Saturday 24 March 2018

In Memoriam

22 February 1956 – 23 March 2018

On Friday 23rd March 2018 the crime writing community were notified of the sad death of Scottish crime writer Philip Kerr by his wife novelist Jane Thynne via Twitter.

Philip Kerr was best known for his Bernie Gunther novels with the first one in the series March Violets being published in 1989. March Violets introduced readers to his sardonic, tough talking former soldier who fought in World War I on the Turkish Front and also an ex-cop. Gunther went on to work as a private eye in the pre World War II. The series blended fact and fiction and set mostly in Berlin, as Gunther carried out investigations against the backdrop of the rise of the Nazis, whose reach he is always trying to escape.

In March Violets Bernhard Gunther is a private eye, specializing in missing persons. And in Hitler's Berlin, he's never short of work... Winter 1936. A man and his wife shot dead in their bed. The woman's father, a millionaire industrialist, wants justice - and the priceless diamonds that disappeared along with his daughter's life.  As Bernie follows the trail into the very heart of Nazi Germany, he's forced to confront a horrifying conspiracy.

March Violets was followed by The Pale Criminal which was published in 1990 and A German Requiem in 1991. The first three novels later became known as The Berlin Trilogy and were published as such in 2012. 

In 1992 his standalone novel A Philosophical Investigation was published.  Set in London 2013: a world in which serial murder has reached epidemic proportions.

Tested positively by the government as one disposed to criminal violence, a serial killer breaks into the computer to erase his name, where he discovers a list of others so accused and hits on the horrifying idea: what if he were to become a killer of serial killers? A Philosophical Investigation was well received on publication with the narrative unfolding from a dual perspective. The killer's being told in first person and the detective's is told in third.
This was followed in 1993 with Dead Meat and Gridiron in 1995,  The Shot in 1999, Dark Matter (2002), Hitler’s Peace (2012) amongst others.  The most recent standalone being The Most Frightening Story Ever Told in 2016.

He returned to the Bernie Gunther novels after a 15 year gap with The One From the Other in 2006.  This was followed by A Quiet Flame (2008), If the Dead Rise Not (2009), Field Grey (2010), Prague Fatale (2011), A Man Without Breath (2013), The Lady from Zagreb (2015), The Other Side of Silence (2016) and Prussian Blue in 2017. His novel If The Dead Not Rise won the Crime Writers Association Ellis Peters Historical Award in 2009 as well as the Premio RBA de Novela Negra. It also won the Barry Award for Best British Novel.  The novels Field Grey, The Lady of Zaregb and Prussian Blue were all shortlisted for an Edgar Award for Best Novel in 2012, 2016 and 2018 respectively. 
© (Philip Kerr & Jane Wood)

The latest book in the Bernie Gunther series Greeks Bearing Gifts is due to be published in April this year.  In Greeks Bearing Gifts, it is Munich, 1956. Bernie Gunther has a new name, a chip on his shoulder, and a dead-end career when an old friend arrives to repay a debt and encourages “Christoph Ganz” to take a job as a claims adjuster in a major German insurance company with a client in Athens, Greece.  Under the cover of his new identity, Bernie begins to investigate a claim by Siegfried Witzel, a brutish former Wehrmacht soldier who served in Greece during the war. Witzel’s claimed losses are large , and, even worse, they may be the stolen spoils of Greek Jews deported to Auschwitz. But when Bernie tries to confront Witzel, he finds that someone else has gotten to him first, leaving a corpse in his place.  Enter Lieutenant Leventis, who recognises in this case the highly grotesque style of a killer he investigated during the height of the war. Back then, a young Leventis suspected an S.S. officer whose connection to the German government made him untouchable. He’s kept that man’s name in his memory all these years, waiting for his second chance at justice…  Working together, Leventis and Bernie hope to put their cases–new and old–to bed. But there’s a much more sinister truth to acknowledge: A killer has returned to Athens…one who may have never left.

©  (Janet Ellis, Philip Kerr & Mike Ripley)
Between 2014 and 2015 three books in the Scott Manson thriller series were also written. The first in the series January Window (2014) introduced readers to Scott Manson a team coach for a London football club and all-round fixer. This was followed by Hand of God and False Nine both in 2015.
He was also wrote children’s novels using the name P B Kerr as well as a number of non-fiction books under his own name.
Over the years Shots have reviewed a number of his books including The Other Side of Silence, Hand of God, The Lady of Zaregb, A Man Without Breath, Prague Fatale and Field Grey

According to his publishers Quercus, Philip finished a fourteenth Bernie Gunther novel Metropolis, which will be published in the UK and US next year

A 2011 interview on the Shots website can be found hereThe Guardian have also reported on his death.

His passing is a great loss to so many; his family, authors and readers.  He will be solely missed.

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