Philip Kerr (1956–2018) a tribute

51vJ2Rno2jLThe sad news of Philip Kerr’s death, soon spread last night through social networks. In a succinct release, his widow Jane Thynne, wrote:

RIP beloved Philip Kerr. Creator of the wonderful #BernieGunter. Genius writer and adored father and husband. 1956-2018.  

A friend of mine asked me this morning: With which one of his novel is it worth starting?

Personally I suggest to start with Berlin Noir, his trilogy including March Violets, Pale Criminal, and A German Requiem. Hereafter, his novels don’t follow a strict chronological order and can be read in any order.

  • The One From the Other. New York: Putnam, 2006, the story is set in 1949
  • A Quiet Flame. London: Quercus, 2008, the story is set in 1950
  • If The Dead Rise Not. London: Quercus, 2009, the story is set in 1934 and 1954
  • Field Grey. London: Quercus, 2010, the story is set in 1954 with flashbacks over 20 years
  • Prague Fatale. London: Quercus, 2011, the story is set in 1941
  • A Man Without Breath. London: Quercus, 2013. the story is set in 1943
  • The Lady From Zagreb. London: Quercus, 2015, the story is set in 1942-3, with framing scenes in 1956.
  • The Other Side of Silence. London: Quercus, 2016, the story is set in 1956
  • Prussian Blue. London: Quercus, 2017, the story is set in 1939, with framing scenes in 1956
  • Greeks Bearing Gifts. London: Quercus, 2018. Will be released on 3 April, 2018. In 1957 (?)

It would be advisable to read then in order of publication, but always read first The Other Side of Silence, before Prussian Blue. And perhaps A Man Without Breath, prior to The Lady From Zagreb. Anyway, please take my view with a pinch of salt, I’m personally not following any order on my readings.

Philip Kerr was born in Edinburgh in 1956 and read Law at university. Having learned nothing as an undergraduate lawyer he stayed on as postgraduate and read Law and Philosophy, most of this German, which was when and where he first became interested in German twentieth century history and, in particular, the Nazis. Following university he worked as a copywriter at a number of advertising agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi, during which time he wrote no advertising slogans of any note. He spent most of his time in advertising researching an idea he’d had for a novel about a Berlin-based policeman, in 1936. And following several trips to Germany – and a great deal of walking around the mean streets of Berlin – his first novel, March Violets, was published in 1989 and introduced the world to Bernie Gunther. ‘I loved Berlin before the wall came down; I’m pretty fond of the place now, but back then it was perhaps the most atmospheric city on earth. Having a dark, not to say black sense of humour myself, it’s always been somewhere I feel very comfortable.’ Having left advertising behind, Kerr worked for the London Evening Standard and produced two more novels featuring Bernie Gunther: The Pale Criminal (1990) and A German Requiem (1991). These were published as an omnibus edition, Berlin Noir in 1992. Thinking he might like to write something else, he did and published a host of other novels before returning to Bernie Gunther after a gap of sixteen years, with The One from the Other(2007). Says Kerr, ‘I never intended to leave such a large gap between Book 3 and Book 4; a lot of other stuff just got in the way; and I feel kind of lucky that people are still as interested in this guy as I am. If anything I’m more interested in him now than I was back in the day.’ Two more novels followed, A Quiet Flame (2008) and If the Dead Rise Not (2009). Field Gray (2010) is perhaps his most ambitious novel yet that features Bernie Gunther. Crossing a span of more than twenty years, it takes Bernie from Cuba, to New York, to Landsberg Prison in Germany where he vividly describes a story that covers his time in Paris, Toulouse, Minsk, Konigsberg, and his life as a German POW in Soviet Russia. The next novels in the series are Prague Fatale (2011);  A Man Without Breath (2013); The Lady from Zagreb (2015); The Other Side of Silence (2016); and Prussian Blue (2017). Greeks Bearing Gifts (Bernie Gunther # 13).is due to be released on 3 April 2018. ‘I don’t know how long I can keep doing them; I’ll probably write one too many; but I don’t feel that’s happened yet.’ As P.B.Kerr Kerr is also the author of the popular ‘Children of the Lamp’ series. Sadly, Phillip Kerr passed away yesterday 23 March 2018 at 62, from cancer. May he rest in peace. 

11 thoughts on “Philip Kerr (1956–2018) a tribute”

  1. Sorry to learn this. The Kerr novel I most recently read was not one of the Bernie Gunther series but Dark Matter, about Isaac Newton as a detective during his time at the Royal Mint.

  2. This is very sad news, indeed. Kerr was a true talent who will be greatly missed.

  3. Thanks for this very nice tribute. I have read through A Quiet Flame, and I did not know the stories jump around in time. That is helpful information. I have the next four and I will read one soon.

  4. Thank you for a fine tribute. I regret he is gone. He created such a wonderful character in Bernie. I read the trilogy in a row, mainly on vacation. It was absorbing.

  5. My favorite Kerr is A Philosophical Investigation, not a Gunther book. When you finish the Gunthers, give that one a try!

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