Philip Kerr- The Bernie Gunther novels

 

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Philip Kerr deserves an honourable mention in the WW2 fiction writing genre, not least for his original premise.  His novels centre on a German policeman and private eye, Bernie Gunther, and cover the 1930’s and 1940’s. His protagonist is thus ‘one of the enemy’, yet the reader soon forgets this. Gunther is a hard bitten, hard drinking, womanising, tough guy.  But he hates the Nazis and their ideology.  He treads a dangerous path, playing the Nazis at their own game, while stifling them whenever possible.  His moral compass is complex, but it is generally pointed in a direction the reader approves.  Gunther’s intelligence, instinct, wit and likeability eradicate any lingering doubts.

Kerr has been described as Chandler-esque.  And his stories do pay homage American crime noir.  But Kerr’s twist is his historical setting, in which Gunther encounters leading Nazis- Heydrich, Himmler, Goering and others.  To the WW2 buff, these encounters are fascinating.  And although fictional, they are well researched and credible.  They lay bare the corruption, hypocracy and ruthlessness of Nazism.  Kerr’s narratives touch on real events- The Berlin Olympics, Kristallnacht, The Katyn massacres, Heydrich’s assassination, Nazism’s forays into Palestine and the post war organisations that helped Nazis fleeing from war crimes trials.  The depiction of these events lends his writing its historical context and it raises the authenticity of his narratives.

For more info on Kerr and his books, take a look at: http://www.philipkerr.org

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