Scottish writer Philip Kerr, creator of Bernie Gunther, the German detective with a wicked sense of humour, recently won the world's most lucrative crime fiction prize, the £109,000 RBA Prize for his latest novel If The Dead Rise Not.
In 2008 this prize was won by another of my favourite authors Andrea Camilleri for La Muerte de Amalia Sacerdote.
Philip very kindly took time off from wondering how to spend his prize money to answer a few questions.
The interview was conducted after I had read the first half of If The Dead Rise Not set in 1934 Berlin, and the emphasis of my questions might have been slightly different if at that stage I had read the second half of the book, which is set in 1954 Cuba. Both halves of the book brilliantly evoke the bleak atmosphere of living in a country where there is a disconnection between justice and the law.
1] Did you always want to be a writer and did any particular author or event inspire you?
I always wanted to be a writer. Ever since the moment when I was able to read fluently on my own. The alternative to becoming a writer- to work for a living-seemed to horrible to contemplate. I am lucky because I get paid for my hobby. Which is the true definition of real happiness.
However, I distrust inspiration. It's an overrated experience. I am more of a compulsive writer than someone who is inspired to write. But I feel a compulsion more whenever I read Dickens or Greene, or le Carre, or -on occasion- Marty.
2] Which books and authors did you read as a child?
Early inspirations were Ian Fleming, Micky Spillane, and D.H. Lawrence. I had an interesting childhood.
3] You studied law at university, went to work in advertising, and became an Arsenal supporter, do you think this has helped you in your writing career?
Not in the slightest. Not the way you mean. But I did manage to write about a third of a novel when I worked in one agency in St. James's Square. That was useful. Also that agency was opposite the London Library and I wouldn't ever have joined the LL had I not walked past it every day.
As for football I was never any good at the game myself. Like Camus I always ended up in goal. Being a goalkeeper gives you time to think. Although not if you're the Arsenal goalkeeper obviously. Our defence has been rather porous of late.
I was a better rugby player, I think.
Most sport I despise however. Especially Athletics. I detest the Olympics above all. It's essentially fascist. Football is truly egalitarian and free and the last bastion of absolute opposition to right thinking. I celebrate the visceral tribalism of football.
I hate lawyers. There are too many lawyers and too many laws. The first thing we have to do if we are ever going to have a truly free and fair society is to take more than half of the lawyers and shoot them down like dogs. Most of the SS Special Action Groups in Eastern Europe were commanded by lawyers and judges. Says all you need to know about these bastards.
[To be continued]