Archive for September, 2009

>IF THE DEAD RISE NOT: PHILIP KERR

Posted: September 29, 2009 in Uncategorized

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If The Dead Rise Not is the sixth novel in Philip Kerr’s Bernie Gunther series. The story begins in Berlin 1934, where the Nazis are beginning to prepare for the 1936 Olympics, which were awarded to the Weimar Republic before Hitler’s seizure of power.

Bernie, no longer able to tolerate Goering’s police purges, has resigned as a homicide detective in the Criminal Police and has become a house detective at the fashionable Adlon Hotel.
The Nazis in just eighteen months have brought about some unpleasant changes including the expulsion of Jews from sporting organisations.
[ Gretel Bergmann was an example of this policy and a film has been made about this case.]


‘Jews will be stripped of German citizenship and forbidden to marry or have sexual relations with pure Germans. Employment in any public capacity will be completely forbidden, and property ownership restricted. Crossbreeds will be obliged to to apply to the Leader himself for reclassification or Aryanization.’

‘Jesus Christ.’

Otto Schuchhardt smiled. ‘Oh, I very much doubt that he’d be in with any sort of chance for reclassification. Not unless you could prove his heavenly father was German.’

The body of a German business man is discovered at the Hotel Adlon in suspicious circumstances, and Bernie is also asked by an ex-colleague to investigate the death of a boxer who turns out to be Jewish. These activities involve Bernie with two of the hotel guests; Max Reles an American gangster, with a secret, who intends to obtain a share of the vast amount of money the Nazis are spending on the Olympics in order to showcase the New Germany; and the beautiful Noreen Charalambides [nee Eisner], a wealthy Jewish American left wing journalist, who intends to write an article to encourage a boycott of these Nazi games by the American Olympic committee.
Bernie’s investigations of a criminal and romantic kind lead to a kind of stalemate, and the story flashes forward twenty years to pre-revolution Cuba, the country Bernie fled to from Argentina at the end of A Quiet Flame.
In Cuba Bernie finds new problems, new tyrants and new villains as we move towards the novel’s gripping climax.

‘Please, senor. At least read it,eh? If only because the man who wrote [Fidel Castro] it is currently languishing in the Model prison of the Isles of Pines.’

‘Hitler wrote a rather longer book, in Landsberg Prison, I didn’t read that one, either.’

I love the Bernie Gunther series and the books seem to be getting better and better. ‘If The Dead Rise Not’ brilliantly captures the menacing atmosphere of brutal regimes on two continents and uses Bernie’s quick wit as a weapon to highlight their evil. The series is not just a polemic against the Nazis, there are good and bad in all races and a book that includes mentions of Hermann Goering, Meyer Lansky and Fulgencio Batista has a head start in proving that thesis.

The sharp first person narrative of ‘If The Dead Rise Not’ appears to pay tribute to Raymond Chandler, as Bernie and Noreen reprise a scene from The Big Sleep, Dashiell Hammett and Kenneth Fearing, while still retaining the unique qualities that have earned the series so much praise, and three nominations for the CWA Ellis Peters Award.
Sometimes a series can become stale because the author writes the same book over and over again, but Philip Kerr by moving the action first to Argentina, and now Cuba has avoided this situation and given Bernie Gunther and his wisecracks fresh impetus.

I really enjoyed reading this novel which features great characters [real and fictional], an intriguing plot and is full of clever lines and tense situations. Philip Kerr has given us in Bernie Gunther a flawed hero that we can believe in, because compromise is the only way to survive in his cruel world, in which ‘the truly innocent are dead’, and this makes for some great books.
In my opinion ‘If The Dead Rise Not’ must be one of the front runners on this year’s Ellis Peters shortlist.
I will be posting an interview with the author Philip Kerr during the next two weeks.

The Capitolio was built in the style of the United States Capitol in Washington DC, by the dictator Machado, but it was too big for an island the size of Cuba. It would have been too big for an island the size of Australia.

Thanks to publishers Quercus and Maxine of Petrona for the book.

>A PRIZE ARRIVES

Posted: September 28, 2009 in Uncategorized

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When I got back home today I had a pleasant surprise in that my prize from this quiz, a signed copy of Curse of the Pogo Stick by Colin Cotterill had been delivered. I have to admit that I only spotted the quiz after it became easier here but I might have guessed the original answer anyway.

How many world famous authors have spent time in a colonial club in Burma and written a book entitled Shooting an Elephant apart from George Orwell?


The interesting stamp and Heaven Lake Press label showed me that my prize had come all the way from Thailand, which I thought was rather exciting. Thanks Colin.

>BERNIE GUNTHER NOMINATED AGAIN

Posted: September 27, 2009 in Uncategorized

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I have finished reading If The Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr one of the six nominated books for the Crime Writer’s Association Ellis Peters Historical Crime Fiction Award. This is the third time the Bernie Gunther series has been nominated for this award with The One From The Other in 2007, and A Quiet Flame in 2008. I need some time to collect my thoughts to write my review but my first reaction is that this is even better than the earlier Bernie Gunther novels with this one emphasizing the fact that there are good and bad in every race.


Reviews of the Bernie Gunther novels:



My review of March Violets, the first book in the series.

