A sad day today. Philip Kerr, one of my favorite authors, died today in London. With him dies Bernie Gunther, the hard-boiled German cop, turned Private Investigator, set in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s violent world.
Through 13 novels we have followed Bernie as he survives Nazis and the following so-called peace. Our sarcastic Bernie moves from wise-cracking, reluctant Nazi to a jaded man on-the-run from all governments and politics. And we will miss him terribly.
Gunther is “one of crime fiction’s most satisfying and unlikely survivors: the good cop in the belly of the beast,” wrote Jane Kramer, The New Yorker’s longtime European correspondent, last year.
Kerr was a Scottish born writer who captured the evil of that time and place better than anyone I have ever read. He died at only 62-years-old from bladder cancer just before the publication of his final novel, Greeks Bearing Gifts, which comes out next week. There is apparently another Bernie manuscript left behind, Metropolis, which let’s us explore the Weimar Republic when Bernie was young in the 1920’s.
If you are lucky enough to not have read Philip Kerr at this point, start with his trilogy, Berlin Noir , which contains the first three Bernie Gunther novels. Though you can really start anywhere in his Gunther books since Kerr consistently jumped around by time and location.
As readers, we have moved through time with Bernie from the early 1930’s in Germany to the 1950’s in Havana and the French Riviera. The world-weary ex-cop never caught a break as history pushed him along. Now we too, have lost our luck and must say goodbye to Bernie as well.