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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

If The Dead Rise Not and others

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Bernie Gunther:  I've found that buying books is no substitute for reading them.

Bernie Gunther (after stirring the fire with a poker): The maid smiled back at me bleakly, although it could just as easily have been a sneer. It crossed her mind to say something tart until she thought better of it. I had a poker in my hand, after all, and she looked just the type who gets hit by one.

Bernie Gunther is a Chandleresque wise-cracking, ethically compromised homicide cop; private investigator; reluctant SS member; Russian prisoner of war; ex-Nazi on the run in Peron's Argentina; ditto in Cuba. Here a a few tales of murder and political intrigue in Germany before, during and after the rise of the Nazis and the ensuing disaster of WWII.

Sometimes the smart-arse metaphors are little strained, and the plot-required continuity errors across the series can slightly annoy pedantic bastards such as myself- is it chess or backgammon that he plays at master level? - but overall the Bernie Gunther books, from the much more bleak Berlin Trilogy of the 1990's to the latest three, are great reading. Some of terrific insight into the Nazi mentality and the panic and chaos it caused, with the creation of a host sympathetic German characters ( and a double host of extremely nasty ones) caught up in Hitler's monstrous unstoppable machine, from (the otherwise mediocre in my honest opinion) Philip Kerr.

Better than Bernhard Schlink's (The Reader) entertaining "Self's Deception" and "Self's Punishment" (ex-Nazi Germany magistrate turned private detective) which are not  bad in themselves, just not as engrossing.

E@L

2 comments:

Hunter-Gatherer said...

Not my favourite author but he has developed a great character in Bernie Gunther. The first three books are available as a trilogy - 'Berlin Noir' are thrilling. Bernie Gunther seems more like the Jack Nicholson character in 'The Two Jakes'

expat@large said...

H-G: so I'm not imagining that his other books are weak? I've read Gridiron and Esau and was completely underwhelmed.

Gunther is even more sarcastic than many of the traditional gumshoes; in reality he'd be dead by page 3 in any of these books just for being a smart-arse, in Nazi Germany or not.

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