MysteryPeople Review: THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE by Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr joins us here at BookPeople this Saturday, April 2nd, at 4 PM, in conversation with Mark Pryor, author of the Hugo Marston series. Kerr will be speaking and signing his latest Bernie Gunther novel, The Other Side of Silence

  • Review by Molly Odintz

9780399177040Historical mystery fans, rejoice! The ex-Berlin-policeman-turned-cynical-anti-fascist-detective Bernie Gunther has returned. Philip Kerr has just released another fantastic addition to the series, The Other Side of SilenceGunther first appeared in Philip Kerr’s brilliant 1930s-set Berlin Noir trilogy, where he begins the series as a Berlin homicide detective, quits to become a private investigator, and alternates between jobs commissioned by the regime and by the victims of the regime. Later volumes in the series follow Bernie through the war, to the Russian front, to a prison camp, to France, and to all over South America. The series frequently features two timelines with linked or similar cases, to explore Bernie’s exploits in a non-linear manner.

In Kerr’s latest, Gunther, working for a hotel in mid-50s Paris, goes on a search for a new bridge partner after his previous partner dies in a lovers’ quarrel. His quest for bridge players brings him to a journalist on assignment to write a biography of Somerset Maugham, who loves bridge as much as he hates everything else. Gunther, spurred by the lethal combination of a beautiful woman and offer of money, goes to Maugham’s estate to unlock the great man’s secrets.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Philip Kerr

 

 

-Interview by Molly Odintz

Philip Kerr’s latest Bernie Gunther novel, The Other Side of Silencewas released this past Tuesday, heralding a visit from the author to our fine store. Come by BookPeople this Saturday to meet one of the best historical mystery writers ever – I say this as a mega-fan, but everyone knows how good this series is. Kerr will be speaking and signing his latest addition to the Bernie Gunther series this upcoming Saturday, April 2nd, at 4 PM. Kerr was kind enough to answer a few questions from us before the event. 

Molly O: In your latest, you seem to take inspiration from classic espionage fiction, and le Carré especially. You’ve made use of a number of different subgenres in your Gunther novels, even using some golden-era detective novel conventions. How do you decide which subgenres to draw upon for each Gunther story? Who are some of your biggest influences, as far as style is concerned?

“I tried to make the [Somerset] Maugham in my book as much like the real one as possible. This was easier than it might have been because of course he too was a novelist, and like me he had similar preoccupations and concerns. I felt I understood him. Sympathised. We are very alike in many ways. He just happens to have been gay and rich. I am straight and not so rich. But in all other ways we are quite alike. I think I am as much of a bitch as he is. And very probably as promiscuous.”


Philip Kerr: I don’t make a conscious decision to draw on any subgenre. I don’t pay a lot of attention to any genre. I like le Carré. I think he’s a fine novelist. It just so happens he writes about spies. My biggest influences are people like Chandler, le Carré, F.Scott Fitzgerald. Each story contains its own dynamic and I try not to draw on anyone else except History itself. I don’t observe conventions so to speak. I just try and make the story as real and unpredictable as possible.

MO: I’m going to ask you a very serious question – HOW IS BERNIE GUNTHER STILL ALIVE? I know that as a series character he has to keep going, but does it become increasingly difficult to ensure his survival through the many challenges you put him through?

PK: Many people survived in fairly extraordinary circumstances. Much of his resistance occurs inside his head. He makes jokes, but these are only ever made to people who are as cynical as he is. Plus he’s a Berliner and many Berliners shared a similarly dim view of the Nazis.
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MysteryPeople Review: JOURNEY TO MUNICH by Jacqueline Winspear

Jacqueline Winspear has just released her 12th Maisie Dobbs novel, Journey to Munich. Below, event staffer and mystery enthusiast Meike reviews Winspears’ latest. 

