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Field Gray (A Bernie Gunther Novel) Hardcover – April 14, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 157 customer reviews
Book 7 of 11 in the Bernie Gunther Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bernie Gunther's past catches up with him in Kerr's outstanding seventh novel featuring the tough anti-Nazi Berlin PI who survived the Nazi regime (after If the Dead Rise Not). In 1954, Bernie is living quietly in Cuba, doing a little work for underworld boss Meyer Lansky, when he runs afoul of the U.S. Navy and lands in prison in Guantánamo. Later, at an army prison in New York City, FBI agents ask him about his service in WWII, in particular as a member of an SS police battalion on the Eastern Front. Another transfer sends him to Germany's Landsberg Prison, where Hitler was imprisoned in 1923. Officials from various governments question and torture him, but grimly amusing Bernie, who's smarter than any of his interrogators, successfully strings each one of them along. Vivid flashbacks chronicle Bernie's harrowing war experiences. Series aficionados and new readers alike will take comfort knowing that Kerr is hard at work on the next installment. Author tour. (Apr.)
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'Far more illuminating and enjoyable than the season's other big thriller, John le Carre's Our Kind of Traitor' Daily Express. Daily Express 'Rich, compelling, beautifully written and with a central character that it's impossible not to admire' Daily Mail. Daily Mail 'Kerr is a master of evoking the spirit of the age' Financial Times. Financial Times 'A brilliantly crafted challenge to the stereotypical received history of the Second World War' The Times. The Times --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: A Bernie Gunther Novel (Book 7)
  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Marian Wood Books/Putnam; First Edition edition (April 14, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399157417
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399157417
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (157 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #168,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Philip Kerr was born in Edinburgh in 1956 and read Law at university. Having learned nothing as an undergraduate lawyer he stayed on as postgraduate and read Law and Philosophy, most of this German, which was when and where he first became interested in German twentieth century history and, in particular, the Nazis. Following university he worked as a copywriter at a number of advertising agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi, during which time he wrote no advertising slogans of any note. He spent most of his time in advertising researching an idea he'd had for a novel about a Berlin-based policeman, in 1936. And following several trips to Germany - and a great deal of walking around the mean streets of Berlin - his first novel, March Violets, was published in 1989 and introduced the world to Bernie Gunther.
"I loved Berlin before the wall came down; I'm pretty fond of the place now, but back then it was perhaps the most atmospheric city on earth. Having a dark, not to say black sense of humour myself, it's always been somewhere I feel very comfortable."
Having left advertising behind, Kerr worked for the London Evening Standard and produced two more novels featuring Bernie Gunther: The Pale Criminal (1990) and A German Requiem (1991). These were published as an omnibus edition, Berlin Noir in 1992.
Thinking he might like to write something else, he did and published a host of other novels before returning to Bernie Gunther after a gap of sixteen years, with The One from the Other (2007).
Says Kerr, "I never intended to leave such a large gap between Book 3 and Book 4; a lot of other stuff just got in the way; and I feel kind of lucky that people are still as interested in this guy as I am. If anything I'm more interested in him now than I was back in the day."
Two more novels followed, A Quiet Flame (2008) and If the Dead Rise Not (2009).
Field Gray (2010) is perhaps his most ambitious novel yet that features Bernie Gunther. Crossing a span of more than twenty years, it takes Bernie from Cuba, to New York, to Landsberg Prison in Germany where he vividly describes a story that covers his time in Paris, Toulouse, Minsk, Konigsberg, and his life as a German POW in Soviet Russia.
Kerr is already working on an eighth title in the series.
"I don't know how long I can keep doing them; I'll probably write one too many; but I don't feel that's happened yet."
As P.B.Kerr Kerr is also the author of the popular 'Children of the Lamp' series.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Field Gray begins in 1954 when Bernie Gunther is persuaded to smuggle a woman out of Cuba. Once they are at sea, Gunther's boat is stopped by an American naval vessel and Gunther is taken into custody. After brief stays (accompanied by beatings) in Gitmo and a military prison in New York, Gunther is rendered to Germany where Americans interrogate him about war crimes. As Gunther begins to reveal his past, the novel shifts in time; ensuing chapters alternate between 1954 and earlier times in Gunther's life: the 1930's and 1940's in Germany and France and Russia. As a captain in the SS, Gunther commanded a firing squad that executed Russian POWs; in occupied Paris he was nearly murdered; as a POW in a camp near Stalingrad he conducted a murder investigation. These and many other snippets of Gunther's checkered life are linked (more or less) by Gunther's on-and-off involvement with Erich Mielke, who (in the real world) served for many years as the minister of state security in the German Democratic Republic.

