Tuesday, September 29, 2009


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.

Monday, September 28, 2009


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.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


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

Saturday, September 26, 2009


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.

Friday, September 25, 2009


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!

Thursday, September 24, 2009


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.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


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.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


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]


Monday, September 21, 2009


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.


Sunday, September 20, 2009


My review of The Collaborator by Gerald Seymour has been posted at Euro Crime. This was the ARC I mentioned some weeks ago with a slightly smaller font than I am used to reading and I wavered about returning it to Karen. But I was very pleased I did not because The Collaborator turned out to be a thrilling read, made even more tense by the fact that while I was reading it my son was visiting an Italian girl friend.


Saturday, September 19, 2009


The River Dart as seen from Greenway.


Here is the link to Day 7 of the Celebrating Agatha Christie week blog tour which is running at Mysteries in Paradise from 13-20 September.

One thing I haven't forgotten is the enormous amount of pleasure the Christie books have given to so many people. My dear mother -in-law, who died aged 98 last year, was always saying "I like a good murder, especially my favourite Piro". She could never pronounce Poirot but we knew who she meant.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Thanks to all those people who said they enjoyed the "virtual trip" to Greenway. I will be going to Torquay next month and hope to see some of the Christie sites I missed on my last visit.


Here is the link to Day 6 of Celebrating Agatha Christie week which is running at Mysteries in Paradise from 13-20 September.

Today you will be directed back here to my Greenway, the loveliest place in the world post, but do look at the other contributions to this blog tour, they are all very interesting.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Last month we visited Greenway, Agatha Christie's holiday home, which was given to the National Trust in 2000 by the family, daughter Rosalind and Anthony Hicks, and Agatha's grandson Mathew Prichard.
The house purchased by Agatha [known locally by her married name of Mrs Mallowan] and her second husband Max Mallowan [ later knighted for his services to archaeology] in 1938 for £6,000 has only been open to the public this year after a £5.4 million restoration.

The original dwelling on this site , Greenway Court, was a Tudor mansion but the present building dates from about 1780.

The house and gardens are situated on the River Dart and although you can approach by water we took our very small car, and pre-booked a parking space for a three hour stay. This is essential as they will turn you away if you come by car and have not booked and the approach roads are very narrow. The watery options were not feasible for us as we would have had to drive to Torquay, or Dartmouth or Totnes, parked and then taken the boat. Another factor is it is a steep climb of 800 yards up from the boat quay to the house. From bitter experience lanes and hills in Devon and Cornwall described as narrow and steep are very narrow and very steep.

From the car park there is a gentle down hill walk to the reception centre and house. It was a little bit tougher going back uphill weighed down with books and gifts. Those who have chosen the greener options by walking or arriving by boat are charged less for admission, but as National Trust members [a bargain for us retired folk] we get in for free.

You are given a timed ticket to enter the house and there is a short introductory talk, which among other facts mentioned that you can hire part of the house which has been arranged for self catering accommodation [sleeping ten] for about £2,500 in high season and a more manageable £750 approximately in February.

The interior of the house has been arranged to be exactly as it would have been in the 1950s.
The drawing room contained furniture brought and arranged by Agatha from Ashfield, her family home, and one could imagine her sitting reading her latest manuscript to the family after dinner.
Her clothes still hang in the dressing room and in the bedroom Max Mallowan's metal camp bed which he took on his archaeological trips is set up alongside the main bed. The effect is that you expect members of the family to come in and resume their lives at any minute.
During the autumn of 1943 Greenway was requisitioned by the Admiralty for the use of the United States Navy. Greenway became the Officers Mess for the 10th US Patrol Boat Flotilla, and their unofficial war artist Lt Marshall Lee painted a frieze around the walls of the library.

The whole interior is full of wonderful family mementos and gives a glimpse of how prosperous English gentry lived after the Second World War. We will certainly return because there is far too much to take in within one visit. In some National Trust properties furniture and books have to be brought in to fill the space, here it is all genuine Agatha and family. I was particularly interested as an old Dulwich resident that among all of her own books there was a copy of The House on Lordship Lane by A.E.W. Mason, author of The Four Feathers.

After leaving the house we had lunch, walked round a small part of the wonderful gardens and then spent far too long in the book/gift shop before happily trudging up the slope to the car park.

The superb collections of memorabilia in the house, the wonderful setting on the River Dart and the beautiful gardens made this a place we hope to return to again and again.

"We went to Greenway, and very beautiful the house and ground were. A white Georgian house of about 1780 or 90, with woods sweeping down to the Dart below, and a lot of fine shrubs and trees-the ideal house, a dream house...."
Agatha Christie


Wednesday, September 16, 2009


The Pavilion was opened was opened in 1912 using a golden key to signify the beginning of a golden age for the resort. The greatest names of British music were proud to perform there including Edward Elgar and Thomas Beecham.

But on the evening of January 4th 1913 when Agatha and Archie Christie were in the audience it was for a program of music by Wagner. After the concert they returned to Agatha's home at Ashfield and Archie proposed to her.

The photograph shows a view of The Pavilion taken from the Princess Gardens, an area previously of marsh land opened to the public after 200,00 tons of rubble were used as infill, and the attractive lawns and gardens planted. [Information taken from Exploring Agatha Christie Country by David Gerrard]


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


Here are the answers to the September MiniQuiz number 8.

Questions and Answers:

1] Which crime writer wrote "As a man gets older, if he knows what is good for him, the women he likes are getting older, too. The trouble is that most of them are married. " A bonus mark for getting the book.

