin that fascinates most people, not Weimar Munich as much. Berlin (as Cologne, the hometown of Gereon Rath) was part of Prussia, and Prussia in the Weimar years, from 1919 to 1932 was the most stable democratic state in Germany. The Prussian capital Berlin in those days was one of the most exciting cities in Europe, the city of Bertolt Brecht, Erich Maria Remarque, Albert Einstein, Billy Wilder, Marlene Dietrich and many more, until this all ends in 1933. And Munich, with all due respect, was the city which brought forth the Nazi movement, finally exporting it to the rest of Germany.

AK       And tell us about the genesis of your protagonist Gereon Rath, and where the interest in Detective fiction springs from?

VK      Detective fiction is the only fiction I have written so far. I don’t know why exactly. Maybe it’s about suspense. I think a good story is a good story and not necessarily to be Crime fiction; but it has to be thrilling nonetheless. My protagonist Gereon Rath is a Police Detective in a changing world. His employer is the state, but a state that is changing from democracy into dictatorship. Rath isn’t a flawless hero; he’s just an ordinary man. A man who tries to live is life and to do the right thing, but he also is corruptible in some ways.

AK       I assume your research into that era came from your interest in history, or did you have to work harder on the Berlin of that era, as it reads with a vivid eye on that surreal time?

VK      I had — and still have — to do a lot of research. During this process I learned many things previously. But I enjoy researching because I’m very curious about the Weimar Berlin era in general, so it doesn’t bother me that I only can use a small fraction of my research results for the novels, for these are novels and I have stories to tell.

AK       With Babylon Berlin and now Silent Death featuring Gereon Rath on our bookshelves can you tell us where the TV series came from, and if you will be continuing the novels as we hear that there are other not translated into English as yet?

VK      It was Tom Tykwer who wanted to adapt my novels for the TV screen, and it soon became really big. The first novel is going to be told in 16 episodes and two seasons for the international TV market. But Tom wants to go further than the first two seasons, and I appreciate this hugely, because I’ve written much more. There’s not only the second novel “Silent Death”, just published in the UK, and waiting for adaption, and there are six other Rath novels so far published in Germany; and I have three more to come. My Rath series will end after nine novels concluding in the really dark Nazi Era year of 1938. Let’s see how far the TV series will go.

AK       Thank you for your time

VK      Thank you, it was a pleasure.

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