I wasn't a genre reader particularly until I discovered Bernie Gunther.
In my late teens and early twenties, I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy novels, but this fascination seemed to fade with my youth. I moved firmly into the centre lane of reading and embraced that behemoth of literature, General Fiction.
But then some years ago, I started working for Christchurch City Libraries. Still, although my wife was a keen reader of thrillers and crime fiction, I eschewed it until, one day, by serendipity I discovered the Scottish author, Philip Kerr, and his wonderful creation, Bernie Gunther. I was wheeling in a trolley of returned items from an outside returns bin and the sun was glinting off the back cover of A Man Without Breath. I started reading the back cover of the blurb and thought, "That sounds interesting". So I took it out and I was hooked. And to compound matters, I passed it on to my wife when I was finished and she fell under the spell of Bernie Gunther too.
Philip Kerr is that wonderful thing in a writer: original, funny, gripping and turns a wonderful phrase. Many is the time while reading Bernie Gunther novels have I had to interrupt my wife's reading to read her a passage that is laugh-out-loud funny or simply gobsmacking in its imagery.
I should have written above "Philip Kerr was that wonderful thing in a writer" because, while searching on the library catalogue recently for a customer, I noticed that Philip Kerr was listed as: "Kerr, Philip, 1956-2018". With a nasty jolt, I realised that life, or rather death, had closed Philip Kerr's brackets.
Later, in a private moment of something akin to grief, I Googled Philip Kerr only to find his Wikipedia page updated with the text:
"Philip Kerr died from bladder cancer on 23 March 2018 and was survived by his wife and children."
So Metropolis, published posthumously earlier this year, is the last time Bernie Gunther will roam through our imaginations being gallant, romantic, and a period-appropriate sexist. He is a good guy, a cop with a moral compass, a heart of gold, a hatred of the Nazis, a clever mind and a liking for cigarettes and booze. He rubs shoulders with all the historic villains of his era: Himmler, Goebbels, Goering, Hess, Bormann, Heydrich and many of the lower status bad guys. As far as I am aware, he never gets face to face with Adolf Hitler himself. The closest Bernie gets to the Big Guy is when he is sent to investigate a murder at the Berghof which was Adolf Hitler's home in the Obersalzberg of the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany.
So take a stroll through the wonderful but dangerous world of Bernie Gunther. You won't regret it and you will learn a lot about what World War II was like from the perspective of ordinary Germans, many of whom detested the Nazis, but kept quiet for fear of the repercussions for themselves and their families.