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Greil Marcus

GREIL MARCUS

I recently heard the Edinburgh-raised Philip Kerr talk about the inspiration for his Berlin cop Bernie Gunther—the character first appeared in the Berlin Noir trilogy, and the Nazi shadow has since taken him to Argentina, Cuba, and back to wartime Germany—in terms of the American-born Raymond Chandler’s British upbringing and education. “It’s the Englishness of Chandler,” he said. “You can hear that tinkling melody in every page he writes.” Chandler was writing in the same years in which Kerr sets his stories: “What if Philip Marlowe went to Berlin instead of Los Angeles?” In Kerr’s hands, it’s a question of infinite complexity. I have the eighth and ninth of the series, Prague Fatale (Penguin) and A Man Without Breath (Putnam), packed, and I’m trying not to open them until I’m in the air.

Greil Marcus is a contributing editor of Artforum.

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