In some respects, Field Gray reads like the autobiography of Bernie Gunther. Unfortunately, the narrative shifts ground so often, and Gunther seems so detached from the story he tells, that the novel fails to create an emotional resonance between the reader and its subject. What makes Field Gray worth reading is Philip Kerr's creation, in Gunther, of a morally complex man, one who is neither entirely good nor primarily bad, who tries to survive in an evil environment without becoming wholly corrupted by it. At one point Gunther is described as "a victim of history," an apt label that gives him an interesting perspective upon the era that is the novel's focus.
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Format: Hardcover
In BERLIN NOIR, the trilogy that begins Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther series, we are introduced to Bernie Gunther in the pre-war Nazi-era Berlin, and then we see him again shortly after the war ends. Author Philip Kerr let fifteen years and many other books go by before bringing Bernie Gunther back in THE ONE FROM THE OTHER, set in 1949. The next book, A QUIET FLAME, finds Bernie on the run in 1950 and living in Argentina under an assumed name.

These first five novels in the Bernie Gunther saga made me wonder about Bernie in the years before the Nazi assumption of power and what Bernie was doing during the war. In the sixth novel in the series, IF THE DEAD RISE NOT, we learn the answer to the first question. The book begins with Bernie having left Argentina for pre-Castro Havana, but it then flashes back to Berlin in 1934, as the Nazis consolidate their power.

Now, in FIELD GRAY, the seventh novel in the series, we see what Bernie did during the war, during the chaos of the immediate postwar period and in 1954, when he is spirited back to Europe and made a pawn in the deadly espionage games of the various spy agencies engaged in the Cold War.

In recent years, long-secret documents about Russian activities during WW2 and the actions of the East German secret police before the fall of the Berlin Wall have been made available. It is apparent that Philip Kerr has some familiarity with the history revealed by those documents.
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Format: Hardcover
Philip Kerr's "Field Gray" opens in 1954. Bernie Gunther, formerly a German policeman (with a conscience), a soldier, and a prisoner of war, is now living in Cuba under an assumed name. He plans to take his boat and flee to Haiti, so that he can escape the clutches of a lieutenant in military intelligence named Quevedo. The lieutenant has ordered Bernie to spy for him; if Bernie refuses, he will be deported to Germany, where he is wanted for murder.

Bernhard Gunther is his own man. "I don't want to be the coin in anyone's pocket," he insists. He has been through hell and believes that he has earned the right to some peace and quiet. Instead, agents of the American government kidnap and interrogate him incessantly. Bernie censors what he tells his captors, but reveals a great deal about his activities and associates during the Second World War, his ordeal in a Russian labor camp, and his hatred for fanatics and arrogant ideologues. Bernie is the ultimate pragmatist whose sharp intellect, quick tongue, and street smarts have enabled him to outwit his antagonists on numerous occasions.

Gunther is a sassy, funny, and sarcastic first-person narrator. He likes to banter with people who could have him summarily executed; he displays his trademark bravado and insouciance when faced with the prospect of his imminent demise. We are treated to countless examples of Gunther's cynicism and world-weariness. Just before he is deported to Germany, for example, Bernie glimpses the Statue of Liberty and quips, "I had the peculiar idea that the lady in the toga was giving the Hitler salute. At the very least, I figured the book under her left arm was missing a few important pages."

Unfortunately, "Field Gray" is wordy and annoyingly static.
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