‘You Nazis are all the same.’ He laughed again. ‘Hypocrites.’
‘I’m not a Nazi. I’m a German. And a German is different from a Nazi. A German is a man who manages to overcome his worst prejudices. A Nazi is a man who turns them into laws.’
If The Dead Rise Not: Philip Kerr

>GREENWAY AGAIN

Posted: September 26, 2009 in Uncategorized

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Earlier this week we did our best to improve Anglo American relations by driving Mack and Marilyn Lundy [from Williamsburg VA] who were staying in Exeter to Greenway, Agatha Christie’s home on the River Dart. Mack is the keeper of the blog Mack Captures Crime, an expert on Sherlock Holmes, and one of the winners of the Crime Scraps Marathon quiz. The previous day the Lundys had driven up on to Dartmoor negotiated the winding lanes and high hedgerows of Devon quite brilliantly and even found their way back to their hotel.


The traffic driving down to Greenway was very heavy but the location itself is so beautiful that it seems in a different world.
The photograph on the left shows Mack being congratulated on his excellent quiz performance. Mack liked this photo as he said it made him look taller and slimmer.
Of course when two huge male intellects meet the conversation was on a very high philosophical level.

“The other winners would have got a kiss, but you are definitely not getting one.”
“I don’t want one!”
“I wish you were ******”
“I wish YOU were ******”

We then adjourned for the drive back along the alternative coastal route through Paignton and Torquay [apparently a bit like Myrtle Beach, S.C. in places] and stopped to enjoy a meal at an award winning fish and chip restaurant in Babbacombe. The only disappointment was that by the time we came out it was very dark so that Mack and Marilyn could not enjoy the magnificent sea and estuary views as we drove back to Exeter via Shaldon, Teignmouth, Dawlish and Starcross.

>HEAR HEAR

Posted: September 25, 2009 in Uncategorized

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Next up I will probably be reading and reviewing Siren of the Waters by Michael Genelin for Euro Crime.

This morning I had my left ear syringed [great fun] and am able to hear out of that ear for the first time in many months. But now I appear to be seeing double!

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I recently attended three events at the Budleigh Salterton Literary Festival; in the first TV personality and President of the festival Sue Lawley interviewed crime writer Val McDermid. The lady in front of me complained she could not hear Sue Lawley, which was a relief to me because I am having some trouble with my ears, and thought I had gone completely deaf.

But Val McDermid was much clearer and I heard and understood everything apart from a rendition of her original Fife accent.

Why are crime writers so much nicer people than you would imagine from their violent books and TV series? Val McDermid came across as a very intelligent person, and her talk was full of amusing anecdotes mostly about her working class Scottish roots.
She did say that success in writing was due to a modicum of talent, a lot of hard work, and the good luck of writing the sort of book that was wanted at a particular time.

One story she told [and I apologise if I have got the details wrong] was that Agatha Christie had driven her to a life of crime.
The only book in the house was Agatha Christie’s Murder in the Vicarage and after reading that several times she wanted to read the other Christie novels which were in the adult library, therefore Val “stole” her mother’s library card.
She presented the card to the librarian with the story that her mother was ill and taken to her bed and needed a book.
Many years later when the librarian met Mrs McDermid, she exclaimed that she thought she was dead, after all those years as a bedridden invalid.

Of course I purchased a copy of her latest novel Fever of the Bone, and Val was kind enough to sign my copy and pose for a photograph.

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Here is the link to Day 11 of the Celebrating Agatha Christie week blog tour which has been running at Mysteries in Paradise.


This is the final day of the tour and many thanks to Kerrie for hosting this event. I have really enjoyed everyone’s contributions and in the process discovered a lot more about the influence Agatha Christie had on other writers and the enormous amount of pleasure readers get from her books.

>COMING SOON ON CRIME SCRAPS

Posted: September 22, 2009 in Uncategorized

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Posts that are in the pipeline:


I am in the middle of reading the sixth Bernie Gunther novel If The Dead Rise Not by Philip Kerr, and in the next couple of weeks I will be posting a very interesting interview with the author.

Also an anecdote on the influence of Agatha Christie by one of our major crime writers.

Uriah meets a Cartier Diamond Dagger winner by the seaside.

An October Quiz and hopefully another trip to Torquay, where I have an appointment with a poached salmon and cucumber sandwich.

“Besides, as soon as I saw you I knew you were trouble. And it so happens that’s just the way I like my women. With big fenders, polished coach work, lots of chrome, and a supercharged engine, like the car Hedda drives. The kind of car where you find yourself in Poland the moment you touch the gas. I’d be on the bus if I was interested in sleeping with librarians.”
Bernie Gunther in If The Dead Rise Not
[Thanks to Quercus and Maxine of Petrona for the book]

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Here is the link to Day 10 of the Celebrating Agatha Christie week blog tour that is running on Mysteries in Paradise from 13-23 September.



>TWO FACES OF TORQUAY

Posted: September 21, 2009 in Uncategorized

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We are unfortunately still in a recession whatever is stated by the politicians and economists. While Torquay’s seafront looks prosperous enough looking beyond the facade there is a problem. That is why events such as the Agatha Christie Festival are so important to the town’s hotels and businesses. I worked for 15 years in a seaside town not far from Torquay and there were people who visited in June bought a business in September, because they loved the place and thought the setting beautiful, but by February they were in a state of distress.

There is perhaps no more depressing place in the developed world than an English seaside town at 6.30 p.m. on a winter’s evening, but I will suggest a great setting for an extra winter crime fiction festival.
Torquay and the Torbay area certainly need the Agatha Christie Festival and crime fiction tourists to bring much needed revenue to the South West, long may the festival flourish. Next year the festival promises to be bigger and better than ever as it will be celebrating the 120th anniversary of the author’s birth.