Those words of wisdom had to come from one of the hard boiled great writers, and this was:

Ross MacDonald: The Zebra Striped Hearse 1962

2] How might a member of a low Indian caste help you find the connection between a large timepiece and an impossible exit ?

More tricky but a low Indian caste is an Untouchable, a recent film version of The Untouchables starred Kevin Costner.
Kevin Costner also starred in No Way Out, which was based on Kenneth Fearing's novel The Big Clock.

3] Can you view the dark resonance and deliver the answer that nominally links an assassinated president, a biblical brother and an English painter ?

Almost every word provides a clue.
View it is a movie. Dark-it is a noir film. Resonance-ring. Deliver- who delivers, the postman.

Nominally- it is the names that are important.

The assassinated president is not Abraham Lincoln but James Garfield, the biblical brother is Cain, and of course the English painter is J.W.Turner.

Their names are all linked in the 1946 film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice starring Lana Turner, and John Garfield, based on the novel by James M. Cain.

I thought that was rather neat, or fiendish if you prefer.

Congratulations to the two joint champions, both from the USA [Texas and Virginia], and the two joint runners up from Denmark and Scotland.
You were all brilliant and very impressively kept going over such a long period.
I will be in contact to arrange your prizes.

Next month a short quiz with a book prize and then in November a longer Winter Festivals Quiz to keep those little grey cells glowing until January 2010.


The Princess Pier in Torquay was named after Princess Louise, the fifth of Queen Victoria's seven children, and opened to the public in 1894.
It was one of young Agatha Miller's favourite places and for 2d very old money she could roller skate on the pier. The photograph of Agatha Miller [and information is from Exploring Agatha Christie country by David Gerrard] shows Agatha in a feathered hat and long skirt.
Today roller skating is forbidden, but the pier is still a pleasant place to walk and sit admiring the scenery.
In the background of the modern photograph you can see the Grand Hotel, where Agatha spent a one-night honeymoon on Christmas Eve, 1914 with Archie Christie.


Here is the link to Day 3 of the Celebrating Agatha Christie week which is running at Mysteries in Paradise from the 13-20 September.
Photographs of Torquay, where Agatha Mary Clarissa Miller was born on September 15th 1890, 119 years ago today.

Monday, September 14, 2009


Last night I watched two crime series on television, and it was the best of times and the worst of times. Well maybe not the worst but very annoying.....

Spiral 2 continues the story of the struggle to maintain law and order in Paris. I read some time ago in a book about the French army mutinies of 1917, which stated the gulf between officers and men was greatest not in the British, Russian and German Imperial armies but in the army of the French Republic. In Spiral 2 we see a legal system collapsing and a police force under massive stress trying to deal with on one hand the immigrant populations of the "banlieue" [lieu de ban:places of exile] and on the other a privileged class, who regard themselves above the law.

No wonder Police Capitaine Laure Berthaud [Caroline Proust] looks rattled, disheveled and a good deal less glamorous than in Spiral 1. Most of the cast who survived series 1 return, including the cadaverous Judge Francois Roban [Phillipe Duclos], smooth prosecutor Pierre Clement [Gregory Fitoussi] and the attractive but machiavellian lawyer Josephine Karlsson [Audrey Fleurot]. Berthaud is ably supported by her loyal veteran cops Gilou [Thiery Godard], who seems to have recovered from his addiction to cocaine, and Fromentin [Fred Bianconi].

With this almost perfect casting and with Pierre Clement again mixing with the rich, powerful and corrupt this promises to be another great piece of television. Highlight of the first episode was a harrowing scene that should have been a dreadful warning to any young person contemplating taking drugs.
Listen or look [it is subtitled] for a great line by Gilou later in the episode.

I had watched Agatha Christie's Marple earlier in the evening and was still asking myself the question, why?
The episode was very evocative of England in the 1950s and we even were shown at one point the date on the newspaper is 1955. But Murder is Easy was written in 1939 and the book does not even feature the character Miss Jane Marple. She has been inserted into the plot which has also been altered considerably for the purposes of television. This was not achieved very successfully and despite a gallant attempt Julia McKenzie she will always be compared unfavourably in my mind with Joan Hickson, the definitive Jane Marple.
I admit to being extremely old fashioned and for instance not liking Mozart or Puccini operas in modern dress or book plots to be hacked about. I remember an episode in the Marple series, with Geraldine McEwan that ended up a little bit more like a Sarah Waters adaptation than an Agatha Christie.

Next week's episode is Why Didn't They Ask Evans, written by Agatha Christie in 1934, and once again with no Miss Marple.
Ironically ITV3 is showing next weekend the 1981 adaptation, which was fairly faithful to the book plot, and starred debonair James Warwick, as Bobby Jones, and the fragrant Francesca Annis as Lady Frances Derwent. This was so well received at the time that Warwick and Annis went on to star in Agatha Christie's Partners in Crime series based on her characters Tommy and Tuppence Beresford.

Why not write completely new stories ? Why not remake the old stories with the new cast if you want to ? Didn't Miss Jane Marple appear in 12 novels and 20 short stories why was it necessary to insert her in books she never appeared in? Why?

What can we expect next, adaptations of Conan Doyle's historical novels with Brigadier Gerard accompanied by Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson?

"No it has just happened that I have found myself in the vicinity of murder rather more often than would seem normal." Jane Marple


Here is the link to Day two of the Celebrating Christie Week Blog Tour which is running from the 13-20 September at Mysteries in Paradise.

It is also Book Blogger Appreciation Week BBAW and Kerrie has a post about the blogs short listed for an award in the Best Thriller/Mystery/Suspense Category.

We were both nominated in that category and many thanks to the kind person who nominated this blog.