  • Review by Meike Alana

9780062220608In Journey To Munich (Jacqueline Winspear’s 12th installment in the Maisie Dobbs series) it is 1938 and Maisie has just returned to London after 4 years abroad—most recently in war-torn Spain, where she worked as a nurse while recovering both physically and emotionally from the sudden death of her beloved husband and the loss of her unborn child. British Secret Service agents Robert McFarlane and Brian Huntley recruit her to help them with an important mission—one that involves extracting a British businessman and inventor from Germany. The German government has agreed to release the prisoner from Dachau under the condition that he is handed over to a family member. The man’s wife is deceased and his daughter is gravely ill, but Maisie bears an uncanny resemblance to his daughter and it is believed that she will make an appropriate substitute. On the eve of her departure for Munich, she is contacted by Canadian newspaperman John Otterburn—the powerful man whom she holds responsible for her husband’s death—with a request that she locate his runaway daughter Elaine, who is believed to be in Germany.

Maisie undertakes both missions—publicly she liaises with the British Consulate to negotiate the release of her “father” from the Nazis at Dachau; surreptitiously she also tries to locate Elaine Otterburn. The presence of Hitler’s “brown shirts” in public areas, and the observance of the German citizens’ unease with the Nazis’ rise to power, sets Maisie on edge—she feels she is in the presence of great evil, and faces down both implied and overt dangers. As she watches two young girls—one of them Jewish—secretly playing together, we come to understand what a powerful force fear was in creating the Hitler phenomena.

For British mystery fans who haven’t yet discovered Jacqueline Winspear, this is a great jumping off spot for the series. Although it’s number 12 in the series, it represents a bit of a departure in that Maisie is working largely alone and many of the characters in previous novels aren’t involved. But be forewarned—you’ll want to go back and read the rest of the series. Maisie Dobbs’ eponymous debut was a national bestseller and received a slew of prestigious awards. Ms. Winspear’s subsequent novels have all received award nominations and most have become immediate national best sellers.

You can find copies of Winspear’s latest on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

MysteryPeople Q&A with Sarah Weinman

  • Interview by Molly Odintz

For the past few decades a sense of a crime novel canon, a set of essential classics, has taken on form and substance. We can all acknowledge the innovators and masters of the genre,  yet unless we contemplate golden-era British detective fiction, most of the authors already incorporated into the crime fiction canon are male. And yet, those names make up only a part of crime fiction’s history.

“I think it’s important to note that feminism is something that is present in terms of a reflection of the lives these women led, not necessarily because they themselves identified with the cause…The wonderful thing about feminism is it includes everyone, whether they really want to be there or not, because the tenets are so simple: equality for both genders.”

Women have always made up a substantial chunk of the most popular writers in the genre, whether writing golden-era detective novels, thrillers, noir, or the recently repopularized domestic suspense novel, yet women in genre fiction tend to go out of print as soon as they stop writing new fiction unless they have established a wildly popular series. When classics of the genre have been brought back into print, most often, publishers have chosen to privilege works by men – until now, with Library of America’s Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 40s and 50sreleased last year.

 As International Women’s Month draws to a close, feast your eyes on an interview with Sarah Weinman, editor of the incredible Library of America collection, Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 40s and 50s. The two-volume set, also sold seperately by decade, contains eight novels, four per decade. The collection’s companion website includes thoughtful essays on each book included in the LoA collection from some of the premier figures of the detective novel world, including contributions from Megan Abbott, Laura Lippman, and Sara Paretsky, among others.

“Criticism requires a somewhat different toolbox than does journalism, than certainly does fiction or reading, but all are informed by the other and inform each other. I sure would not have it any other way, except maybe making more time for fiction…”

Sarah Weinman is previously the editor of the anthology Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wivesand has been instrumental in bringing long-neglected classic crime and suspense stories by women authors back into print and into the public eye. Thanks to Sarah for letting us send these questions along!


Molly Odintz: It must have been incredibly difficult to decide which volumes to include in this collection – how did you assemble the works that made it in?

