Thursday, December 22, 2016

Listen: "A German Requiem" by Philip Kerr

Listen: A German Requiem by Philip Kerr, 1991, download.

I was trying to listen to these novels in order but may have jumped ahead with this book. Set in 1948 Berlin and Bernie Gunther and his wife are struggling under the continuing Allied occupation and destroyed German economy. Bernie is doing private eye work and his wife works as a hostess at an American club. Things being as they are, Bernie's wife is also prostituting.

Bernie's wife (I forget the character name) brings home PX goods that soldiers give her and says they are gifts. Well, Bernie is an old copper and Bernie is suspicious. He follows his wife after her job and she takes a U.S. Army officer into a bombed building for fellatio. Bernie is saddened but says nothing.

At about the same time a Russian Colonel approaches Bernie about taking an investigation job in Vienna on behalf of one of Bernie's old German police comrades, Werner. Werner was always a dirtbag and never Bernie's friend. But, Werner claims innocence in the murder of a U.S. Army officer and Bernie knows Werner would not have done the crime. Bernie takes the job after considering the Russian's offer of big bucks, his professional interests as an investigator, and his wife's infidelity-for-hire.

Things happen and we learn about Bernie's time during the war. Before the war Bernie went back to work for Kripo (Kriminalpolizei) and when the war started he was nationalized into the SS. Once Bernie found out what the SS were doing in the East he demanded transfer. Rather than being sent to the Eastern Front Bernie worked out of a war crimes unit in Berlin. (The idea of a Nazi organized war crimes unit is always absurd.) Bernie was captured by the Russians at the war's conclusion and spent a couple years in a Russian camp. He finally escaped from Russia and returned to Berlin.

Bernie starts investigating in Vienna and gets nowhere fast. Werner won't say much. Bernie is braced by U.S. Army MPs. Bernie is braced by a U.S. Army Spy Guy. Bernie bangs a Choco-lady (A prostitute who works for food and favors more than money. A prostitute of circumstance rather than career.). Bernie spouts smart ass comments.

Former Nazis show up under assumed names. The Nazis faked their own deaths or forged their de-Nazification certificates. Bernie has to figure out a the relationships among prostitutes, black marketers, Nazis, Soviets, and everyone else just trying to get by.

Things twist and turn. Bernie is always suspicious and untrusting but still falls for a con job. Bernie lives happily ever after but not everyone else.

1. Kerr has nice little touches of detail during the story. Like when Bernie is concussed and held from behind by a big guy. Bernie's head screams in pain when the big guy "guffaws with laughter" at his boss's joke. Kerr goes from a wider narration to a a close personal view of things. I was wondering how the story would translate into a film version if the writing were closely followed. I imagine a lot of little close-ups of hands, shifting feet, and fleeting smiles or grimaces.

No comments: