Philip Kerr Introduces his Latest Novel Prussian Blue
"Every time I finish a book it is a kind of sweet death"
Since the late eighties, Philip Kerr has been redefining crime fiction with his justly-lauded Bernie Gunther sequence. Exclusively for Waterstones, he introduces Prussian Blue, the eagerly awaited twelfth instalment in the series.
Not having written a prologue or an apology for this book this is the first time I’ve had to think about it as something that is finished and, as such, something which now has little to do with me. For a long time I thought about nothing else but Prussian Blue which features my detective character, Bernie Gunther and is largely set in Obersalzberg, Germany and more particularly at the house owned by Adolf Hitler there, the Berghof.
The murder of a minor civil servant on the famous terrace of the Berghof just a week or two before Hitler’s fiftieth birthday in April 1939 requires that the crime be solved, and as quickly as possible, otherwise it’s possible that Hitler might not be able to go there at all.
Prussian Blue my longest book and I meant it to be my best and the cleverest that could be imagined; but then I mean all my books to be my best, without exception, even the ones I now judge to be lacking in quality. Every time I finish a book it is a kind of sweet death which is probably why I usually start work on another one as quickly as I do. It’s the simplest way to feel alive again, albeit in this strange and artificial way – after all there is nothing quite as strange as writing a book for this implies a sort of dissatisfaction with the world as is. I dare say the book has its shortcomings; perhaps it could have been shorter; and perhaps it is too revealing of myself. Above all I hope that people will enjoy reading it; this seems to me to be so obvious that it’s almost not worth stating but to my mind so many authors don’t try to entertain their readers but to confound and baffle them, and even to challenge them beyond their tolerance. I speak as a reader here.
I did all sorts of interesting things in pursuit of accuracy in Prussian Blue. I went to Obersalzberg and the Tea House at the Kehlstein; I went to Berchtesgaden; and I went to Berlin – never a hardship for a Berlin lover like me. As JFK once said: Ich bin ein Berliner. (By the way, it’s an urban myth that this means he was a doughnut; there is nothing grammatically wrong with what Kennedy said at all.)