Sarah Weinman: We certainly had many spirited meetings over selections, but the truth of the matter is, most of what constituted Women Crime Writers was a fairly speedy consensus. The LoA publisher and editor, Max Rudin & Geoffrey O’Brien, and I agreed quickly on In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes,The Blank Wall by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding, and Laura by Vera Caspary, so that was 3/4 of the 1940s volume. O’Brien suggested The Horizontal Man, which I knew about but hadn’t read, and once I did I realized it had to be in there. For the 1950s, we knew we had to have a Charlotte Armstrong and a Margaret Millar and they would *probably* be Mischief and Beast in View but we did talk about some other 1950s titles just in case — but then settled on those two. Dolores Hitchens was a strong choice early on but getting a hold of a copy of Fool’s Gold was not easy, and in the meantime we also really came close to including Dorothy Salisbury Davis (I really, really love A Gentle Murderer.) So weirdly enough, the Highsmith came late, and it took a couple of tries for me to really get into The Blunderer, but once I did, I think it was the final connective glue for the entire collection that really solidifies the whole group.

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Crime Fiction Friday: “A Shortage of Things To Say” by Albert Tucher

 

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  • Introduced by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

In honor of the great American holiday of Spring Break, we thought we would give you a tropical vacation, with a murder of course, this week. Albert Tucher’s short story in Spintingler is a great use of character and location. Grab a Mai-tai, read, and enjoy.


“A Shortage of Things to Say” by Albert Tucher

‘”Interesting,” said the fisherman.

“How is it interesting?” said Coutinho.

It struck him as anything but.

“You could say that’s the southernmost dead man in the United States.”

Coutinho got the joke. No one who drove through the nearby town of Na’alehu could miss the signs in every window:

“The Southernmost Restaurant in the United States.”

“The Southernmost Bar.”

“The Southernmost Gas Station.”

Take that, Key West.’

Read the rest of the story.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Barry Lancet

Interview by MysteryPeople contributor Scott Butki

 

Pacific BurnBarry Lancet’s latest thriller, and his third in his Jim Brodie series, at least for me, departed from the traditional detective story from the start – yet the more I read, the more I got into it…. and grew to love it.

Why is it a departure? Well, let me set the stage for you. As the book begins, a character who soon becomes the protagonist is interrupted from his work liaising between the U.S. and Japan, and his second job, selling high priced classic Japanese art to wealthy Americans, to go to a crime scene, where someone has been asking to talk to him. Immediately, I think, OK, I am pretty ignorant about both Japan and most classic art, so I may have trouble connecting and relating. Through the eyes of Lancet’s protagonist, however, the reader easily becomes immersed in the criminal underworld’s lust for high-priced art.

One major plot thread was inspired by real life: the Fukushima nuclear meltdown after a disastrous earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. I live in Tokyo, and at talks for my first two books, people often asked me about the leaking radiation and why so little was known about this major disaster that obliterated entire towns and did God-knows-what to the environment. Reports indicated that a lot had been hidden from the public by Japan’s so-called “nuclear mafia.” It was a story just waiting to be told.

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Hard Word Book Club to Discuss: BLACK TIDE by Peter Temple

 

  • Review by MysteryPeople Scott

9781921758829This March’s Hard Word Book Club gets about as hard as hard-boiled can get: Australian hard-boiled. We will be reading Black Tide, the second book featuring Peter Temple’s Melbourne detective, Jack Irish. If you like Lawrence Block’s Scudder or Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor, you’ll have new friend in Jack Irish.

Irish is a former lawyer, grieving over the murder of his wife by a client. He has become a Jack of all trades, debt collector, cabinet maker, and sometime PI, when he’s not at the horse track. He runs with Damon Runyonesque characters while still being trapped by loneliness.

In Black Tide, Irish bonds with a friend of his late father. The man asks him to find his son who has disappeared with a good deal of his money. He follows the man, a former corrupt cop, through his ex-wives and his job for a large transport company, leading to some dark secrets in the ex-cop’s past. The case not only puts Jack’s life on the line, it forces him to face the ghosts of his own family.

Black Tide will give us much to talk about with its locale, plot, and rich themes and characters.We will also be viewing the Australian TV movie adaptation starring Guy Pearce as Jack Irish. We will meet on BookPeople’s third floor at 7PM, Wednesday, March 30th. The book is 10% off in-store to those attending.

You can find copies of Black Tide on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. The Hard Word Book Club meets the last Wednesday of each month at 7 PM and discusses exclusively noir and hard-boiled works.